LEADING YOUR BUSINESS IN A TIME OF CRISIS

Grant Thornton has embraced agility and you should too

Chris Cracknell Chris Cracknell

Grant Thornton has embraced agility and you should too: 5 steps to take

You get what you optimise for. In generations past, when the near-future was somewhat predictable, that usually meant incremental improvements in quality and efficiency, paired with economies of scale. Hierarchies and rigid processes helped maintain stability and continuity in the workplace, while keeping investors happy.

But continuity is no virtue in a discontinuous environment. It is simply a failure of adaptation.

Successful adaptation in a COVID-19 world is synonymous with agility. As I write these words, the virus shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down, and a widely distributed vaccine remains unlikely in the near future. People around the world have had to adjust their lifestyles to move forward during this pandemic – and businesses must do likewise.

In the past, we’ve laid out the steps and principles at the core of agile leadership. Sometimes, however, the best way to illustrate a strategy is to show how it looks in practice. Here are a few ways that Grant Thornton in Thailand has embraced agility in its own business this year:

 

  • We tore down the walls

Geography has a real but under-appreciated effect on the culture of an organisation. Separate offices and cubicles provide certain advantages, but collaboration and innovation are not among them. Our switch to a hot desking model has brought team members together in a casual environment where conversation is encouraged and the process of ideation can be continuous.

Hot desking via a co-working space can ease the strain on the organisation as well – in terms of budget as well as training. Rather than letting expensive conference rooms sit unused during the pandemic, businesses can turn them into multi-functional areas where seating plans are adjusted differently for training, presentations, brainstorming sessions, and ordinary working periods. As senior and junior team members work alongside each other, everyone in the business can stay in the loop regarding changes, and ongoing employee development can be maintained far more easily.

 

  • We provide flexible work options

Besides moving to hot desks, flexible office hours are another way to better accommodate employee needs while keeping overhead low. Some employees prefer to work from home, and we let them – at least once in a while. The pandemic has disrupted home life for many people, including children’s school schedules. If some tasks can be done remotely, your employees will appreciate the option to work that way.

Working from home also negates one of the potential downsides of hot desking, by providing employees with a distraction-free space to focus on complex assignments. Yet it is worth stressing that most remote solutions become possible only with the help of technology. Secure networks, digital task managers, messaging programmes, teleconferencing systems, hardware maintenance, and other requirements may be difficult for your team to manage without help. That’s why we make the most of all resources available to us – even the ones we don’t directly control.

 

  • We defer to outside experts

You aren’t the best at everything, nor should you try to be. These days, it’s hard enough to keep track of where your own industry is going – let alone other industries like IT and marketing, which are also undergoing disruptive periods of their own. If you want best-in-class solutions, you’ll need the services of specialist organisations dedicated to providing them.

Our external IT consultants work alongside us in our office, providing network maintenance and cybersecurity services, developing custom software to help run our business, integrating third-party programmes with our own system, and even fixing the occasional broken laptop. Our marketing consultants developed and continue to execute a tailored digital PR strategy, to keep our business in the public eye as a leader in our field.

Doing all of this ourselves would require dozens of employees and a massive investment of equipment; handling it externally gives us access to all the resources we need, when we need them – and at a fraction of the cost.

 

  • We find new solutions internally

Although a world of expertise is out there, sometimes the resources you need can be found in-house. Our organisation is part of the global Grant Thornton group of member firms, giving us the ability to partner with others in the network. We have developed a particularly fruitful relationship with Grant Thornton in Singapore, allocating a single group of internal specialists to assist with back-office tasks at both locations. By implementing a single system to manage tasks at both locations – once again, with the help of technology – we’ve been able to standardise our systems and make both offices more efficient.

Every organisation should periodically review its resources (human and otherwise) to identify similar possibilities for improvement. A proper understanding of your current capabilities can help you better identify new strategies for the road ahead, which your organisation may already be in a good position to pursue.

 

  • We undergo regular fine tuning

During more predictable periods, we built 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year plans and budgets based on prior trends and our goals for the business. We continue to plan ahead in this way – but now we build multiple scenarios into these plans, and place a greater emphasis on the short term. Our regular forecast meetings have a particular focus on the next month, next quarter, and to the year end.

This frequent fine tuning allows for quicker decision-making and a more precise adjustment of resources. Agility lets us react promptly to both opportunities and threats, encouraging creative thinking at every fork in the road.

 

A game that changes as you play

Each of the above initiatives has greatly helped us – and can help you – gain greater flexibility in terms of budget, strategy, and scale. Technology has proven to be instrumental in these efforts, facilitating everything from teleconferencing to analytics, to internal and external communication, to improving the customer journey.

To win in the coming months and years, your business will need the ability to hit a moving target. You’ll have to make decisions with incomplete information, and then pivot quickly when adjustments prove to be necessary. Even trend data, so helpful during normal times, may be a poor predictor during outlier events such as the current pandemic.

Uncertainty is the new certainty. Agile and reactive planning are essential as we come to terms with today’s shifting business environment. Success is not about rebuilding the past; it is all about understanding the current and building relevant solutions for tomorrow.

In such an environment, finding the way forward means having the right guide. As your financial advisory partner, Grant Thornton in Thailand can help you adapt to the challenges of the present moment, streamlining your organisation to optimise for agility – the key to success in an environment where the only constant is change.