Consulting a client overwhelmed by difficulties*

Roi (m) is overwhelmed by the issues facing him. His board is asking him to trim down the cost of labour by 14% in 2022, a impossible feat given the fact that he cannot downsize 64% of the people who come from a company acquired 4 years ago.

Roi’s CFO has just threatened to resign unless the recent order he received to replace the external accounting firm is rescinded. This ‘order’ came from a major stakeholder in the board and the Mayor’s office in the city where his firm is located.

To make matter’s worse, 35% of the employees, parents to young kids who have been exposed to the virus, are still in quarantine, many for the umpteenth time.

Materials that have been ordered are stuck in a Chinese /or German harbour, or stranded outside one of Israel’s ports, as port workers, themselves short-staffed, struggle to deal with the load.

Thus, important deliveries to key clients are postponed. Following are a series of comments Roi made to me in our last conversation on Monday, and my comments.

Roi-Allon, we have several processes that are stuck: end-of-year performance reviews; 2023 strategic planning session; end of year lessons learned. This is a nightmare because not only are we way behind, but I would not like to do any of this stuff remote.

Allon-If you decide to ditch any of these plans this year, or “rituals” as I perhaps they might be called, it does not mean you are doing so forever. For example, does it make sense to do a lessons learned with all this shit still happening? Why not go a bit easier on yourself and others? By the way, 2023 strategic planning is nice to have, Roi, but isn’t it better to focus on the urgent now as you are doing-after all, this is a crisis.

Roi-That’s not my role. Everyone is focused on the crisis. I need to see beyond the crisis. You and I do not agree on that; we have discussed that before.

Allon-Roi, we agree on that totally. The challenge is that you cannot do what you think you need to do, because the crisis has totally changed the rules of the game for the meantime. And it’s a long, long, long and mean meantime. And while you think you are think that your plans are “stuck” because of crisis you are dealing with, you actually are very effective. What is not effective is that you believe that you are not doing the right things by firefighting.

Roi-I wonder if speaking to you, old man, is doing the right things. (Laughs and hugs me)

Roi-What about the accounting firm? Should I cave in?

Allon: Roi, for politicians, time is money. This is a political power play. “Feigned agreement” along with  asking for a delay might be a wise choice. After all, you know this city better than me and we both know about how very long-lasting a temporary agreement is in Israel.

Roi-The board is really holding me by the balls.

Allon-Roi, do you think anyone really wants to get rid of you now? The dogs bark, and the caravan moves on.

Take aways:

  • 1-It’s a new ballgame with new rules, or no rules.
  • 2-What was was. Irrelevant for the time being.
  • 3-In fog, focus on the next ten meters ahead of your car.
  • 4-You can only do what you can do. Not one iota more.
  • 5-Delaying the decision may become a strategy in crisis.
  • 6-Yes, you can ignore some ridiculous external pressures  because no one really wants you to go.

*Published with agreement with client.

 

 

 

 

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Managerial skills for unchartered waters

..it was the winter of despair.

Charles Dickens- a Tale of Two Cities

 

This is probably one of the most difficult times to manage effectively in recent history. Supply chains are chaotic, much of the work force is in quarantined or about to be quarantined; there are more resignations and loss of knowledge than in the past and doing even easy tasks is much much harder than ever.

I have been very lucky to be blessed with more work than ever. It appears that expertise and experience now count for something.

Over the past year, I have focused my work with managers on a very few  and focused messages-and I want to share them with my readers.

1) Frequent changes of direction are often necessary… yet the more changes in the message, the less the folks will trust you or your messages. So ensure that messages are over-communicated. 

2) “I don’t know” is a real answer, a legitimate answer and probably the fairest answer you can provide in many situations.

3) Manage your managers aggressively, so that they don’t force you to drive your people into the ground with unachievable goals in tough times.  Show appreciation when people do what they can, even if it is not enough.

4) Avoid sloganeering at all costs. Slogans don’t make much sense in regular times, but in difficult times, use of slogans (like “develop customer intimacy)  make you look absurd.

5) Don’t idealize tragedies. Working from home is a bitter necessity; not a religion. There is very little positive that comes from #wfh with 4 kids at home, lack of infrastructure, and Zoom fatigue. Tell it like it is, and don’t perfume  the pig. (Thanks Sherry)

 

 

 

 

 

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