The Leadership Project with Robert M. Bennin: 10 critical questions for your Q1 business review meeting post DDEP and tax hikes


2023 first quarter business review meetings will be momentous occasions in many organizations given the experience we have had over the past three months. The wave of economic dislocation that started several months ago finally birthed in the last six weeks.

The Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP) by the Government of Ghana was a pivotal moment in our history with untold effects on individuals, households, and businesses.

Several institutions particularly those in the financial services industry now examine their balance sheets either as before DDE or post-DDE. A slew of new taxes has been introduced to plug gaps in the budget. This is believed to be another key conditionality for the IMF programme expected to bring stability and put the economy back on a path of recovery.

Beyond our shores, the recent collapse of two banks (one small and one fairly large) in America and Europe has sent shivers down the spine of every economy. There are hints of a global recession. Inflation is not completely under control and the rising cost of living has prompted demonstrations in major cities on the African continent. This is the broad background for every organization’s 2023 Q1 review.

There were lots of meetings over the last couple of months in several organizations and boardrooms to discuss how to respond to the government’s debt restructuring proposals. Now DDEP has been settled, trading in the new bonds has begun, and the 2022 year-end audits are being concluded with special provisions from the local accounting standards body that allows affected organizations to postpone some of the pain.

It’s now time for a proper post-mortem and the adoption of forward-looking strategies that will deepen resilience and create growth for every business. I will be surprised if any organization believes that they don’t have to take a second look at their strategy, especially if the strategy was crafted before DDE.  The Q1 business review meeting is an opportunity to take a strategic pause for a dive deep with clear eyes before turning on additional engines for a post-DDEP flight.

Context-Seeking Questions: Leaders must expend effort to develop a proper view of their operating context. As noted by Kenneth Noland, from context comes an understanding of everything. The first part of the business review meeting must be devoted to developing a unique view of the impact of the DDEP on the business environment and stakeholders, and how this might affect businesses going forward. Here, I suggest 5 questions that business leaders can use to guide their reflections:

  1. What dislocations and opportunities have been created by the DDEP and other policies undertaken to resolve the current economic crisis? How do these impact the general economic environment over the next 12 to 24 months?
  2. What are the risks to supply chain and other key stakeholders? 
  3. How are clients’ decision-making and consumption patterns being shaped by the impact of the current economic crisis?
  4. What has been the impact of the DDEP and the general economic situation on colleagues’ life decisions and aspirations, and how does this affect motivation and engagement at work?
  5. What assumptions and decisions making processes supported the actions that led to the position the organisation is in post-DDEP? If any aspect of this position is not desirable what assumptions and decision-making processes need to change?

Forward-Looking Questions: Leaders cannot run their businesses with their eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror. Armed with an understanding of the present situation leaders need to work with their teams to reimagine and create the shared future they envisage for their stakeholders. This starts with making specific choices about how to utilize existing resources to achieve what’s possible within the current context, i.e. doing more with what you have. Great leaders never allow a crisis to go to waste. The current challenges are temporary as the economy will certainly recover with the right level of support. There are still opportunities for growth and strengthening the core of operations for future recovery. Here again, I propose 5 questions that can serve as a useful guide for all leaders focused on the future of their business post-DDEP.

  1. How might the company improve or change its present offering to serve the current needs of clients and support stakeholders? What’s the definition of success?
  2. What kind of leadership is required and how can the leaders demonstrate this leadership to all stakeholders involved in the process? 
  3. What actions can the organization take to explore the growth opportunities that have been unlocked by recent events and build resilience for the future?
  4. How do we create robust decision-making processes and information pathways that allow leaders to spot dislocations early and take action to course-correct?
  5. What actions can the organization take to remain resilient if there is further deterioration in the economic environment before the eventual recovery occurs?

Using the above reflection questions will enable leaders to move on and create a better future without being paralyzed by the weight of the past. In addition to asking the right questions, leaders need to put up the right behaviours that will support them to hold an effective business review meeting. I propose three complementary behaviours leaders can adopt to run a successful business review meeting.

These are humility, courage, and discipline. Humility enables leaders to accept mistakes they might have made along the way and to truly learn from their experience as they take time to reflect on their actions and inactions. This humility must be complemented by the courage that enables leaders to ask the hard questions that need to be asked during the meeting. Being disciplined to follow the basics of how to run an effective business review meeting will yield great results for the organization and all stakeholders.

It’s important that the business review meeting is expertly facilitated to allow for collaboration and open expression of thoughts and ideas. The best minds in the organization should be allowed to reflect on the significant challenges of the moment. The agenda for the meeting must be shared in advance to enable attendees to prepare for the meeting.

Sufficient time must be allowed to cover the issues. Remember this is an unusual Q1 business review meeting. If necessary, additional time must be allotted to discuss the usual numbers and how that’s changing. Leaders must act with generosity and empathy during this meeting. You must also not forget that the business review is an opportunity to celebrate all the great decisions and actions that have supported the enterprise to thrive.

If all works well, every leader will leave the Q1 business review meeting with resounding clarity and a renewed commitment to the business and its people. Every fishing vessel is capable of weathering the most difficult storms only if the people on board the vessel choose to make the study of the weather and steering of the vessel a part of their vocation in addition to catching fish.

>>>The writer is a Leadership Development Facilitator, Executive Coach and Strategy ConsultantFounder of the CEO Accelerator Programme, and Chief Learning Strategist at TEMPLE Advisory. The mission of The Leadership Project is to harvest highly effective leadership practices and share them in a manner that other leaders can easily incorporate into their leadership practice. If you have got an idea or leadership practice to share, kindly write to [email protected]. Until you read from us again, keep leading…..from leader to leader, one practice at a time.

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