Leading during rapid & profound change

During my MBA studies the sessions on change management stressed that the success or otherwise of organisational change pivots on a fully informed, progressive and collaborative preparatory phase.

Well that has gone completely out of the window. The word ‘unprecedented’ has been hammered recently so I will just say the textbooks really don’t have a handle on this. We are all pretty much on our own. How do we manage change that arrives abruptly and industry wide?

Don’t Panic.

You have all the resources, skills, intelligence and charm you had one month ago. Everything you have accomplished in your life so far has prepared you for this challenge. These feel-good platitudes sound great and may gain you better quality of sleep but they bring little of substance when the rubber hits the road.

However, there may be some truth in it, and when the chaos subsides you will be the main asset to draw on. The more information and skills you can accumulate during this phase of change (known as the chaos or neutral phase depending on your model but I think the former is more accurate) the better positioned you will be for the rebuilding phase (new state, mindset shift or death). Sorry about the ‘death’ bit, but business failure is one possible result of change followed by rising from the ashes.

Here are some points (in no particular order, so read on) to help you prepare and execute the changes that may be relevant for your business. These are generic because readers differ in terms of business sector, longevity, geography, complexity and experience. Hopefully some will resonate with you. For more specific information, see the section following.

  • Transformational change begins with no clear vision of the end point or target. It is a series of steps and missteps, course corrections and restarts that progress toward a goal that will appear out of the mist of confusion. Don’t limit your options by having a fixed end-point or goal. Be flexible.
  • Use your team. You have hired smart people, listen to them, let them vent, hear their fears and share yours, ask them for advice without judgement, encourage creativity, be supportive and open, look for ways to grow people rather than cut them down. Be a leader not a hero.
  • Model your desired culture, values and mindset. Unleash your potential through considered thoughts and actions. Your team, clients, patients and family are looking to you for a clue how to get through this.
  • Use your list(s). You have a database of clients who are under stress. Contact them, send e-newsletters telling them how they can access you at the moment. Include useful tips for managing their physical health while in lock down. Simple exercises they can do with their kids, the value of quality sleep, recipes, anything really. Just stay in touch as you will need each other in a few months.
  • Cut your costs in business and personally. Negotiate with lenders for a payment freeze. Speak with your landlord about a rent holiday for six months at least and suggest they speak with their lenders re a freeze. Shop prudently, do your own cleaning, gardening and home maintenance.
  • Chase all outstanding payments. If others have your money, go and get it.
  • Investigate alternative business models such as telephone consults for clients, Telehealth (secure online video) or one-on-one clinic visits that respect the no-gather rules accessed via an online diary. With only one physio and one client at a time, and a 10 minute gap between appointments, a receptionist is a bit of a luxury.
  • Learn stuff – check on online training and education options for you and your team. For example, the Going Private program from the PBA is ideal for recent arrivals in private health practice. Click here for more.
  • Register immediately for any government assistance for your business or for your family situation. I say immediately, but factor in a four hour phone waiting time.
  • Stay productive – make a list of all the tasks or projects you have put on hold ‘until you have time’. Start with the simple and cost-free ones. Take your time and enjoy the process.
  • Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues. Use technology to touch base and share experiences. Finish every call with something positive – any wins you can share.
  • Cry if you need to.
  • Make a tentative recovery plan with a floating start date of how you are going to rebuild your business or work once the restrictions ease. Be specific with what comes first, and then next. Prepare materials for mail out, signage ideas, special offers, staged re-opening, safety messages re hygiene, etc. Model the cash flow projections of a re-start and determine what you need to preserve until then.

That covers the general advice. If your questions, confusions or aspirations require a more specific or tailored approach to down-sizing then up-sizing your business (the current buzz-word will be ‘right-sizing’, just you wait and see) you might like to work one-on-one with me.

I am right-sizing my business mentoring consultancy to an online model only. You can make appointments for a secure, online video appointment during which we can assess your current situation and start to plot a return to being awesome again. Or at least minimising the damage and trauma of the journey.

For those who would like to explore their options and actions, to bounce ideas with a colleague who brings experience and business training to the table I am keen to help. These sessions are confidential, secure and non-judgmental. This is about your future, not your past. You may need one session to get on track or you might opt for regular sessions at a frequency that suits you as your transformation change process evolves. There is no obligation, expectations or subscription model, you simply make appointments as you see the need. Availability is limited so you may need to be flexible.

  • To make an appointment, click on the type of consult you want to start with. I recommend a long session first up so we can get a full assessment of your situation.
  • Appointments must be paid for in advance. Refunds available if you cancel with at least 48 hours notice. Payment is online via credit card after you make an appointment.
  • You will receive some preparation material and a confidentiality agreement to sign prior to commencement. This is important to protect both our businesses.
  • Times are for Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. You will need to adjust if calling from other time zones. The current time in Brisbane is:

Here we go together, towards the ‘new normal’. How ready do you want to be? What competitive and commercial advantages need to be established during this transition phase? How do you retain good people (staff, patients, referrers). Lots to be done and now you have the time to dedicate toward it.


