Today is the last Sunday before one of my favorite holiday observances of the year, St. Patrick’s Day. Numerous parades, tournaments, assemblies, cruises and other plans have been canceled. The coronavirus has had more impact, on a global basis, than any single occurrence in recent memory.
The coronavirus’s impact on organizations both small and large has also presented operational challenges both large and small. By this time, we all have identified our go-to sources for information and updates on the impact, spread and treatments for the disease. Each of us — singularly and collectively — constitutes your acquiring customers, supplier customers, regulator customers and your team members.
This means that everyone in and around your organization has an opinion about what your organization should and should not do during these challenging times. As you have heard from numerous sources, the concepts of “deep cleaning” and “social space” are new actions to indicate that you are taking the situation seriously.
Against this backdrop, I suggest the implementation or expansion of your organization’s advisory councils, focus groups and sounding boards. There are numerous definitions and designs of the named activities but allow me to develop them briefly in this space.
The above activities allow you to tap into the wealth of information that those groups and individuals involved with your organization know and believe. All of the information can prove valuable as you continue to identify, define and implement your responses to the coronavirus.
An advisory council is a useful technique to assemble members of your customer set to discuss and formulate recommendations to address single or multiple challenges. This technique could be used with special customer sets or in combination. In times of uncertainty, the plan of action with the best information available will carry the day. Additionally, if the plan has the input from key customer sets it will probably contain information or considerations that would not have been developed without their input.
The focus group program would be internal to the organization with perhaps a few outside participants. The work product would address the traditional focus group mantras of “how and why?” The focus groups would frame your response to the output from the advisory councils. The refining of the plan to the point would allow a team or department in your organization to move to implementation. This approach could move quickly and have the capability to modify the implementation plan as new information becomes available.
The sounding board or blog post is an internal tool. All of us, as mentioned above, are gathering information that in turn is causing us to develop beliefs and opinions — a classic consumer behavior scenario. Establish a sounding board or blog posting to gather information from your team members about what they are hearing, seeing and believing. A software system that affords anonymous input might be helpful for this activity. The benefit of this tool is that founded fears can be supported and addressed, and unfounded fears can be allayed. Based upon the team’s input, hopefully a series of informed, internal action plans can be implemented by your team to remain operational and safe.
Cornell Wright is the author of “31 Coffee Breaks to a Better Organization,” a trainer and consultant at The Parker Wright Group Inc. in Stratford. The firm strengthens clients’ customer service strategies and processes. He can be reached at 203-377-4226 or [email protected]