A MADD approach to recovery in stormy times

by Richard Smith. richard@levelplain.com

Avoid (when possible), Mobilize, Analyze, Decide, and Deliver.

The character of a company and its people are rarely tested during the highs. Certainly, when business is booming, there are many stresses. But in good times, those stresses are missing an edge—the fear of failure and what it might mean for the company and its people. The true character of a company, its people, and its leaders comes to light when the lows happen. When a business is knocked back a step and needs to find the strength of character to soak it up and recover, is the time for level-headed, realistic leaders who believe in the business and its future, to step forward and lead the way. These are the times when sanity must prevail.

This is the point at which it’s time to take A MADD approach to dealing with business recovery and improvement.

The first step of A MADD approach is to Avoid issues. Do whatever is needed to avoid the typical pit falls such as, ignoring quality issues, ramping up too quickly without revenue backing, spending on product development that will not be profitable, shipping too early etc. Unfortunately, the avoidance list is long and varied, and keeping a company on track day in and day out is the resultant challenge you will constantly face. That’s why it’s important to be looking forward realistically at the same time as protecting your current place in the market.

However when you have not successfully avoided a disruption the company must now begin to Mobilize so that it can recover. Identify the people who are best suited to thinking and driving the company out of the current situation. Keep an open mind on who you choose for the team: do not limit the team to the current leadership, search inside and outside of your organization for the best people to get involved, look at all levels in your company. Whomever you choose, do so carefully because you want people who are willing and able to help. You want people who will check their egos at the door, roll up their sleeves, and provide constructive and informed input.

The next step is to buckle down and Analyze the data and information using a cold, critical eye. You must gather concrete evidence to define the situation, the issues, and the possible solutions. I advise taking some time with this step, to avoid panicking or implementing a half-baked course of action at this point; you will have plenty of time to make the business risk decisions in the near future. Another must: take the word “assume” out of your conversation and replace it with some research and data. Granted, some of your analysis will come up short of a satisfactory level of detail or data, but you must resist settling for less than ideal information from the start. That could be what put you into the mess in the first place, so do the hard work, find out everything you can. It is also crucial to put a hard time limit on this phase, because timing is usually very important in these situations.

Next, Decide on a course of action or, perhaps, more than one. When you have exhausted the avenues for research and analysis, or the reasonable timeframe you set is over, it is time to answer the question, “What are we going to do?” The worst answer is “Nothing. Let’s see what happens.” A close second is “Let’s try to wait it out”. The best answer is “We will do this one thing and we are 100% confident it will correct our situation.” But no one ever says that with a straight face. In reality, you will answer, “We have identified X things (X being not more than 5) and we have medium- to high-levels of confidence that the combination of actions will improve our situation”.

Now you have to Deliver.. Bring the needed teams together and communicate the course of action. Spend time to get buy-in, but limit that time. You will need to move quickly to get the business back on course, and time is of the essence. So consult in good faith, deliberate with key people, but be prepared to get started. Choose the path and MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!

Assign responsibilities and set targets publicly to help get everyone on the same page. In times of crisis or in times where you need a change in mindset, going public with your decisions and goals and being visibly accountable is a very powerful tool.

Drive the changes to their intended conclusion while being prepared to adjust course if you encounter unexpected negative results. Execution is always the one thing that differentiates successful from unsuccessful programs. To execute effectively, you need people who believe in the path and are working day in and day out to remove barriers that prevent success.

Avoid (when possible), Mobilize, Analyze, Decide, and Deliver. (A MADD approach to recovery and improvement).

By the way, feel free to deploy A MADD approach even when everything is running smoothly because these steps work just as well for ongoing improvements.

Please send any comments to richard@levelplain.com