Close this search box.

How can businesses adapt to challenges with minimal disruption?

Share this:

By Shivendra Kumar and Richard Perry
In the current economic climate, businesses and organizations face challenges posed by various actors— such as new government regulations, activist groups demanding changes, and unseen competitors. These events may present themselves as obstacles, but a sustainably successful business knows how to adapt to unusual situations with minimal disruption. So, what can you do to make sure your business stays running as usual during these challenges? This article will explore comprehensive strategies anyone can use as reference points to manage their businesses. 

1. Incorporate Change to your BAU
Change should be a part of your Business as Usual— and customers’ opinions should always be considered when making any alterations to your business. Since you are the party selling the products/ services, you should make a substantial effort in collecting customer feedback or any possible complaints. This data is essential to developing a general idea of which changes are necessary and which are not. Depending on what you discover, you can either refine or radically change your business vision, mission, and goals to align with your customers’ needs. 

When a business is meticulous in determining its priorities and effectively allocating its resources, positive changes are more likely to occur. Again, you will need customers’ feedback for this. Planning alone is not enough, in some instances – planning can be a negative constraint. A famous military quote – “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” This can also be true in business. Changes should be driven through the organization. Nirvana is to develop business routines where these changes can take place in the day-to-day operating model. This relieves the executive leaders from taking on the massive task of ‘transforming’ the business from above (which often fails). Instead, the internal teams and governance structures should make suggestions to the executives that are either approved or rejected. Above all, changes should occur even if they are minor; a business cannot stay the same forever. 

2. Redefine your constraints
Every business has its own unique set of constraints that define its size and capacity as a game player. While some constraints are negotiable, some are not— like regulatory, fiscal, or legal requirements. Since changes are essential to any business, you should seek to identify restraints that are negotiable; that is, restraints that are put in place to keep everyone focused on creating value for the business. Many (if not all) of these negotiable constraints will eventually prevent the business from following where the profit runs to.

So, the million-dollar question is: how can you work with negotiable constraints to allow for more flexibility while keeping the business-focused? Let us take the production line, for example. In the past, typical lines were hard wired to only accept cans of a specific size, shape, and weight. When these lines were eventually configured to accept other dimensions, they suddenly became ‘future-proof’ as their customers can now switch from plastic to glass or switch from a 250ml can to a 500ml can. 
It is also recommended to think about how your business ‘core’ can be diversified to add additional revenue. For example, can you derive your product or services for another customer segment?

3. Keep your business processes short, straightforward, and focused
The first step to optimising your business processes is to determine your core value stream. What is your business essentially about? How does your business add value for its customers? You may read this and think, “Well, that’s obvious. We do X!” The tricky thing about this question is that while seemingly obvious, you are likely to give the wrong or misaligned answer (In my 20+ years of career, I haven’t met one person who nailed it!). You may benefit significantly from using tools to help you, such as the ‘Business Model Canvas’ that sketches out your business from suppliers to customers— pay extra attention to the central column ‘Value’. Do not restrain yourself from taking on the challenges. It always pays dividends!

Once you know your value, map out the processes that create this value. Which activities are necessary, and which are a waste of time? Which strategies are worth investing in? Are they beating competitors and meeting customer expectations? It is time for the leaders and innovators to brainstorm together on the issue. 

Lastly, minimize (or eliminate!) everything else that does not contribute to your value. You can seek to reduce, eliminate, outsource, or commoditise these items. Invest and work hard to support your value stream and avoid spending more money than you need to. 

4. Transform your mindset
A business is like a complex organism made of many cells. To get through challenging times, these ‘cells’ must work and move together as one to keep the organism alive— but this is only possible if they share a stable mindset. This is the ‘secret sauce’ in keeping BAU during uncontrollable times. 

Serious strategic components such as Clear Vision, Mission, and Goals, or Company Values are typically present in most businesses. Still, they are prone to becoming an office cliché or an internal political tool if they fail to resonate with the employees. These guiding components should ideally engage and encourage the employees to act outside of an existing policy, procedure, or leadership instructions— this is where the magic happens! When this occurs, employees, teams, and leaders develop the strength and tact to deal with unprecedented challenges. 

A few key aspects of making this possible include:

  • Aligned and trustworthy strategic components
  • Management training and alignment to lead and build team trust
  • Workplace training to ensure continuous improvement
  • Workplace routines such as stand-ups and visual management boards

Remember, a discreet but clever ‘behind the scenes’ program could be more successful than a big public transformation program if you can tactically deploy the aspects mentioned above. 

Knowing how to make significant changes while keeping processes simple and straightforward is essential if you want to keep business as usual during tough times. At the same time, be flexible with your constraints and maintain the right mindset. Define your value by discussing it internally. If speed is the only real competitive advantage of your product/ services, and if your customers can change their minds in a day— then you need to build the capability into your business to change at a faster rate than any of your competitors. Listen to your customers closely and then pick a cadence to discuss changes regularly; being stubborn and unchanging in your ways will make unprecedented challenges seem ten times harder than they need to be. 

Shivendra helps construction companies and contractors win more projects and grow profitably. Regarded as a master of practical implementation, Shivendra has guided organizations such as Downer and Siemens as well as smaller contractors to achieve double-digit improvements to their bottom line. Underpinning his extensive industry experience are qualifications in engineering and a PhD focused on rapid cost improvement techniques. He is the author of two books, The Competitive Contractor and From Paper to Profit, host of the Competitive Contractor podcast, and the founder of Shivendra & Co and The Constructors Network. You can find more about Shivendra & Co on