Reflections: Moving the Baseline and Keeping it There

The zeitgeist of the recent times is not going down as halcyon days in the history books for sure. The kafkaesque events we are witnessing seem like the intimation of the even harder times that are yet to come. 

And in times like these, it is everyone’s responsibility to play their part and help us all recover from this major setback.

In the professional context, I’ll assume that most of us have been affected in a very significant way. Every business is facing unforeseen challenges as the Corona outbreak has dismantled the global markets. Supply, demand, revenue, all are at their nadir with no definite sign of light coming from the other side of the tunnel.

As organizations try to survive and fight back, there is a great possibility that there are not going to be any silver bullets, but only lots of lead bullets.

For most organizations when the possibility of launching a new business vertical, entering a new market, offering a new product line, etc seems infeasible, the answer to making the most of these testing times and probably the deciding factor in who not only survives but thrives in the post-crisis era is going to be found in the backroom

The answer lies in moving the baseline up with the operational efficiency of the organization and staying there even when the crisis is over.

A story of maturity

Let me share a story with you all about one of my favorite companies, Starbucks.

In 1994, when the coffee beans prices were jolted to 5X by a sudden frost in Brazil, Starbucks raised the coffee prices only by 10% for their consumers, taking the rest of the hit on their pockets. It was a global crisis for coffee industries which put many specialty coffee companies out of business for being too pricy. 

Starbucks managed to transform this crisis into an opportunity to become more systematic and operationally efficient. It was the need of the hour to cut the operational costs to improve profit margins when increasing prices was not an option. It forced them to develop state of the art systems to achieve unprecedented operational efficiency, be it roasting, marketing or in-store operations.

Starbucks reached a maturity that summer.

And finally, when the coffee prices eased themselves to normal, Starbucks still had an improved baseline for the operational processes which helped them soar to new heights.

Move the baseline up

As organizations either we can try to wait-out the crisis and hope for the best, or we can try our best to make the best out of these times. Try to turn it into an opportunity to go for long term benefits.

  • Revamp the code review process and standards which will help you ship out higher-quality code.
  • Research and implement the new product spec doc for better feature documentation and communication.
  • Pick that boring task of reducing the latencies of major customer-facing APIs.
  • Pick and finish that ambitious new redesign, which always got deprioritized amid other ad-hoc business-related tasks.

Let’s use this opportunity to move the baseline up and keep it there even when this crisis is over. 

When we come out of this, we’ll be more than ready, in better shape than ever before to meet the new challenges head-on.

Every organization has a memory. Going through a crisis surfaces the possibility of writing pages of resiliency, courage, teamwork, and compassion to it. Cause, as they say, tough times don’t last, tough people, do.


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