There is a clear designation between “before COVID” and post-pandemic. It’s a fundamental schism defining how we live and work in our new socially distant society. The implications are still being determined, but one thing is clear: there is a new normal and we are defining it now. What will business look like after COVID-19? How can companies prepare for the uncertainties that lie ahead?
Despite our best efforts to reopen, the economic and financial implications of COVID-19 will linger, possibly for years. Solvency challenges affecting business parallel the critical public health crisis. Business confidence is teetering as the decline in employment and GDP slide. In some sense, this is our Alamo, requiring the kind of resilience and fortitude not seen since the Great Depression. While some organizations are focused on sheer survival, others are finding new ways to diversify product lines to capitalize on new consumer behaviors. No matter your focus or your business line, business leaders must focus on cash liquidity and long-term plans for resilience and, in some cases, survival. But how can we plan for the future when disruption appears to be the new normal?
Business cultural norms post-COVID
The pandemic is rewriting our corporate futures and societal norms. For the c-suite, it came as quite a shock that a microscopic virus could have such a huge impact on corporate strategy and cultural initiatives. Corporations that make an effort now to develop and build trust with customers and employees first, even before worrying about profit, will emerge into a leadership position in our post-pandemic world. Harvard Business School leadership suggest four key shifts in corporate culture as we move forward:
- Service and collaboration will permeate our new corporate normal.
- Remote work will become a strategic imperative and in-person meetings will become less important than in any time in our history.
- Standard operating practices will shift dramatically, affecting everything from how we complete sales to how we staff our businesses.
- Our physical structures will change and be healthier with a greater emphasis on infection screening and wellness.
Operating in silos is no longer possible. Understanding the implications of our broader ecosystem is a primary lesson from COVID-19 for enterprise organizations. Another is that we must continue to plan for disruption by improving corporate communications, empowering our front-line managers to make on-the-spot decisions, cross-training workers for dual roles, and having flexibility in our systems and processes across the enterprise.
All of these shifts require one primary corporate approach: practicing resilience when disruption appears to be our new normal.
Practicing business resilience
Leading during this crisis requires resilience and agility. Most corporate crisis scenarios likely failed to take into account the vagaries of a global pandemic. The immediacy of our decision-making during the early stages of the virus has gotten us this far. But it is now time for a long-term change in corporate thinking that redefines how we approach our new normal. Enterprise structures and approaches must adapt from age-old lumbering bureaucratic processes in the following ways:
- Empower rapid problem solving beyond command and control structures
Corporate structures should take a page from the startup community and create responsive leadership and more agile networks of teams. Key to these structures will be their adaptability to changing market conditions affecting your products and services. To achieve this, line-level leaders must be empowered with decision-level implementation authority.
- Practice redundancy in the supply chain
Returning to full productivity after a hard stop is a lumbering, unwieldy, and uneven process for our global supply chains. This means the c-suite must have contingency plans for each link in the chain moving forward. Consider this a new normal post-COVID-19.
- Demonstrate empathy over profit
We anticipate that the extent of the COVID-19 crisis is still unfolding. Organizations must continue to exhibit the humanity of the people behind the corporate structure. As we near the third quarter of 2020, it’s important for enterprise companies to continue to show how they are making a difference in people’s lives. This messaging will resonate with stakeholders, customers, employees, and the general public. Within the broader COVID-19 crisis rests myriad smaller tragedies, both human and systemic. Acknowledging these crises will benefit the overall perception of your organization at a time when corporate responsibility is strongly linked to consumer goodwill.
Organizational leadership today is tasked with what can seem insurmountable. The COVID-19 crisis has evolved into our new normal, affecting more than human life, but our culture as well. Enterprise organizations must evolve to survive and thrive. How we move forward from here will affect corporate profits for years to come.
The Windsor Group Sourcing Advisory provides executive leadership and technology teams with the insights they need to reduce risk and improve global operations. If you’re struggling to transform operations, our team can help.