Collapse From Increased Load

Posted on February 07, 2021

In January 2006, "the roof of one of the buildings at Katowice International Fair collapsed in Chorzów / Katowice, Poland." Subsequently, "a forensic investigation found numerous design and construction flaws that contributed to the speed of the collapse. The snow from the roof was not being removed which resulted in construction overload by more than 100%." **

This story illustrates what increased load does to a building if it is not designed to handle it. In organisations, business structures are also created to support load. Those structures may either be designed for scalability or, may simply emerge in an ad-hoc and reactive way that can never adequately accommodate increases in workload. And when neglected amid times of heavy load, collapses are common.

Right now, many trade and construction-related businesses are experiencing increases in workload and are running hard to keep pace. Now is a strategic time to review and address key structural pillars that may have served well but that could be vulnerable to collapse under load.

Here are eight areas worth reviewing to ensure scalable business structures capable of flexing in response to changes in load.

1. Leadership
Leadership is about taking care of the team as much as it is about taking care of the business. Whether you work in a large organisation, a small team or are a solo operator - it’s important to dedicate time towards the creation and maintenance of scalable business structures. An ad-hoc spreadsheet here and a sneaky work-around there, are never going to sustain things when the pressure’s on. Leadership for scalability involves gathering data, as well as listening to and hearing from the team about where the “pain-points” and bottlenecks are. Involving them in finding solutions helps with buy-in. Remember too, organisational change places extra load on your team, so check in with them frequently to make sure they are on board. It’s one thing to bring flailing business structures into a bright new scalable world, it’s another to create a positive environment so that the people want to come with you.

2. Strategy
Strategy is about endpoints. It connects where we are today to an ideal future state whilst providing a framework for decision making aligned with the direction of the organisation. Checking in to ensure your business strategy has been adequately adjusted to enable responsiveness to the uncertainties inherent in 2021 is an activity well worth the investment of time and effort to safeguard against collapse under load.

3. Time Management
When workloads increase the tendency is to run harder, faster and longer. While busy periods demand heightened responsiveness and adaptability, the undergirding structure of planning our time and managing ourselves often takes a hit. No matter how hard it is, it’s valuable to step back and enshrine time for yourself to think, plan and to manage your own wellbeing. It may seem like you are losing valuable time when you could be just “getting on with it” but it will pay you back many times in the long run with improved foresight and stamina.

4. People
When our people feel the love, they are more likely to show the love. When management: communicate the value of each team member; express interest in their broader life; provide the opportunity for advancement and training; ensure people are placed in the right role according to their personality and skillset; define their responsibilities and performance measures while supporting and holding them accountable; this provides significant strength to the organisation. And in times of increased load, people who have been treated this way, often go the extra mile for their leaders.

5. Workflows
Smooth effortless workflows are a feature of businesses with scalable structures. Existing systems may have worked well in the past but as incoming work increases, they may be vulnerable to collapse. Creating smooth and effortless workflows is an art and a science. It demands a commitment to finding simple solutions to big problems and then to simplify those. To get started, pay attention to the repetitive things that give rise to staff unhappiness, try to identify themes that can be wrapped into a systematic solution. Do the same for customer complaints, look to the themes to see if there’s an overarching solution. Try to avoid duplications, or having more than one system with overlapping functions. Think about what kind of data you need to be able to access from these systems. The power of effective workflows to reduce waste, improve morale and increase profitability make them worth the time investment to create.

6. Marketing
This area often takes a secondary position when work increases and sales are strong. However, I have observed that companies who stop marketing when things are good are left floundering when the tide turns (and it always does). You will do well to be consistent in your marketing efforts.

7. Sales
Similar to marketing, sales efficiency is relegated down the chain in good times. Training those who are responsible for winning quotations and business development, along with establishing performance metrics provides an underlying strength. It will also give you a competitive advantage as most companies don't invest in strengthening this area.

8. Money
It's far too easy to get caught up in doing the work and neglect the fundamentals of financial management. Too many companies have collapsed because they focused on top-line growth and forgot about profitability. Incorporating a rigorous financial management process that includes diligently monitoring cash flow, attention to key financial ratios, job monitoring and completion reviews with a stringent collections process is essential to provide a bedrock of strength in this area.

Business structures require ongoing time, attention and investment to ensure they will support you strongly. Creating one or two key indicators for each area assists in quickly identifying which are scalable and those that are likely to yield under load. If you do this regularly it will help ensure that your organisational roof doesn't collapse.

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** Al-Marwaee, Mohammed. (2017). Structural Failure of Buildings: Issues and Challenges. The Scientific World Journal. 66. 97-108.

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