The business environment is always periodical. There are periods of certainty and stability, and there are cycles of chaos and uncertainty. Turmoil and uncertainty pose a considerable challenge to business, especially for revenues and profitability. Revenues and profitability may be meagre, challenging the going concern of the business.
Such periods of chaos and uncertainty are the ones currently being faced by Zimbabwean companies. Certainty is absent. Exchange rates are very volatile, and forex for importation of raw materials is very scarce on the formal banking channels.
However, not all chaos is adverse. With the right strategies, some business will record the best of revenues and profitability. When there is stability and order in the business environment, systems and structures work very well. The certainty causes other companies to assume that it’s there to last, thereby setting their market influence strategies accordingly. Nevertheless, things do not stay the same!
Chaos disrupts order, and the way of doing business should change. The challenge of chaos is that it does not come from one source; it strikes from any source. Most of the times, the cause is unexpected. For any company, the context of chaos may be internal or external. Internal chaos may include a dysfunctional Board of Directors, disgruntled employees, and reduced product performance increased the cost of production, poor leadership or even management sabotaging the performance of the company.
Some factors affecting external chaos include the political landscape in the country, fluctuating prices, and economic policies, new entrants to markets, the regulatory framework and technological advancements. Sources of chaos are endless, so are the companies that are affected by it. To some extent, the beauty of chaos is that it develops active corporate cultures. In a way, it also exposes areas of weakness that may have been overshadowed by an excellent performance from other sections in times of certainty and stability.
During certainty, some organisations carry unnecessary baggage, be it employees of structures and systems. The strength of an organisation is measured by how well it responds to chaos. For poorly run organisations, the emergence of chaos may be the death of the company. And some organisations lose their grip on the market, creating room for competition.
When all is well, competition might be present, but it magnifies in times when chaos is at the pick. On the other hand, prepared organisations, even though they may encounter chaos, rise above the chaos and become better. In such times, they will be like eagles in storms. They rise above the storm.
Chaos will be a period for them to tighten their structures and systems, even for more exceptional performance than before. Chaos can influence innovation, inspire employees to reach new heights in the organisation and reduce complacency. Regardless of the economic challenges of the country, there has been an emergence of a new breed of businesses. Businesses with lean models and that are slowly becoming giants.
Companies that are embracing the use of technology to manage costs and enterprises that are innovating in their processes to produce competitively. What distinguishes how organisations perform in chaos is their strategies. Every strategy must incorporate a way of adapting to confusion when it arises.
Elimination of chaos as quickly as possible is essential; otherwise, it may significantly cost the business. Therefore, the right strategy must always forecast the confusion that might arise and have ways to overcome chaos and influence employees to achieve the goals and objectives of the organisation. Some of the elements to include in the strategy; Contingent plans: When chaos hits, the first thing that is greatly affected is communication. Instead of communicating well to one another, bosses and subordinates shout.
The communication systems will be broken, sending wrong messages. Instead of working towards navigating the chaos, it will be a blame game from all functions of the business. A good strategy should, therefore, have contingency plans to ensure that the correct messages are sent out to the right audience.
The communication channels in times of chaos must be made very clear to every member of the organisation, to help in diffusing the confusion quickly and enabling the organisation to take advantage of the opportunities harboured by chaotic situations.
Predictability of disruptive events: The strategic document should be well-rounded, covering all sections of the business. Disruptive events are to be known before they become apparent to everyone if the company is to benefit. James Goldsmith once said, “If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late.”
Disruption is now the order of the day. For example, currently, there are very few businesses that are producing in the country. Several companies have become retailers of imported products and services. The enterprise with a strategy to create, especially agricultural products, will be the business that is going to enjoy the future profits soon. Make synergies with farmers now! Monitoring the markets: Without markets, there will be no business.
As a result, every company must be monitoring its markets and what its customers are saying about them. Operating on the assumption that customers will continue to buy your products because you have a big name in the market may be a huge mistake. Markets are shifting daily due to the rapid change in technology.
Organisations should set up a system of monitoring their market demands, and this must be a strategy issue. Strategies that exclude markets evaluation are weak and should be adjusted. In the cellphones market, Nokia failed to monitor its markets and eventually lost to other players who moved with the demands of the market. Nokia was complacent due to its dominance in the marketplace and realised too late that things had changed. The market had moved towards touch screens while Nokia focused on cellphones with buttons.
Systems and structures to bounce back: Businesses is sometimes like boxing. If the business leaders allow chaos to put them down for long, they will be knocked off. When chaos hits, there must be ways to bounce back. Therefore, the business strategy must incorporate mechanisms to bounce back from chaos without damaging the reputation of the business and without scars. In the absence of Steve Jobs, Apple headed for bankruptcy.
Job’s return is one of the greatest third-act comebacks in business history for Apple. In bringing back Steve Jobs, the then Apple CEO Gil Amelio said, “I’m not just buying software, I’m buying Steve.”
Bringing back Job’s was a high bounce back for Apple, obviously without damaging its reputation. There is a growing need to know how leaders react and make decisions in times of crisis or chaos. Their response determines the success or failure of the organisation. During the last decade, the global markets have been unpredictable, uncertain, and there has been an explosion of big data. These are all the challenges that are faced by the business leaders, which requires them to improve their skills to make decisions in chaos.
These challenges have rendered some strategies irrelevant. However, for business leaders to be able to manage chaos, they have to be aware of how they perceive chaos.
- Batanai Kamunyaru is a business coach and writer. He is a world-class organisations facilitator. Contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org and +263 718 852 489.