Businesses prize individuals that work well in a crisis. We have all seen this. A situation becomes very tenuous and the fire drill starts.The fire fighters are called in. A great deal of activity and commotion ensues,and then usually a good result is obtained. The crisis team’s and the firefighter’s reputation continue to grow.
This has always seemed to be a dysfunctional organizational structure and habit to me. Much the same way that the public is urged to “help prevent forest fires” instead of becoming better fire fighters, we should urge management to do the same. Business leaders need to anticipate business situations and take action to avoid a crisis, instead of allowing a crisis to occur and then applauding those that fix it.
There are some very simple steps to anticipating, avoiding and preventing a crisis. The biggest step is to be realistic. Understand the state of the economy and plan appropriately. Understand the state of your industry and plan appropriately. Be aware of your sales and expense monthly/annual profiles and don’t bank on the fourth quarter “hockey stick”. Have a back-up plan ready if you should need to adjust to changing conditions. Track your progress in the numbers. You know that your management will.
Finally, act early. If you are deviating from plan,smaller course adjustments to your business plan early in the year will help you avoid the necessity of drastic changes later in the year. There will always be a need for fire fighters. A good leader who anticipates the needs of his business just won’t need them as often.