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Sharpening Your Competitive Edge During a Period of Business Slow Down

Apr 03, 2020

Creating Value During the COVID-19 Business Slow Down


The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a very challenging business climate. Many companies are finding themselves in uncharted territory trying to respond to unprecedented challenges. Operations have slowed or halted completely and are commonly run by essential staff only with large groups of employees asked to work remotely or stand down altogether.

After the critical, immediate business needs created by the COVID-19 crisis are addressed, a unique window of opportunity emerges in this time of reduced activity to reorganize, rethink, redesign, retrain and sharpen the competitive edge.

From recent conversations RLG has had with our clients, some key themes are emerging. Questions senior leaders are grappling with as they turn their attention towards the immediate future include:

  • How do I keep my employees meaningfully engaged in high value-added work while working remotely?
  • When normal operations resume, how do I make sure my organization comes out of the gate ready to go?
  • What can we do now to improve our business processes and emerge from this crisis better than ever?
  • How do I make sure that my leaders retain their networks and personal connections with their employees?


Getting a Head-start on Making a Step Change in Performance

This time of business slow down is a window of oppor­tunity to take the time to assess corporate strengths and opportunities, streamline critical business processes and engage people in continuous improvement.

In conversations with our clients, we have identified six themes describing how organizations can use this time to engage their people in productive, value-added work and get a head-start on making a step change in performance.

These activities can be done or started while working remotely using a structured approach that follows a clear methodology and is effectively led.

These six themes are summarized below. For a full description, see footnote for more information.1

  1. Assess business performance to pinpoint opportunities. Initiate assessments using structured processes to understand the state of your current operations, identify gaps and plot the path forward to capture opportunities.
  2. Improve organizational Operating Rhythm. Operating Rhythm is defined as the regular cadence of meetings and interactions key to the success of an organization. Today’s disruption in meetings and team inter­actions will shine a light on which are critical, unneeded or could be restructured. Take time now to think deeply and prepare for resumed operations with a stronger, data-driven organizational drumbeat
  3. Undertake targeted performance improvement and streamline the maintenance work process. Unproductive business processes exist everywhere in business. Now is a good time to review and restructure some of your key business processes to streamline operations and reduce waste. While opportunities to improve throughout organizations exist, we find that maintenance is often an especially valuable target.
  4. Conduct outage readiness and schedule quality assessment. Use this time to be better prepared for your upcoming pitstop, short-shutdown, turnaround or capital project. Turnaround assessments help site leaders and event planning teams get a ‘snap-shot’ of the current readiness status and delivery risks in planned or deferred events. Look for opportunities to shorten durations, reduce cost, mitigate risk and boost safety.
  5. Build and enact business continuity plans. Look past your current efforts to ramp down activity effectively. Organizations can look forward to plan and achieve efficient and safe ramp-ups and learn from today’s challenge of remote working to be better prepared in the future.
  6. Develop leadership capability. Leader and leadership team development, often the activity of ‘when time allows’ can move to the forefront, with skills training, mentoring and targeted coaching to build confidence and capability.


Talk Without Action is a Waste of Time

Companies and their leadership are facing many challenges in the weeks and months ahead. They also have an opportunity to come out of this crisis stronger, ready to create a step change in results once normal operations resume.

There are many improvement actions that should be initiated right now, while working remotely. Decide where to apply focus and initiate meaningful action. Engage employees in a deliberate and significant way to build their ownership and incorporate their ideas. Ultimately, when business resumes, organizations can return to the status quo or be prepared for a better, more competitive future by deciding to act to sharpen their competitive edge during a period of business slow down.

For over 37 years, RLG has assisted clients with creating world-class results through people. We have learned a great deal about the intricacies, complexities and subtleties involved in creating a step change in results through people and we would look forward to helping you navigate your unique business challenge.

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