Brexit: The elephant in the room

10th Aug 2020

In August 2019 we stepped in our time machine, drawing on the lessons of the past, and in particular the lessons from the millennium bug, and applying them to Brexit. We highlighted the importance of robust identification and planning. And we highlighted the most important lesson of all, making sure that no matter what demands Brexit may put on the organisation, your customers remain central to business planning and delivery.

One year on and the minds of business leaders have been focused on another challenge, remaining viable and delivering customer continuity in the face of a global pandemic. And yet Brexit hasn’t gone away. It’s the elephant in the room, with the end of the transition period looming ever nearer and yet virtually unremarked upon.

Admittedly for some businesses the end of the transition period will have little immediate impact. However, those businesses may depend on suppliers or customers who will be affected, whilst other businesses may be facing a more dramatic change to their process model. So the question has to be; with transition negotiations ongoing how do you prepare for an unknown future, particularly when the present is all consuming?

Do what you do well

The answer quite simply is to identify what you do well and to focus on continuing to deliver that identified high-level of service to your customer base. Success in this does though require total engagement on the part of your people alongside a commitment to forward-thinking leadership. Individuals at all levels have to be prepared and enabled to step up and question counter-productive requirements. And customer outcomes have to be set at the heart of every decision and process.

If that sounds too hard let me put it another way; every time you’re asked to do something, take a couple of seconds to think about what impact it might have on customers. For example if someone has an urgent customer query to sort and they have suddenly been asked to prepare a one-off report, they should have the freedom to explain that the report will have to be postponed until the query has been solved. More importantly, as leaders you should accept and expect your people to take a more personal level of control in order to maintain customer focused outcomes.

Now there will be times when that urgent report really does become urgent, or when a meeting simply can’t be postponed if transition preparations are to remain on track. That’s when good management skills such as personnel resourcing or effective meeting techniques come to the fore; helping people to deliver the future whilst not losing sight of day-to-day demands. The end of the Brexit transition period may be the elephant in the room but with leadership and customer focused engagement it’s an elephant that can be approached with equanimity.

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