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Africa Sept 2011 128Even good managers can miss early signs of trouble.

You are working, hard running the business day to day, when a new competitor emerges or a new innovation completely disrupts the way you are doing business. The reality is you may not have seen the storm clouds gathering on the horizon and now you are facing new head winds.
If you act quickly, you can weather the storm. Here are 8 steps to help you get back on track and STAY on track:
1. Quickly assess and determine how critical your situation is
People caught off guard often jump into action without complete understanding of their challenge. As a result, their early actions may just mask a much deeper problem. A quality diagnosis of key business drivers is necessary to ensure that you are not just treating the symptoms. So be sure to dedicate a reasonable amount of time to assessment before springing into action.
2. Bring your employees in early: Craft your change story in simple terms that they all can understand and get behind
Show them the trends — how you got here and what needs to change. This will help to create a sense of urgency within your organization. When the entire team is engaged in assessing and addressing your challenge, you will likely uncover the deeper issues, better solutions and experience less resistance to change.
EXAMPLE:  guard by ABC leaving, it critical that we do a quick assessment of our products and pricing to ensure this is a single incident versus the beginning of a trend of losing multiple customers. Over the course of the next week, we will be asking for your help in doing detailed product and pricing comparisons across all of our competitors to validate our product and pricing approach. We will also be meeting with our product vendors to ensure we are doing all we can on behalf of our customers, from a product design and technology view point. Your feedback and input during this process is vital to our ongoing profitability.
3. Listen to your team members and employees
Your associates likely have some insights into the problem and potentially information about how your competition is dealing with the same or similar issues. Often associates have seen the issue for some time but have never spoken up. This is a great opportunity to improve communication, enhance teamwork and ensure that all associates feel free to bring up issues and offer suggestions.
4. Ask yourself: am I missing critical talent?

You may not have all the talent you need to quickly work through this challenge. Don’t hesitate to bring in the right people to contribute to the solution. Often, teams are so busy running the business that they have little time to quickly address the real problems. Outside resources can help you quickly define a plan of action, prioritize action items and ensure that critical changes are taking place quickly and effectively.
5. Ensure your action plan (forecast) will create revenue and profits
Companies need to invest their capital wisely and in areas that provide real returns. If your division is adding to overhead without adding a sustainable profit stream, you have only addressed the short-term problem. The long-term picture needs to demonstrate that further investment is warranted.
6. Engage your suppliers
In some situations, you may need to engage your suppliers for help. That help can include their expertise, price reductions, improved payment terms or better technology integration, to ensure you are operating efficiently. Leverage your change story to ensure that your suppliers see the long term benefit of partnering with you through this crisis.
7. Look for quick wins
A few quick wins early in the recovery will create momentum and demonstrate the value of change to your associates and build confidence in your leadership.
8. Improve your communication
Keep your employees, associates and management informed of your progress — good or bad. Outline and trend the critical information (daily, weekly and monthly) that are leading indicators of your progress. Keeping everyone informed will ensure that the right sense of urgency and resources needed for success are provided. Regular communication will also contribute to a culture of inclusivity, creating a sense that “we’re all in this together.”

Early Warning Signs

So, in review… Assess the situation quickly and honestly. Formulate and implement a smart plan that will create revenue and generate quick wins. Bring your employees in early and engage them as an integral part of the solution. Marshall resources — look to vendors and consultants for short-term support. These are just a few ways you can get ahead of that storm to prevent damage — and spend less time cleaning up debris.