“When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”- John F Kennedy
As the world grappled over the trauma of the covid-19, managers around the world were forced to behave like the two Chinese characters that forms the word crisis. Few managers tapped into the opportunity the crisis presented but many were overcome by the accompanying danger.
Drucker always saw crisis as great opportunities. No wonder, he went a step further stating that there are no risks, only opportunities-(Drucker, 1973)
The word “crisis” according to the Advanced English Dictionary is defined as an unstable period, especially one of extreme trouble or danger in politics, economics, etc.
Based on my observation of an institution that responded effectively to the crisis, I wish to discuss about a Longgang firm in the case study below.
A Longgang manufacturer of sleeping bags, furniture covers car covers and boat covers in Longgang district, China adopted the work place cooperation technique to effectively respond to the pandemic crisis.
Prior to the pandemic in 2019, managers at the Longgang firm in collaboration with the International Labour organization organized a SCORE Training workplace cooperation course for workers at the firm to equip their skill set. The training exposed the workers to the importance of collaboration in the work place. While they were trained, little did they know it was going to be a handy skill for them in 2020 but the managers who were visionary had already predicted that need for it will arise in the future.
Covid-19 completely disrupted the company’s plan to re-start production after the spring festival. The enterprise was facing a backlog of customer orders and the factory director was trying his best to get staff back to work as soon as possible. To ensure workers could safely resume work, the company purchased personal protective equipment carried out comprehensive disinfection procedures, established quarantine rooms and provided safety training. These efforts made the company to pass the onsite verification led by the Longgang safety supervision office and obtained a letter of consent to resume production in early February when their counterpart were not producing. (International Labour Organization 2020)
How and in what way?
1) Productivity increased through the implementation of work place cooperation. With only 180 out of 360 staff able to return to work, there was a large gap between capacity to fill customer orders and actual demand. The company mandated her staff to take on site and online training courses about work place cooperation. The factory director made sure all departments coordinated and supported each other to shorten production time in order to package the product in time for shipment.
2) Converting raw materials into valuable protective equipment.
During the covid-19, essential factor in enabling the resumption of production as a sufficient supply of masks for workers. In early February, the company had purchased 3000 masks, which was just enough to meet local district requirement. However, they had nearly 360 employees. Once all employees eventually returned to work, they would quickly run out of mask. The management saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by making staff to rapidly gather fabrics and produce their own mask from the ample raw materials they had.
3) Sewing cost and improving quality by reducing waste.
When the company saw how discarded raw materials could be turned into protective masks, the company properly trained her lathe workers to ensure raw materials waste is reduced. After cutting, the surplus materials are used as small parts, which helps to reduce unnecessary waste. Final packages were carefully inspected to prevent rework and returns while increased information sharing between the procurement and packaging departments reduced waste time for work and materials.
4) Ensuring safe production through effective epidemic prevention.
The management made workers in the staff canteen to ensure they maintain a safe distance from each other at all times. Any worker that left the province and returned may need to quarantine for one week according to the management. Meals and other supplies were given to these quarantined workers for one-week pending outcome of the epidemic prevention information is also posted on information outlets and all staff encouraged to implement safe production practice.
Why is it hard for others to do same?
Many organisation around the world could not cope with the devastating impact of the pandemic because the manager lacked foresight and adequate trainings to handle the crisis. Unlike other firms who were caught unawares, the Longgang firm adequately prepared by taking a score training the exposed staff to the rudiments of cooperation in the work place. Many a manager have a flawed decision making capacity that makes it difficult for them to adapt to change. Failure by managers to identify with Drucker’s four basic concerns (plan abandonment, analysing the client, redefining the business mission and taking advantage that one’s company back office is another’s front office) also contributed to the reasons other managers found it hard to do same.
Is it a matter of traits or trainings?
As I critically look at this firm, it’s safe to say the union of traits and training was responsible for her achievement. The managers employed their gift of foresight to think outside the box about the health of the company prior to the outbreak. This is evident in the way company’s staff were trained in 2019 prior to the covid19 outbreak.
Managers must learn how to convert the organisations missions’ statements into specifies. “Only specific mission statements tell the rank and file what they need to contribute for the organisation to reach its objectives”- Drucker 1973. This is evident from the case study where the factory director made sure all departments coordinated and supported each other to shorten production time.
Managers need to start asking themselves if they are doing today what will allow them have success tomorrow?-Drucker 1973. Asking such pertinent questions can provide managers with opportunities to define their organisation by need thereby, keeping a range of offer.
How managers could be better developed to handle trauma
Investigations revealed that as early as October 2019, the managers at the longing firm mandated their staff to participate in the international labour organisation SCORE Training work place cooperation prior to the pandemic. These managers leveraged upon these training to enhance efficiency while their counterpart cringed. For managers to the developed to handle future traumas, they need to acquire trainings and skills. Skills like critical thinking, cooperation and relationship management, effective communication, adaptability and creativity played a leading role for managers at the Longgang firm to manage the pandemic.
Effective communication was perhaps the most important skill used by the managers to deal with the crisis. Through it, they were able to communicate clearly, concisely and in a timely manner through the crisis. Managers should learn how to communicate with their staff in order to relay pertinent informations as quick as possible during crisis. The covid-19 made things not to go as planned but for managers at the Longgang firm, they quickly adapted by taking online training courses, shortened production time and ensured safe production through effective epidemic prevention.
Managers should develop the habit of adapting to different situations in the event of a crisis. Charles Darwin noted that it is not the stronger or larger who survive, but those more able to adapt”. For managers at the firm, their ability to creatively convert raw materials into valuable protective equipment saved cost of production, improved the quality of their products and led to a reduction in waste. Mangers should learn how to brain storm and think outside the box in the event of a crisis. The inevitability of crisis should also push managers to encourage different perspective and quickly adapt creative solutions that can help them overcome trauma in the work place. The relationship management skills of the managers at the Longgang firm is worthy of emulation. When only 180 out of 360 staff returned to work in 2020, the managers instead of barking orders at the available staff employed this management skill to move the available staff in the right direction and enhanced cooperation. Mangers should learn how to manage many relationship in order to be able to overcome crisis through teamwork.
How younger generations can be equipped to move the world through crisis
Trainings should be leveraged upon by young managers to fill up pocket of deficiencies in their skill set. Doing this at an early stage like the Longgang firm will better position the next generation to handle the next crisis. This will also create capacity and make the next generation of manager’s opportunity seekers instead of danger patients.
Younger managers ought to learn how to provide everyone in their organisation with a common understanding of the path, thus, bring all towards concentration of effort and performance (Drucker, 1967) and creating the future, which is the best way to predict it (Drucker, 1992)
Drucker, P. (1964), Managing for results, Harper & Row publishers, New York
Drucker, P. (1973), Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Harper and Row Pubblishers, New York
Drucker, P. (1992), Managing for the future, Truman Talley/ E.P. Dutton, New York
The straight Dope: Is the Chinese word for “crisis” a combination of danger and opportunity