A/Prof Craig Allingham APAM, Exec.MBA

Are Your Metrics Aligned to Your Strategy?

It is a basic premise of human conditioning that we are more likely to repeat behaviours that are rewarded.
Not just humans, this process of rewarding a desired behaviour is used to train your family dog as well as your children.
As an employer or leader in your workplace you may be occasionally (frequently?) disappointed that your staff don’t share your standards of performance, application, enthusiasm and striving toward the goals of your enterprise.
Human behaviour is not just a reflex or rewarded response, it is the final expression of beliefs and attitudes, coloured by an understanding of social situations and environmental influences. This is a complex pathway to navigate as an employer.
One of the most common strategies we use to help them focus in our business is to apply metrics – we measure stuff. And therein lies the risk.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review questions whether metrics can actually be counter-productive. The authors suggest that metrics are almost always flawed and can alter behaviours or decisions in ways that are not anticipated.
Harris & Taylor call this ‘surrogation’. A process where employees confuse your business strategy with what you are measuring in their performance.
Not just employees. Are you over the repeated requests for feedback from businesses you have used?
‘Stay on the line to complete a short survey’,
‘How many stars will you give us for our service or product?’,
‘Please score our service on this 10 point scale’

What was once a novelty and a chance to deliver feedback is now a time-consuming nuisance likely to turn customers off. Asking about their satisfaction levels is no substitute for actually delivering a satisfactory service. Yet happens when employees aspire for rating points when they should be focused on delivering a remarkable customer experience.
Are your employees measured on throughput or productivity? Are their Key Performance Indicators or remuneration triggers linked to the number of services delivered or dollars generated? Then in the staff room they see a mission statement promising to deliver excellence in health care to the local community. One objective is abstract and difficult to measure, the other is concrete and easily expressed in numbers. Employees will seek to meet the measurable metric with one eye on their upcoming performance review and the other on their pay packet. Leaving no eyes to focus on your business strategy or vision.

Two suggestions offered by the authors are –
1. Loosen the link between metrics & incentives
2. Use multiple metrics
The latter is a preferred option of mine, using a mix of quantitative metrics (e.g. earnings) alongside at least one qualitative metric (e.g. quality of clinical records or 6-week post-discharge satisfaction rating) and only paying incentives if both sections meet pre-determined targets.

Check your incentive and metrics systems and ensure they are aligned with the strategy and vision that drives you.

Harris M. & Tayler B. 2019. Don’t Let Metrics Undermine Your Business. Har Bus Rev Sep/Oct 2019 p63

Strategy – more than a plan

Is a business plan enough? Business plans are important tools for any owner, and in my role as a QIP practice surveyor I have seen many such plans – some brilliant and some in need of work. Not a lot of work, as most are pretty close to the mark and just need firmer time frames and outcome measures. But none of them was a strategic document. None projected a longer term vision of the business or demonstrated a purposeful system of achieving it.

Strategy is more than a list of goals and actions – more than a plan. Strategy is deeply rooted in the DNA of the business, the owner and the organisation. It is the combination of behavioural patterns, customer management, competitive advantage and the philosophy of adding and delivering value. Well, so say the academics in the field of strategy. Like Mintzberg who listed no fewer than ten ‘schools’ of strategy, or Sun Tzu (‘The Art of War’) whose work has been commandeered by business coaches and consultants often with good effect. And of course Michael Porter, a more recent guru who insists that strategy is focused on a unique mix of offerings that enhance competitive advantage.If you would like to develop a strategy for your business that provides direction and perspective in turn generating a purposeful business plan, HR plan, marketing plan, earning plan and exit plan you may benefit from two things. Firstly, an open mind on how to analyse, structure and drive your business; and secondly, some education or coaching to guide you through the process.

What options are there for your strategy? What will provide you with an advantage in the construction and delivery of your service and products, and is there a customer base who is prepared to pay what you value it at? For example, do you pursue a pricing strategy, a service strategy, a relationship strategy, a scale-efficiency strategy, a reproducing strategy, a blue-ocean strategy, a value adding strategy or, well that is enough to start with.

Once your overarching strategy is decided and the economic value established we can turn to how you can outperform, outlast and outwit your competition – yes I borrowed that from Survivor on TV: the ultimate strategy game. Or you could study Game of Thrones instead (drastic business plans), or perhaps House of Cards is a more palatable model with less killing but equally ruthless. But I digress. What you need to develop is:

  • A clear understanding of how strategy arches over every business decision, process and product that you make.
  • Knowledge of where your specific competitive advantage lies and how to maximise it.
  • Ideas galore to transfer to your business plan to ensure your strategic intent is reflected in your activities and outcome measures.
  • A practical appreciation of brand consistency, where your value adding occurs and how to price it.
  • Examples of implementing strategy in your finance, HR, team building and leadership activities.
  • Finally, a renewed enthusiasm for your business and your ability to actively manage it to success.

The Practitioner Business Academy may be a good place to start.