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The scale of the national COVID-19 lockdown is unprecedented in living memory. The repercussions – personal, professional, national and international – will reverberate for years to come. As entrepreneurs, we need to be making the right decisions for right now to ensure that our businesses and our people’s livelihoods do not become another casualty of the virus. In this series of articles, Allon Raiz, CEO of top business incubator Raizcorp, shares his views and insights on weathering the storm and even thriving after it.

In my previous article, Embrace your X, I discussed the importance for the leadership of entrepreneurial businesses to make comprehensive contingency plans against the possibility (or perhaps probability) of the leadership contracting COVD-19, and its implications on decision-making in the organisation. The same holds true for everyone in your organisation.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the need for cross-functionality of people and their roles in small businesses, at this point, I would like to iterate that this is a practice that should be applied at all times in all business contexts – especially in smaller businesses that are constantly iterating and evolving.

Very rigid roles in small businesses mean rigid and restricted possibilities for the business to create new solutions. In times of crisis, you want the most flexibility possible. The ideal situation is to have a highly cross-functional team so that, should anyone leave or become sick (in this case by contracting the COVID-19 virus), other team members are able to pick up their work – even if it’s not at the same level of efficiency. The important thing is to ensure continuity of all functions within the business.

A huge amount of planning and documentation is required in order to do this successfully. It’s really not a good idea to start thinking about these things only when the crisis happens. “Who knows how to do Mike’s job?” is not something you want to be shouting when Mike sends in his sick note. Mike’s role should be known and documented, along with who else in the organisation could potentially carry out all or part of that role.

An important item to include in your planning is a handover process, in other words, a handover document that clearly outlines how the different aspects of the role operate, along with other critical information such as the contact numbers, passwords, etc. needed to function in the role properly. You also need to ensure that any and all material on which Mike is working is not sitting on his computer at home but rather in the cloud, on your company server or some other format that can be easily and immediately shared.

Efficiently managing cross-functionality is hard work but the consequences of having vital roles missing in your handover process could mean that your ability to deliver to your clients is impeded or prevented, and the inability to deliver perfectly and on time in these times might well prove to be a fatal blow to your business.

In my opinion, it will be very much worth your while to accelerate your understanding of cross-functionality and map it out comprehensively so that you are fully prepared for the probability of one or more of your team leaving or falling ill. Ideally, you need to consider (perhaps with the formation of a dedicated internal task team) the absence of more than one person in a particular department and plan what you would do in such circumstances. If you can get to that point, you and your business will be in a much better position to survive the COVID-19 system shock.

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