In some ways, all turnarounds are the same. In my experience working as a turnaround specialist for companies ranging from startups to multinationals and in many different industries, challenges come in common areas, no matter the setting.
Every company starts out with a plan for their customers, their competitors, their costs, their capital needs, and their communities of vendors and partners. Invariably these plans are captured in numbers that appear on business plans that span from one to three to five years. Lots of numbers.
Most companies also have an initial plan for the culture. But unlike the other planning areas, here the plan is described in words. And the words that companies use to describe their desired optimal culture are the same too. In fact, you can generally pick 4–10 from the list of 25 values offered below and you’ll cover 99% of the values statements out there. I’ve seen them all. Do you recognize any of these in your company?
Commitment to customers
Companies rely on their plans like an orchestra relies on written sheets of music to ensure the right beat and harmony among many instruments.
But then something happens, often in the market. The beat unexpectedly changes, sometimes dramatically.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
It’s then that plans need to be quickly adjusted by people who are (hopefully) ready for change. Numbers generally need to be changed in all plans, and while the orchestra is still playing. The best teams continue to play by improvisation.
But the key to great improvisation is culture. And it’s here I’ve found that the most important cultural attribute is not on the list of values above. What’s missing is courage.
Courage is the ability to face difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being deflected from a chosen course of action. The biggest risk to companies facing new challenges is that team members will lose their resolve to remain true to their values. In this case, improvisation will fail.
Successful organizations expect to face challenges. Those same groups know that when times get toughest they need to double-down on their values with a focus in an area remarkably absent from normal lists of core values—courage.
Your organization will need courage to keep the music in harmony when the sheet music suddenly changes.