A Matter of Perspectives

Eberhard Weiblen, CEO, Porsche Consulting
Eberhard Weiblen, CEO, Porsche ConsultingPorsche Consulting

What exact­ly is a cri­sis? There is no short­age of def­i­n­i­tions. But essen­tial­ly a cri­sis is an extreme­ly dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. It is what polar explor­er Ernest Shack­le­ton found him­self in on Octo­ber 27, 1915, when his expe­di­tion ship was crushed by pack ice in the Antarc­tic. Shack­le­ton and his twen­ty-seven-mem­ber crew were then adrift on a frag­ile ice floe. Far from civ­i­liza­tion, and 1,500 kilo­me­ters from the clos­est whal­ing sta­tion on South Geor­gia Island. For the con­di­tions of the time, that was con­sid­er­ably more than a cri­sis. Actu­al­ly, it was a hope­less sit­u­a­tion. But Shack­le­ton held on for eight months and saved every mem­ber of his team (see the report in this issue). Hope alone would not have helped. He devel­oped a plan. A care­ful exam­i­na­tion of the crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion yield­ed per­spec­tives. He looked ahead to devel­op a vision, broad­ened his hori­zons with a spec­trum of pos­si­bil­i­ties, and applied insight to spot opportunities.

Pre­sum­ably this level-head­ed polar explor­er was act­ing intu­itive­ly. At any rate, he did every­thing right. He remained opti­mistic, imme­di­ate­ly began search­ing for oppor­tu­ni­ties, assessed the avail­able resources, took respon­si­bil­i­ty, moti­vat­ed oth­ers, pro­vid­ed direc­tion, and had a clear per­cep­tion of his team mem­bers’ strengths and weak­ness­es. He could there­fore inspire a deep level of trust and give every­one the sense that “we’ll han­dle this togeth­er.” That in turn unleashed an enor­mous degree of voli­tion and strength­ened the sol­i­dar­i­ty need­ed to survive.

More than a cen­tu­ry later this his­tor­i­cal account is still good mate­r­i­al for a course in lead­er­ship. Why? Because pro­found crises like the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic and their direct effects can leave us rud­der­less and unpre­pared. Yet that need not be the case. The key is to find the right way to view the sit­u­a­tion. What is need­ed is effec­tive lead­er­ship that can gen­er­ate per­spec­tives. And once the course has been set, action should follow—as it was the case with Shack­le­ton. This can also be seen in how some far­sight­ed indi­vid­u­als have respond­ed to the pan­dem­ic. We fea­ture some of them in this issue of the magazine.

Gra­naro­lo, an Ital­ian pro­duc­er of dairy goods, accel­er­at­ed its dig­i­tal busi­ness into the fast lane. It could then sup­ply cru­cial gro­ceries to end cus­tomers in Italy who ordered them online—particularly impor­tant dur­ing the lock­down phase. Direct con­tact between the com­pa­ny and con­sumers also struck an emo­tion­al chord. The unstat­ed mes­sage of “we’ll always be there for you” reflect­ed both insight and responsibility.

Assum­ing greater respon­si­bil­i­ty and broad­en­ing our spec­trum of options enable us to bet­ter pre­pare for crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions. Dr. Tanja Beck­er, a long-haul air­line pilot, wants to see more of this in the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty. She advis­es top man­agers to train reg­u­lar­ly for mak­ing deci­sions in crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions, fol­low­ing the model of pilots who can­not afford to make any mis­takes in stress­ful circumstances.

The only way to deal with some cri­sis sit­u­a­tions might be to take a rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent approach. That requires pre­cise analy­sis of the prospects for a new vision. This is espe­cial­ly strik­ing in the case of air­lines and air­ports. After recent­ly push­ing the lim­its of their capac­i­ties, their busi­ness­es came to a stand­still overnight. And it soon became clear that even when we get the pan­dem­ic under con­trol, things will not be same as before. The pas­sen­ger avi­a­tion sec­tor needs to be rede­fined. The best way to craft a vision is to ask the pas­sen­gers them­selves how their atti­tudes toward fly­ing have changed, and what their expec­ta­tions are as cus­tomers. Their respons­es can lead to the cre­ation of com­plete­ly new prod­ucts and ser­vices, with an empha­sis on qual­i­ty, and a focus on peo­ple. Both in the air and on the ground.

Many things have also changed for us as con­sul­tants, of course. We have addressed these changes, and would like to share our respons­es with you with the help of this mag­a­zine. It is the first issue to appear sole­ly in dig­i­tal form—which enables us to reach you faster and more imme­di­ate­ly wher­ev­er you are in the world in the present situation.

May you find many intrigu­ing insights and good ideas as you read this twen­ty-first issue of our magazine.

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