While everyone knows that 2021 will be unusual in every way, very few can take this information and translate it into everyday work. Even the best manager has trouble translating this strangeness into the management of a division or a corporation. We’re waiting for the reopening and then the post-virus period, but we don’t really know how long each phase will take. Drafting and executing a business plan can be difficult, but the leaders of international companies are expected to rise to the task and show what they are capable of!
“Quantity” of change
When a manager has to convince anyone of their dynamism, it is not enough to show momentum and trends to the outside world. Nor is it enough to repeat to HQ that this year will be so different, and how perfectly prepared we are for it. It is not enough to take concrete steps to manage change, although this is absolutely necessary to fully resolve the situation. During my career, I worked with an American, British, German, and Scandinavian multinationals, and they have completely different approaches and thought processes when it comes to this field. The cultures are completely different, and by default, there are few similarities between the operation of the headquarters and the ownership circle of these companies. However, we must agree that 2021 can by no means be considered a “baseline”. And interestingly, when the economy finds itself in special circumstances, these firms with completely different decision-making mechanisms are increasingly beginning to resemble one another. No matter their disparate original corporate outlooks, companies all eventually start “sliding down the slope” towards calculation, precision, and greater detail. Obviously, from a U.S. company, this is a much weirder reaction than from a German one, but the HQs are sure to agree that concrete details are given much more space than ever before. The HQ is not just waiting for signs of change in attitude or strength; that is, they are not so focussed areas that are subjective and elusive. Specifically, we could say they want to see a “list” broken down by number/quantity of the changes caused by the situation. Thus, the entire process around business planning requires extra steps. If the economy has never been in such a situation before, the only planning methodology that can help is one that the company has never seen before. If the management of the local units does not recognise this need, they will be in serious jeopardy in 2021. But what changes are needed? It is important not to think about vast and endless things! We need to focus on simple parts that are easy for everyone to understand and even easier to perceive! If, for example, business planning every year was in the Managing Director’s hands, which they carried out alone or at most with their Financial Director’s contribution in certain matters, they must now switch. If, for example, that Managing Director widens this circle, they have already done something to convince the HQ that there will be real, planned change. Promote a “design process” that involves workshops. Start constructing the plan from the bottom up. Ask for input from the first line leaders, then move on to their leaders, and so on. The more you build a process for this — like everything, of course, it still needs to be sensible — the more certain you seem to understand that 2021 is a special year. And that is what the HQ needs. They must see that the head of the local unit understands the dangers and is prepared for them. What if everyone was always involved in the design because of the existing corporate culture? They also need to switch things up! The circle must be smaller! Now, only the Financial Director should be a partner. Or now is the time to seek strategic support from outside the company. Smart companies don’t regret the money for outside consulting, market research, or assigning an expert from HQ to support the Managing Director. Does all this seem like a big change? Or just a well-designed tactic? That’s not important! This is a discrete unit of change that a leader can show. Is it all deception? Is it just about making HQ feel good and liking their manager? Do not be mistaken! This is exactly the essence of the whole process! Because maybe the director changed it for selfish reasons. But with this change, they elicit greater change that can propel their company forward when it needs it most. Whichever method they choose depending on their existing company culture — whether they narrow or expand the design scope — implements a new culture. And this is exactly the essence of 2021: new methods, new processes are needed for success!
You also need to sell it…
When such a change in method occurs, it starts useful processes on its own. Change can be motivated by small but concrete steps in any environment. But let’s not deceive ourselves that the change alone is enough for international HQ to see you as a manager they can count on in a crisis. Once there is the change, you have to sell it to HQ. If you can’t present a “2021 Business Planning Process” project plan with the subtitle “COVID-19: Reopening and Post-Virus Business”, don’t expect a big career at that company. It is quite clear, maybe even too spot-on at first glance, but in a crisis, we often have to be clear so that the message reaches everyone, in all circumstances, and has the right impact. From this, they need to build a project and inflate it to the right size! Obviously, there is a gracious “lie” in this as well, as it can give a “false sense of calm” to the company that employs us. But again, let’s not just look at the process from our own perspective. Yes, we may be driven by selfish individual interests, which lead us to resort to these business tricks. But if we do our job well, we will make it so that everyone starts 2021 at rest, which will not be easy. On the other hand, I make it clear that a person performs better at rest or under less pressure than when infected with a constant, high stress level. As a leader, at the head of an international company, we are responsible not only for ourselves but also for the jobs of our subordinates. Give yourself and your organisation a chance to succeed in 2021 with a little peace of mind. And if we think that these “tricks” will just remain tricks, we are very wrong! Every element that motivates change induces change, and we can all agree that this is exactly what we need this year, right?