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Storm Eunice.

by | Feb 21, 2022 | Business, Risk Management

Eunice’s blows were both powerful and anticipated, yet specific consequences cannot be predicted. Which trees will stand and which fall can never be known accurately in advance.

As I walked the morning after Eunice passed through, the smell of wet ground and the peaceful, twitterings of the birds belied the power of the day before. As I wandered further up the bridleway, it became clear that a significant number of branches and even trees had lost their struggle against the power of the wind. 

On occasions it was possible to push through and ignore the slight blockage to our passage along the bridleway. Inevitably, there came a point where a fallen tree blocked the path and we were forced to clear a way through.  

As we did, I pondered how similar that is to the general cut and thrust of running a business. We can often predict the challenges that we may face. For example, today we can see a trend of rising inflation and it is reasonable to assume that interest rates will rise soon too. We have the opportunity to think in advance and plan for changes in the economic environment that are writ large in the data. Yet, the specific details of how the impact of those changes will affect each business will be different. That can’t be easily predicted with precision. Good businesses plan for the unexpected. Indeed, we saw many react to news of Eunice’s approach by taking mitigating steps. For example, Welsh train services recognised the forces that would apply and announced in advance the need to cancel all services until after the storm had passed. Workers on the Severn Bridges prepared to close one or both bridges. For the first time in history, it ended up being both.

These are sensible precautions taken in advance. They are the actions of effective business people. Even with that preparation though, the specific impacts of an external event create the need for different responses.

Often in business I see Practitioners, people who do what they do well, but not yet an Expert at it, thrown completely off course by sudden change. Experts have alternative strategies, but Masters move into a different mode. They look at the world and apply knowledge, skill and experience which may be contextually different. They call in other Experts and Masters to keep things moving. Masters find opportunity in the situations they find; if they can’t move the fallen tree they call in the Expert who can cut it and chop it, and together they build a store of winter firewood.

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Written by: William Buist - all rights reserved.