4 Easy and Powerful Business Strategy Tips for Load Shedding
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It’s South Africa’s darkest hour – literally. I’m not the first writer to have opened with that one since South Africa’s national power producer Eskom entered load shedding again, and I won’t be the last.
For readers who don’t know, load shedding is when parts of South Africa’s power grids are switched off due to the national energy producer’s inability to fulfil its most basic functions, for reasons we won’t go into here.
A quote that was removed from this Fin24 article said that more scheduled outages are “dooming South Africa to recession”, but I’d like to put forward that the night needn’t be quite so dark and full of terrors for South African business owners if they use this time to further their business strategy with these tips.
1. Working on and not in the business
I participate actively in several business networks, and I’ve noticed that time to work on the business instead of just in it seems to be the holy grail many of my entrepreneur peers are trying to find time to seek.
Look at the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
Savvy business people know that finding the time to work in that “Important but not urgent” quadrant, what my team refers to as “Quadrant II time”, is essential if you don’t want to be stuck on that hamster wheel, repeating problems and going nowhere.
Quadrant II is where we take time to zoom in and focus on careful in-depth analysis, or zoom out and take time to look at the big picture. It is where we take the time to plan, develop or improve systems, and build business relationships.
However, the dog that barks the loudest tends to get the most attention, and so the “Urgent and important” tasks in Quadrant I tend to draw us away from that valuable Quadrant II time. The reason Quadrant I can be so seductive is that the work is exactly what it says on the label – urgent and important. If something is on fire, it must be put out.
The problem is if you don’t spend time planning and building systems that prevent fire, those fires will just keep on happening, leaving you blackened and singed and choking for air on a regular basis.
Also, it is possible to fall into the trap of overestimating the importance of certain tasks and pushing them into the “do” category, when in fact they should be in the “delegate” category.
For businesses that use technology, it can’t be denied that power blackouts disrupt our normal workday, often making it impossible to carry out our Quadrant I tasks.
Many Quadrant II tasks can be done on paper. If lack of electricity makes in impossible for you to finish that urgent report, or finish that email to client Shouty McShouterson, pull out that notebook and apply yourself to some planning.
Business bible The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber talks about, in a nutshell, how the majority of small businesses fail. They do so because Business Owner Bob fails to realise that – as the founder of new company Bob’s Widgets – his new job is not making widgets anymore, but to run a company that makes widgets.
The Advanced E-Myth by the same author breaks down the disciplines of running a business into “The 7 centers of management attention”:
If you are at a loss as to what planning to do when the power is out, pick whichever of those you feel is your weakest area and start with that.
2. Make your staff part of the business strategy process
“That’s all fine for me,” you might be saying to yourself, “But what do I do with all those staff out there laughing raucously or spinning in their chairs?”
I say take them with you into Quadrant II.
A lack of employee engagement can drain the life out of a company, harming your ability to retain talent, and poisoning the well for those that stay, killing motivation and productivity.
More than free snacks and even more than high pay, studies show that modern employees want to feel appreciated and included. They want to know where the company is going and to know that their and the company’s values align.
Including your staff in strategic planning sessions means that they will feel respected and invested in the outcomes, and more likely to cooperate with implementing the changes uncovered during the process.
Ever heard the saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” by Peter Drucker? It doesn’t mean what I originally thought it did; that culture is more powerful than strategy. It means that any attempt to carry out a strategy that isn’t accepted by the culture will be dead in its tracks.
Make sure innovation and openness to new ideas is part of your culture by including staff in strategy workshops. Plan these for when you’re expecting load shedding.
No names mentioned but I have heard other employers say things to the tune of, “There is no point including these idiots in strategy workshops – they have nothing to add.”
Before we continue, I’d like to say the assumption is likely wrong. The key thing about diversity – and we are all diverse from each other in some way – is that it means a wider variety of experiences to draw from. Everyone in your team has something to add, and the onus is on business owners to create an environment in which staff are encouraged and empowered to put forward their ideas.
You might even choose to go further and create a culture where it is more uncomfortable to be seen to have nothing to add in strategy and ideation sessions than it is to step up, although this needs to be done with consideration so that you don’t terrify the introverts into leaving, and with enough structure that the extroverts don’t hog the microphone.
3. Staff training staff
When the lights go out, have a system for choosing someone to lead the training session.
This takes some of the burden of training off management and will also make the employees feel appreciated for their knowledge.
You want to set people up to succeed though, so consider providing guidelines and recommendations to assist those who might not be natural presenters.
If you don’t want to do it this way and feel there are some knowledge gaps you or other directors or managers can fill in, use the time as official training slots hosted by yourself or management.
4. Talk to each other
I majored in both English Literature and Computer Science in university. On the one hand, you had individuals who enjoyed engaging in thoughtful and sometimes heated debate, and on the other you had those who would use instant messaging to talk to the person directly next to them. No prizes for guessing which were the English and which were the Comp Sci majors.
My guess is that most workplaces will have a mix of members who behave like either group, and communication between them might not always go as smoothly as it could.
My guess is also that you either currently have or will have cliques in your office, which can be very harmful. In two of the bigger companies I’ve worked in, I’ve observed what might even be described by the dramatically inclined as clique-vs-clique, and sometimes clique-vs-company warfare.
If effort isn’t made to integrate those that don’t usually talk, at the very least you’re in for some chilly vibes. Consider addressing or pre-empting this by using load shedding times for some relationship building exercises.
You might create a roster of discussion pairs with some recommended “getting to know you” questions just to get the ball rolling.
If you work in a bigger company, it might well be possible that there are staff members who aren’t clear on what everyone actually does, so simply getting people to share information on what they do on a daily basis could help build relationships and educate staff on how the business actually works, which is something you shouldn’t assume they already know.
On the external relationships front, you might see if you can schedule any face to face or phone catchups with clients or suppliers when power outages limit your options.
To conclude, I can’t deny that load shedding might throw a spanner in the works and cause you to fall behind on work production. Follow these tips, however, and you’ll have some methods to brighten the future of your business while the lights are out.
Follow Michele Macnab and her company Hells Bells Digital on Linked In and Facebook to learn more about digital, brand and marketing strategy. Better yet, join The Strategy Circle and network with her in person.
Michele has been in the digital marketing industry since she lived in the UK in 2007. She has worked on strategies to help both big and small businesses in 7 different countries, and loves getting right up into other people’s business, literally. She has been a Strategy Circle member since 2018.