During this time of crisis management, it is very easy to forget the bigger picture. I’m very clear that my role as Chief Executive Officer at Lean Education and Development Ltd is to deliver the two-year business plan and five-year strategic plan corporate priorities. The Coronavirus pandemic has forced leaders to employ crisis management tactics but I believe it is vitally important that the CEO makes the connection between the short term action plan and the medium term and longer term priorities so the Board, senior leaders and staff have a degree of certainty during what is a clearly uncertain time.
When I became CEO a few months ago, I introduced a vision statement which was underpinned by a five-year strategic plan which in turn is underpinned by a two-year business plan. The strategy and business plan are supported by a people strategy, curriculum and quality strategy, business development strategy, marketing strategy and digital strategy. When Coronavirus became established in the UK a couple of months later, I was determined to map how we can still achieve many of the ambitions within the strategies listed and set about identifying the corporate priorities that can still be achieved. These abridged documents became “COVID-19” versions of the master documents and they have been used extensively during the last few weeks to ensure we remain focused on the short, medium and long-term priorities.
How to make crisis management part of your long-term planning
Here are my top five tips to ensure your Board, leadership team and staff remain focused on the medium and longer-term vision and strategy whilst navigating through the short-term uncertainty caused by the novel Coronavirus:
- Be a visible leader (albeit virtually) with staff still working - communicate openly, regularly and clearly with Board, senior leaders and staff during this period of time. Ensure that they are clear what can still be achieved during the Coronavirus pandemic and how these actions are contributing to the medium-term business plan and longer-term strategic plan corporate priorities. I have a weekly Microsoft Teams meeting with all of my staff still actively working for the company and I ensure we remain focused on and accountable for the short term and longer-term corporate priorities.
- Don’t forget about the furloughed staff – ensure you are just as visible with furloughed staff and have a regular briefing with them so they can be updated on progress being made in achieving the short term objectives listed in the Coronavirus action plan and how these actions are still contributing towards the longer term vision and strategy. I participate in a weekly “coffee and cake” Zoom catch up call where I hear amazing stories about how my staff are using this time to contribute to their communities in such positive ways and I take this opportunity to answer their questions and provide them with updates. They are still an important part of your business.
- Undertake value stream mapping – there is no doubt that Coronavirus has forced colleges and training providers alike to think differently, think bigger and accelerate the aspirations of digital strategies. I implemented a two-year digital strategy in February 2020 but, since the Coronavirus pandemic surfaced, my senior leaders and staff have achieved what was scheduled to be six months of key milestones in just a month. It is vitally important to consider what the “new norm” will look like in your business and I have found that the process of value stream mapping is an excellent way to work with senior leaders and staff to establish what the current state and future state look like. At Lean Education and Development Ltd, the future state is heavily supported by investment in an end to end learner and employer journey management information system with fully integrated teaching and learning platforms. This, combined with investment in other systems, will completely reshape the way in which LEAD works. Finding the balance between short term decision making to alleviate immediate financial challenges with making sensible investment decisions which will help the company to grow out of the current situation is difficult to achieve. Board and CEO alignment are business critical in finding this balance so pay particular attention to this over the coming weeks.
- Pay close attention to your stakeholders – our main priority during this time is to our learners and their employers. My senior leaders and staff have spent many hours liaising with both to ensure the company can continue to deliver teaching and learning where possible and appropriate to do so. In doing this, we have gathered helpful feedback that we have used to inform our ambitious curriculum development. This feedback has also helped us to re-align the quality improvement plan during the crisis to ensure we still have quality of education at the heart of what we do, despite a completely new way of working. Furthermore, policy and funding direction of travel is moving quickly and the financial and funding relief packages available to your organisation are changing week by week. I have found it extremely important to attend all of the recent webinars facilitated by FE Week to ensure I stay ahead of the curve in terms of incoming directives from the Department for Education, Ofsted, RSM, Grant Thornton, AELP, AoC and Holex. I have been using this intelligence to inform our short-term decision making and in turn our longer-term planning.
- Don’t be afraid to underline all of the above with a constant reference back to the financial forecast – it is clearly business critical at this time for Board members, senior leaders and staff to understand the financial forecast that underpins how you plan to trade through Coronavirus. I make sure my Board and senior leaders have a full working understanding of the financial forecast, the assumptions that are made within it and that senior leaders take accountability for working with staff to deliver those assumptions. From consulting with my peers leading colleges and other independent training providers this is equally as fundamental a part of crisis management to them as it is to me.
About the author
Matt Phelps - Chief Executive Officer for Lean Education and Development Ltd
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