Everyone is struggling to manage the impact and new reality that comes with the COVID-19 outbreak and many businesses may soon find themselves in a make or break situation. Now is a key time for leaders to step up and start to think strategically about some serious, new organisational changes to protect their business, staff, and customers in the months ahead.
Such a fast-paced and uncertain situation will, over a period of time, prompt organisations to develop a completely different way of working than most of us have been accustomed to.
Globally over time, our systems in which we live, organisationally, financially, politically, climatically and socially, will need to begin to shift.
New ways of thinking about how we work will need to come into play – current policies, plans and targets may need to be abandoned, and rapid response times will need to adjust to the ever-changing working environment.
How an organisation functions and survives will largely depend on how its leaders respond. They will need to connect in a more conscious and intentional way, focusing on what is happening in the current moment. In this moment of vulnerability, these leaders will need to be engaging with staff and customers, keeping them informed and building morale.
Customers will be undergoing the same stresses, so loyalty should extend to them to develop a closer relationship that will last once the crisis is over. Employees will need reassurance that they are protected and that their welfare is being prioritised.
Businesses who stay resilient, well-prepared and flexible will recover more quickly. What are the best – and worst-case scenarios? And most importantly, can the business cope in the worst-case eventuality? Whilst some organisations will see a sharp drop in demand, others will see a sharp increase and will need to equally be prepared for this.
Financial strategy will be focused on preserving cash, building reserves and postponing any unnecessary outgoings. Potential points of failure will need to be identified and critical roles within the organisation evaluated. If key workers are unable to work for whatever reason, are there workers with the right skills who would be able to step up if needed?
IT systems are already, and will need to be further enhanced even more, as staff shift to remote working and conducting virtual meetings. Remote working is likely to increase productivity and trust amongst the workforce, improving business operations in the long run. Organisations may also find that a large proportion of meetings that would usually fill their schedules, including travel and hotel stays, may not be as essential as once thought, which will pave the way for change long after the current pandemic is over.
In these current times, organisations are being asked to slow down, pause and to reconnect, reshape and over time, rebirth into more transformational eco-system based learning and leadership structures. As quoted by Otto Scharmer at presencing.com, “We may see the beginnings of a more intentional economy, one that is based on aligning economic activities around a shared intention for the future, namely, co-creating an ecosystem-centric agriculture, as opposed to extending the past based on ego-driven transactions.”
And as with any period of change, crisis moments also present opportunity, particularly as customers move to online or other new channels. Now is the time to bring increased flexibility in terms of technology and the way people work. Nobody can predict what the future holds, and many leaders will be tested to their limit.
But, one thing’s for sure – the world will be a different place post COVID-19 as we are forced to become aware of our behaviour and its impact on the system – and that collectively we are the key to change for good.
– Joanna & Amy, Distinctions Executive Coaching