“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste” Paul Romer, Stanford Economist.
According to Wikipedia, the definition of a crisis is “the process by which an organization deals with a disruptive and unexpected event that threatens to harm the organization or its stakeholders.”
We hope this crisis finds you – our WISE winery tribe – healthy, safe, agile and ready to learn. The reason WISE exists is to help our wine industry leaders grow. The agile business is the one that will not only lead change through the crisis, but will rise to the occasion. As hard as these times are, we all have the potential to not only survive this crisis, but actually find new paths to success.
If we are going to actually, proactively ‘manage’ this crisis, we’ll need to pivot and make changes. Lots and lots of changes . . . which, as we all know, isn’t easy.
Leading Through Change
Once you have put your initial plan in place – for how to not only survive but thrive during and after this crisis – this is just the beginning. Now we need our team to buy-in. For us to lead successfully through change, we’ll need to:
A. Effectively Set Expectations – Set up expectations up front, as early as possible, to get team buy-in. A sense of uncertainly is natural, expected and inevitable.
B. Over-Communicate – As a leader of teams, we’ll need to become the CRO (Chief Repeating Officer). Just because we said it doesn’t mean they heard it, understood it, or believed it. If we connect the how and what to the why and where along with highlighting the benefits, we’ll see more buy-in.
C. Seek to Understand – We’ll get push back on our proposed changes, so we’ll need to understand what their issues are and get them onboard quickly: don’t take it personally (focus on the facts), listen to constructive feedback (limit critical feedback), and assume positive intent. Also, we need to spend a lot more time seeking to understand what each of our team members are going through personally. Change is hard enough in good times, if we don’t understand their personal context – which may be changing daily – helping our team manage through this crisis will be impossible.
There are models that can help us understand how to deal with a crisis by breaking it down into stages. Whether we subscribe to the Three-, Four-, Five-, Six- or 101-Stages of Crisis Management, there are key themes evident in all of the stages. In a most simplistic way, there are three main stages of dealing with a crisis:
1. Identify Challenges
First, we must first accurately identify the challenges the crisis presents and the potential ways to overcome them. It’s important to focus on causes rather than symptoms when identifying problems. Compare each potential solution in terms of its cost, time requirements and its likelihood of success, then select one or more to put in place.
In the first stage of a crisis, we are looking to clarify and understand exactly what the issue/issues are. When the COVID-19 pandemic began and “Shelter in Place” was rolled out in many wine regions, many of us were uncertain what this meant for our business and what to do about. There is a lot of confusion and heightened anxiety initially with a crisis.
To get a handle on the confusion and anxiety, as leaders of our business or our departments, we can focus on:
- One action we can take that will help us feel more grounded.
- One thing we can do to reassure our team or provide them with more clarity.
- How our company values will inform how we will lead our team through this period.
Once we’ve identified the issues, we need to come up with some solutions. For example: our tasting rooms are now closed to the public – how do we generate revenue when our most lucrative or easiest way is now not an option?
2. Implement Solutions
Next, we must implement some strategies for these solutions. There may be various ways we can attack the issue or issues, but we’ll need to put the chosen solution into action and have a multi-phased plan and timeline for monitoring and adjusting the strategies.
It is encouraging to see so much creativity coming from so many wineries. For example, some strategies wineries have implemented for generating revenue with closed tasting rooms include:
- Virtual Tastings (group and private)
- Curbside Pickup
- Local Delivery Services
- Increased Email Marketing (with discounts or shipping offers)
- Digital Promotions – email marketing, social posts, etc.
- Outbound Phone Sales Programs – redeploying tasting room staff to dialing for dollars
3. Review Results
Last, we’ll need to review results.
Take the time to celebrate wins, no matter how small they may seem. When we hit a major goal is important to celebrate, but so too is every new wine club join, and every sale we make. Look for ways to keep the energy going, we now know this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it can be easy to lose motivation along the way. By leading through crisis, keeping our team’s morale high is critical to success, so let’s take time to celebrate all wins, not just the big wins.
Crisis response does not end after implementing solutions to threatening challenges. If our solutions were unplanned, we’ll need to consider tweaking and formalizing them for quick reference in future situations. And, at this stage, it remains to be seen if the strategies implemented will still be viable and continues to be part of a winery’s on-going offerings.
With so much creativity and some early successes, hopefully, there will be some helpful and fruitful lessons learned through this process as we monitor and adjust our strategies to overcome our challenges. The silver lining with COVID-19 is that we are all in this together, and together, we can achieve great things.