In this series of articles, Eric Dupont and Philippe Angoustures, partners at PMP, examine how the experience of difficult conditions at sea can be useful to managers in the current crisis.
Discussions between sailors are often full of expressions that may seem incomprehensible to people on earth. Several of them speak of the importance of taking care of the boat and can resonate particularly in the current crisis.
“Keep the boat under the mast”
When the wind is strong the boat can heel dangerously. When the sea is also rough, this list may be accentuated by the movement of the waves until it capsizes completely.
“Keeping the boat under the mast” vividly recalls the crew’s priority objective, namely to ensure the preservation of the boat which is their main protection against the elements. Adapt the sail to the force of the wind and the sea, adapt its course, move the weights on board… all these maneuvers, their choice, their amplitude, their adaptation… will have a simple indicator of success: keep the boat in a position of security which will itself ensure the safety of the crew.
Thus employees vis-à-vis their company are no doubt aware at this time of the level of protection it provides them and that everything must be done to prevent it from capsizing.
The maneuverability of the boat is one of the most precious assets of any skipper. It signifies the ability to be able to choose one’s route at any time, most often to avoid an obstacle. On a sailboat, maneuverability is not a given, you can lose it in port maneuvers when you don’t have enough speed, or at sea when the wind strengthens and you haven’t reduced the sail enough sooner or part of the rig fails.
In the company we speak more today of agility but in the current crisis it is a rather simple term to designate the capacity of an entire organization to adapt its priorities, or to remobilize itself in a new field of constraints. .
Like the skipper, the manager must constantly know if his organization remains maneuverable, first with a simple indicator which is the availability of cash (wind in the sails or fuel in the engine). Finally by analyzing whether employees, organization, processes, tools and governance limit or improve this maneuverability.
“Speed makes smart”
A saying of a racer, this expression means that an extra speed gives more strategic options to capture the weather opportunities or to better control the competitors. Not only do we go faster, but we sail better… “the rich gets richer”!
For neophytes on board it may seem strange to take so much care in an adjustment of half a centimeter of sheet or halyard, or to constantly seek the best balance of weights in the boat but this can add the small increased speed that will make all the difference.
Transposition in the company is that of performance. The one that must be organized globally in terms of organization, process, etc. but also go into the details that save a few days compared to a customer deadline that can be used to improve the quality of finished products and increase its differentiation.
So let’s take advantage of this crisis to remind ourselves that taking care of your business, its security, its ability to maneuver and its performance means allowing us all to go further.