Fighting Fire with Strategy

Tackling challenges on an ‘as it happens’ basis is never ideal. The more frequently the ‘necessity’ of crisis management can be avoided, the more often organizations can calmly confront critical issues.

When the heat is on, working as a team is more difficult and long-term impacts and objectives can be overlooked while key players try to keep emotions at bay.

As board governance experts Beverly Behan and Geoff Beattie describe it in this issue of the Ivey Business Journal: “Arrows are shot, targets are painted around them and victory is declared.” This metaphor illustrates the reaction-driven methods that boards traditionally use to resolve challenges. Clearly, the 2008 financial crisis revealed to us that many boards, who were very much needed at the time, were not up to the task of leading their organizations through chaos. (See Leadership on Trial)

Planning and preparation for crisis inside and outside of the boardroom is a theme throughout the Fall issue of the Ivey Business Journal.

In their article, Behan and Beattie propose the integration of planning and goal setting as a key component of the way boards are run. Boards should be evaluated in the same manner as other departments in the organization. These authors stress that boards need to be accountable, and like a “champion sports team,” they need to self-reflect and “talk about their game plan” regularly.

After collecting feedback from nearly 200 director-level participants from 19 industries across the country, Professors Chris Bart and Mark Fuller have derived nine key components that separate effective boards from ineffective ones. Among establishing and agreeing upon long-term strategies and building a positive, team-like atmosphere, Bart and Fuller’s nine factors jointly stress the importance of focusing on performance by acknowledging successes and failures to meet established objectives.

While we can discuss strategy, employing it is another story.  Shifting our viewpoint outside of the boardroom and into the fire, quite literally, Professor Alison Konrad and Fire Chief Allan Braatz present “Nine ways that business leaders can put out any fire.” As Konrad and Braatz write, “fire Captains have only a few short minutes to pull together their teams, develop an action plan, and bring all team members up to speed.” The article takes real-world examples from emergency situations and outlines ways that business leaders can learn from these methods and the thought-process used by firefighters in high-stakes situations.

As the autumn leaves change colour here in Ontario, we hope that wherever you are in the world, you will gain valuable insights from this edition of the Ivey Business Journal and have the tools to be calm amid any storm that may arise this winter.