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‘Just in time’, ‘Just in case’ or ‘Just as before’?: Goals for Business Success

16 June 2020

AS THINGS slowly begin to normalise, while we have to keep one eye on the output of the pandemic and the associated changes, we also have a responsibility to ourselves and our organisations to not forget general good business practice and leadership. Here, Alistair Enser looks at some immediate goals for today’s companies operating in the security business sector.

Understandably, I’ve spent much time over the last few weeks focusing on (and airing my thoughts about) the pandemic. In putting together my latest article, I asked myself whether or not it would be interesting to talk about business instead. Who knows, it could even be a refreshing departure from the usual subject that, in various guises, has now dominated the mainstream news headlines for two months and more.

There is so much going on at the moment that makes effective management difficult. Many businesses are taking difficult and sometimes contradictory choices in putting their people back to work. I read this week of a German engineering firm that insists on weekly testing of all employees, from the CEO all the way through to the cleaners, which raises as many questions as it would appear to answer.

Here in the UK, there are concerns about the data protection consequences of test and trace, while for many businesses the whole process of planning for the necessary social distancing the workplace is proving to be a major headache.

Running on empty

As business leaders, we need to take a step back and plan for the future. Dare to be bold? Yes. Dare to think differently? Yes, of course... but plan, prepare, practice and deliver.

We cannot be sucked into a position where we’re just following events. In the current crisis, everyone has pulled together brilliantly. Most people can work for a short term in a crisis period, finding additional reserves of energy and dedication to work under new pressures.

However, as military officers, sports managers, lead surgeons and others who preside over high-performing teams of individuals in pressurised situations will confirm, it’s impossible to continue this type of working approach day in, day out into the longer term. Doing so is more likely to result in failure than success. There has to be a healthy balance between comfort, stretch goals and crisis.

Focus and determination

If they’re not already doing so, now is the time for business leaders to work on re-evaluating and identifying the three things they should focus on over the next few months and, further, over the next few years. If not, there’s a danger they could be distracted by the noise that’s enveloping us all at the moment.

As is the case with many things in life, focus and determination are a powerful combination for success. We cannot control the environment. We cannot control our competitors, but we can control our own performance, which will stack the odds in our favour.

As business conditions improve and many firms open their doors to the public once again, businesses with the clearest vision, the best plans and those that are fastest out of the blocks will undoubtedly have a higher chance of success.

Equally, let’s not bite off more than we can chew. A little stress can be a good thing, but ‘crazy’ aspirational goals as well as solid targets can provide challenges which, in turn, drive unlimited thinking and performance, but ultimately we all have resource and budgetary limits.

Given all the changes that have happened over the last few months, it will be vital to revisit your ‘boundaries’. Many people and businesses have achieved the impossible. They have discovered they can do more than they thought possible in the last few months, such as reinventing their working practices overnight. As such, old limitations may now be opportunities.

On the other hand, some things which we’ve always done may now be very difficult.

Plato once stated that necessity is the mother of invention and he wasn’t wrong. We have been in a fast-changing world for a number of years, but now we are in a changed world. With change comes great opportunity.

Think clearer, plan better, adapt faster

Here at Reliance High-Tech, we started this journey with three simple questions on our mind:

*What were we good at in the past (ie pre-COVID-19)?

*What has changed as an output (or result) of COVID-19?

*What will the future look like and what do we need to be good at in the future?

Our horizon for ‘Fit for a future’ isn’t next month, or even next year, but stretches our view to five years, ten years or even 20 years out from now. Looking forward and asking questions about the world we will live in then allows us to work backwards and start building a bridge to the future now.

The exercise, though ongoing, has been valuable and is already pointing to things we should be doing now. It has also confirmed many of the decisions we have made to date, such as investing in the skills and accreditations that allow us to embrace technology that will only become more prevalent in years to come.

It’s also offering up tantalising opportunities that may not appear this year, or even next, but we believe will be key to our future in ten or even 20 years’ time.

We want to create history, not be a part of it. Now is the time for all business leaders to set new goals.

As Steve Jobs once said, businesses must dare to think different. If the pandemic has forced many businesses to pivot their focus from ‘just in time’ to ‘just in case’, it’s therefore important that they don’t simply revert to a case of ‘just as before’.

Alistair Enser is CEO at Reliance High-Tech