“Never let a crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do things you never thought you could do before.” Rahm Emmanuel
ON APRIL 27, 1993, a Zambia Air Force plane carrying most of the Zambian national soccer team crashed into Atlantic Ocean half a kilometre offshore from Libreville, Gabon. Everyone aboard perished. It was a major setback for a very promising Zambian national team. Only four years before the team had thrashed Italy 4-0 at the Seoul Olympics.
A few months later, a new team was assembled, led by Alusha Bwalya who had survived the crash as he was not flying with the national team; he had made his own transport arrangements from Europe where he was based. The resurrected team defied the odds, displaying an offensive playing style that saw them reach the finals of the Africa Nations Cup. Although they failed to beat Nigeria in the final, everyone hailed them as heroes, defying the crisis that had hit their football a few months before. They didn’t let the crisis go waste.
A crisis is an emergency situation that requires an immediate response. It usually involves a short time frame, urgency, clear consequences for success or for failure, a need for people to step up to new levels of performance that are beyond the ordinary and often a need for people to work together in new ways. Organizations can use crisis to lift themselves to new heights. The key is to use the lessons from the crisis, not necessarily the crisis itself.
For example, an entrepreneur I know told me how a crisis made his company more innovative. His clothing factory suffered from a fire which burnt down half his machinery just when he had received a very big order. With no time or resources to immediately replace the destroyed machines, he persuaded his crew to work an extra four hours per day. The result was more than he anticipated. The addition of four hours, with only half the machinery, resulted in a more than doubling of production. Looking back, he says everyone in the team upped their game to meet the deadline for the big order.
The fact is a crisis can help tap into hidden reserves for organizations. Crises demonstrate to managers that they don’t need to accept ordinary levels of performance, that they can ask for and expect their teams to perform at higher levels. Many managers hesitate to ask for more. They are afraid that people may think that they are being unrealistic. A crisis forces us to use our minds, to be innovative and do things differently in order to survive.
How are you making use of the crisis currently facing our economy? Let me have your thoughts.
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PS: Don’t miss the August issue of BusinessLink magazine coming out on 4 August.
Some of the topics inside:
- Zimbabwe in Economic Turmoil, and business opportunities abound
- PayPal Now in Zimbabwe: What has changed for online merchants?
- Young entrepreneurs making a difference
- KFC’s Secret Weapon
- New Column: Comprehensive Guide to Doing Business in Zimbabwe for Entrepreneurs and Investors
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