Plan ahead for the next normal, by AAB chief executive Graeme Allan

Graeme Allan, Chief Executive of Anderson Anderson & Brown LLP, reflects on the changes and challenges currently experienced as a result of the coronavirus crisis and considers what’s next as we plan ahead for the ‘next normal’.

As a business leader or owner, you’re likely to find your days now involve consuming lots of new information and reacting to it, managing the change to work patterns or indeed the inability to operate at all and, on top of all of this, considering what’s next is never far away from your thoughts.

You’ve got to grips with your Business Resilience Plan, you’re leading your crisis action team, you reacted to the challenges ‘now’ by reviewing and applying for new Government COVID-19 Support Measures and you’re spending a huge amount of your time on both internal and external communication.

If you wondered what leadership was all about before, well, now you really know. I certainly found myself in the mind-set of, “There’s no point in worrying about what’s over the hill until you’ve worked out how you’re getting everyone to the top.” But when does that mind-set need to change? 

Thanks to a very well-crafted and timely McKinsey article, Getting ahead of the next stage of the coronavirus crisis, I was able to take the thinking and overlay it on the questions I’d been pondering: how am I going to navigate us out of this?; where are we now?; how will I make sure we’re ready?; and, what will our business look like in twelve months?

This takes you to a whole different space in which you need to get separation between the team you’ve deployed to focus on keeping the wheels turning right now and create a new, ‘Plan Ahead’, team that can be scaled up over time to run down the scenario planning, starting with where you were before the pandemic took hold.

At AAB, we’ve spent the last eighteen months understanding agile methodology, looking at the interaction of agile with our digital strategy and adopting it into our everyday working lives. This meant that when the Board decided to close the office just before ‘lockdown’ we just moved everyone into the working from home environment and the teams were ready, and committed, to work in a different way with the ‘tools’ in place to help. 

Roll forward a few weeks and the same is true for what you need to do with the ‘Plan Ahead’ team. This will allow everyone to carry out a number of key tasks: gather data from a number of reliable sources accepting that this will change or evolve as the world changes; understand and develop various strategies based on possible outcomes using the data; recognise when a particular strategy seems to be playing out; make quicker decisions based on what we’ve modelled; know what we need to do and have an action plan ready to implement; and identify how to get something better out of the pain we’ve been through.

With such uncertainty today no-one knows what tomorrow will look like but what I do know is that we all need to do everything we can to survive. It is likely to be a long road, but through this approach and recognising now that we need to plan ahead as a firm, we will be better placed for whatever the ‘next normal’ is than we would have otherwise.

So what’s next for you…are you going to take the next step and begin to plan ahead for the ‘next normal’?

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