I have enjoyed reading two fascinating articles on the QuoLux blog recently looking at the post- Coronavirus world. There’s a lot of wisdom there which will guide the unprepared in maximising the prospects of surviving the economic recovery, whenever it comes 

Malcolm McDonald’s plea to get you to understand your markets and customers needs to be taken very seriously in the coming monthsIt has always been a concern to me that so many business people don’t even really compute accurately product line profitability. As a consequence, much precious effort is expended in supporting turnover at the expense of margin, effort which needs to be devoted to the lines that make you the money. 

Likewise, business planning disciplines need to be prioritised to the immediate demands on the business. I suspect this is not the time for medium to long term planning for many. Survival will demand sacrifices to keep the vital cash flow going in the next week and beyond. I am much taken with Malcolm’s concept of “anorexia industrialosa” and there is real risk that you may bite into the fabric of your business. One of the features of life in the automotive industry in the 80s and 90s was this repeated need to fundamentally restructure businesses to address the new realities. With the wonderful benefit of hindsight, being over-cautious was probably our biggest weakness. We found through experience that a dispassionate zero-based analysis worked bestbut only if you started with the rigorous market, customer and product analysis that Malcolm is so good at. 

In last week's blog about leading from the front, Stewart, Rachael and Jo’s formula for recovery is underpinned by a belief in the extra-ordinary power of focussed employee engagement. I have seen at first hand so many companies transform the bottom line by venturing down this line and adopting some of their recommendations at very little cost, very little time and very little risk. But as I get older, I get increasingly nervous. 

Yesterday, using the unlimited free time that lockdown has presented us, I had a long conversation with one of my colleagues in the field of employee engagement. I professed that, after nearly five decades exploring its potential, I am even more enthusiastic about its ability to transform. However, we both concluded that we are increasingly frustrated by management’s failure to “get it”. So often we see major gains in organisations thrown away by managers losing interest, moving on or simply forgetting what they had done, why they had adopted it and what they had achieved in the first place. We also see hordes of managers failing even to explore the proposal due to a lack of ambition, fear of being exposed or merely discomforted. We debated our own experiences here and concluded: 

  1. Employee engagement is too often sold as happy-clappy Human Relations initiative designed to make us all feel better. Laudable but hardly a priority is today’ s tough world. 

  1. The risk in employee engagement to the ego/reputation of the majority in senior management is sadly not acceptable to them. Directive management is easy and unchallenging, if usually ineffective. Focussing on being motivational is difficult and occasionally frustrating. For some it is price too much to pay. 

  1. Employee engagement is a science in much the same way as dealing with a major IT project. Winging it, as so many do, is simply not enough. Employee Engagement is a serious business. 

Many of you over the past few weeks would have examined in great detail the impact of the financial markets on your pensions or investment portfolios. It would not have been pleasant, especially if you were fully invested. You will no doubt have taken some solace from the investment expert world who have trotted out graphs showing the inexorable march of stock exchanges over the past eight decades They may be right but it would be grossly optimistic to assume your business world is likewise going to return to its former state as quickly. The winners are going to those who get it, those who understand the link between focussed employee engagement and continuous improvement and thence to high performance. 

Interestingly the conversation with my colleague ended with an interesting conclusion. I have been involved over the years in big company transformations, most of whom had regressed after I left them to their own devices. This was a deliberate ploy on my part as I did not want them to be consultant dependent, even with one as nice as me. He on the other hand dealt in SMEs and stipulated that he would usually be on hand post implementation. His failure rate in the longer term is much lower. 

The moral here is to maintain a contact point where you can test and evaluate progress alongside new initiatives. In this regard the QuoLux LEAD, GOLD and GAIN participants have a major advantage. They have their network and access to QuoLux™, who has certainly earned the right to wear the T-shirt.  

You have no excuses - make sure you avoid the mistakes of others and rake in the benefits. It is going to be hard but hopefully much harder for your competitors. 

Best of Luck, 

John Oliver 

 

 

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