To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
Time to compete.
Time to improve & to optimize.
Time to innovate.
Time to plan & strategize.
But what if you just don’t have time for developing and implementing the right strategy. Why? Because the foundations of your brand, product, endeavours, what you stand for are under attack. Say, a competitor comes with new technology and your customers flood away, massively. A new business model sweeps your sector. Your product is copied by someone else – at half price. Or your organization is just breaking down. Etc.
It’s not everyday’s game but simply a struggle for survival.
What do you do during those times?
The myths are great teachers. Let’s seek advice from one of the greatest cultural myths of 20th century – movie The Godfather.You know how it goes. First there is a disruption. A new trade introduced. Which family leader father Corleone turns down. Follows a dispute between opposing families. Then a sudden attack: father is unexpectedly, fiercely attacked by guns. Now, wounded, struggling for his life, he lies in a hospital. When his son Michael comes what does he find? A completely vulnerable father – all guards gone.
Listen to the original Godfather script:
“Michael enters the quiet hospital to find none at the nurse’s station. He walks down the hall to check an office, and only sees a half-finished sandwich on a desk. He runs down the hall and up the stairs towards his father’s room. He pauses, noticing there is no guard outside the Don’s door.“
How does Michael react?
By identifying & improving all the leaks in the guarding system?
By innovating leadership procedures in the family business?
By strategizing a thorough strike back attack aimed at the offending families?
No. That all comes later. Later.
At this moment Michael just responses to the most acute problem. He knows what his only goal is – to save his father’s life. (In an organizational world picking up the right problem is usually much harder to estimate, true)
He takes the following quick, decisive steps:
1. He immediately grasps the core of the problem. Father’s life has to be saved.
2. He persuades the medical sister to move his father into another room. She says: “That’s out of the question”. But Michael’s conviction is contagious!
3. He recruits the only man he’s got – Enzo, the baker who comes to a visit with flowers. Michael doesn’t bemoan all that’s lacking, he just uses all available resources.
4. Together with Enzo, they get outside the hospital. The two of them, standing visibly at the front staircase, pretend being just the front-end part of the much stronger guarding forces. The offenders see them and drive away. Attack is temporarily declined.
Michael acts. In four decisive steps, Michael shows he is no longer an outsider. No longer a college boy. He’s a leader. As such, he instinctively knows there’s no time for innovation. No time for meetings, improvements and optimization. This is the time to protect the most basic, the most vulnerable. His father’s life. All the rest comes later.
So. Here’s Michael Corleone’s lesson: when survival of your business is at stake, you have only one mission, one sole priority – defend the core. Only one innovation is allowed: finding a way to survive.
First you survive. This gets you a little span of time to reorganize. Only then you prepare the counterattack. Survival is a prime condition. Protostrategy for all the strategies that follow.