Planning for the Future
Unfortunately, Covid 19 is not the last crisis that businesses will have to face. Crises are becoming just one of the many factors that business will have to manage. Just think of the extreme weather events that have impacted businesses throughout the world. This emphasizes the need for a business to have a plan B, plan C etc. ready to go when a crisis hits.
In my last blog, I indicated that I would give you some ideas as to how you could identify alternate and future directions for your business. In the not too distant past, a friend and I were contemplating doing a workshop on business planning. As part of our research and much to our surprise, we identified over 20 different formal business planning techniques. One in particular made a major impression on me. This business planning technique is known as the Lotus Blossom Technique. It is based on the idea that a Lotus Blossom bloom continues to expand in all directions as the flower matures. Developed in Japan, it is a very future focused technique underlining the long term focus found in Japanese businesses, as opposed to the short term focus in the west, driven by quarterly results required by the stock market. As an example, I had attended a presentation given by the President of Japanese Airlines. He was asked a question, which I thought was quite inappropriate, as to whether the airline had a business plan or not. His answer surprised everyone in the room. He said that they had a short term plan, an intermediate plan, a long term plan, and a future plan. The future term plan projected where Japanese Airlines would be 500 years into the future. When asked why, he answered that they fully expected to be still around then and as such needed to have some idea how they would get there.
So how does one go about developing this long term vision. The Lotus Blossom method starts with a central purpose of the business. From this, 8 petals are developed indicating 8 directions the business could move in; your plan A, B, C, etc. Once you have done this then you repeat the process for each of the 8 petals. So now you have 8 directions in which you can take the business for each of the petals. This gives you 64 ideas of where your business can go in the future enabling you to develop a long term vision. In the example shown below, I defined the business idea very generally as Security. More detailed business plans can be developed for each of these options, as appropriate, giving you great flexibility. If one direction does not work out or becomes blocked, you already have 7 other ideas to follow. In the case of Japanese Airlines, they defined their business as transportation that does not touch the ground. This led to their interest in Maglev Trains (magnetic levitation trains), an unexpected direction for an airline to be interested in.
In my example I have shown 8 directions I could move the business in based on Financial Security. I could choose to follow one or more of these options.The beauty of this process is I could select any one of these petals and repeat the process all over again. There is no limit to how far out I could take this process. One of the options Japanese Airlines came up with at this stage of the process was space travel and they developed a strategy for businesses involved in this industry that they wanted to invest in.
The Lotus Blossom method is an example of how business ideas can come from the world around us if we are observant and able to use them as a catalyst for ideas to implement in our own business. It is important to keep in mind that this process is not something that you do in 5 minutes, you need to put in the time and effort to really think about the possible avenues you could go in, so when one door is closing you already have an idea of where your next step will be. It can also help if you get multiple people involved in developing these ideas, as they will bring a different perspective to the planning process and the possibilities. If you prepare for change before the next crisis comes you are better equipped to survive and thrive.
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