The snow may now have melted, but our memories haven’t yet faded. Unfortunately, I was amongst the many travellers stranded at Heathrow pre-Xmas and it wasn’t just the inability of the airport authorities to anticipate, plan, invest and respond to events, but the pathetic communication which made a bad situation even worse.
Let’s face it, over the past few years we’ve experienced heavy snow pre/post Xmas or both, so not having a Plan B is inexcusable. The chaos at Heathrow airport over the week-end of December 18/19 was a national disgrace, and in case BAA think passengers have just gotten over it and aren’t waiting to hear what will happen to prevent it from happening again, they’re wrong.
The lesson? Plan ahead
When the Ice Age came, the dinosaurs couldn’t adapt, so they died. It’s the same with business: when the climate changes, we have to adapt if we want to survive.
Adoption of technology can have a massive impact on the business climate. I first had very direct experience of this in the early 1990s when I was a director at an industrial cleaning business. Amongst other things, we provided maintenance services to over 50,000 BT telephone kiosks per week. It was a great business with a blue chip customer base, and back then, people really relied on telephone kiosks for communication.
Mobile phones were massively large devices and the mobile industry was still in its infancy, with virtually nobody anticipating the speed and scale of the rollout. Yet, if we hadn’t changed our business model, we’d have had no business, as it wasn’t long before the kiosks became extinct.
We had about five years to adapt then, and there’s no doubt that technology still continues to accelerate at an astounding speed – take the iPad, first introduced last year, isn’t it hard to believe this product is still only a year old?
Be more blunt
Over Xmas, I read Lord Sugar’s book What you see is what you get.
The one thing about Sugar, whether you like him or not, is that he’s made a very firm stand for bluntness, a “no nonsense” approach to direct communication. We need a lot more of this in business.
Too often I find that people hide behind ambiguity, or think they’ve communicated something without even checking whether the message has been received as intended. Bring on more bluntness in 2011!
So, looking back at 2010, what are my resolutions for the new year? What are the things that will make the biggest difference in business this year – those little things that make the difference between success and failure?
- Adapt: Expect the unexpected – how could external factors (political/economic/social/technological) impact your business?
- Plan: Do you have a Plan A and a Plan B for your key areas/projects?
- Communicate: Do you adopt a blunt, direct style of communication or is it ambiguous and prone to riddles?
As they say: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”