As we navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, global recession, and transition to a ‘new normal’, organisations need to adapt to survive. However, with the right approach some may even thrive.
We are now deeply amid the global Covid-19 pandemic. The social, personal, and economic impacts are being felt by all in a variety of ways.
Whilst we are all hopeful of an end to the pandemic, recent increases in restrictions in Victoria and growing case numbers in other parts of Australia and around the world indicate this is far from over. As the Director General of the World Health Organisation said recently “there is no silver bullet at the moment, and there may never be.”
Even if a suitable vaccine is found and we can significantly reduce the impacts of the virus on humans, it is likely that the way in which we live our lives will have changed for ever. We will transition to a ‘new normal’.
We do not know exactly what this will look like. It will probably evolve over time. However, we can make some reasonable assumptions.
There is likely to be a higher degree of remote working and less travel. People will buy more online and have a greater desire for home delivery of a range of products and services. There will be a greater focus on community and social activities and a lower tolerance for complicated and difficult processes. Concern for other people’s personal situation and needs will also be increased.
Organisations need to transform and consider a range of strategies now to survive and potentially thrive in this new normal. There is a high degree of uncertainty now that will continue for some time to come. However, there are still steps organisations can take that will be beneficial regardless of what the future holds.
So, what strategies can organisations pursue to survive and thrive in these challenging and uncertain times?
5 strategic focus areas
To be successful a strategy must consider the specific context, capabilities, and vision of the organisation. Each organisation must develop its own strategic priorities to pursue its purpose, rather than copy others or adopt a generic approach.
However, during the shared context created by COVID-19 and the resulting recession, there are several areas where many organisations could focus their strategic priorities. These are:
- Invest in technology. We are living much more in the digital world. Our interactions with everything from supermarkets to doctors are occurring more frequently on-line. This trend is unlikely to reverse post-pandemic. Organisations should be considering how the growing digitisation of the economy will impact their business, suppliers, and customers. Investments should be made to digitise services and product delivery and to streamline customer and supplier engagement.
- Simplify and prioritise. For many, pandemic restrictions have highlighted the number of complicated and unnecessary processes are undertaken. It has also shown how decisions can be made quickly, without burdensome administration, when required. Most organisations adapted to remote working within weeks – something many would have struggled to do in the years leading up to the pandemic.
In the post-COVID world, organisations will need to be focussed, with clear priorities and simplified processes. Now is a good time to review how the organisation currently operates and remove unnecessary and unhelpful complications.
- Ease of doing business. Similarly, customers and suppliers will want transactions to be simple, quick, and easy. For example, we are seeing more financial transactions taking place without the need for face-to-face contact with a banker. Contactless delivery and touch free click-and-collect are becoming more commonplace.
Those businesses and organisations that thrive in the future will be the ones that are simple to engage with and require minimal effort from customers.
- Adapt your business model. Simplifying processes and improving the ease of doing business will necessarily require changes to operations. This requires boards and senior executives to take a step back and consider what is really required. Potentially redesigning the entire organisation and business model from the ground up, rather than simply continuing doing the same old things.
Whilst it is easier to simply adjust current operations, the market and context change will require a much more transformative approach. Your organisation must become a butterfly, not simply a faster caterpillar.
- Empower employees. Your employees can be a great source of information and ideas about what transformation is required. They will be the ones that first see the impacts of the changing marketplace and customer preferences. They will also often have the solutions and ideas that can transform the organisation.
Empowering employees to make decisions and implement changes will not only create faster transformation, it will also give employees a greater sense of ownership in the change.
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for a long time to come and will create lasting changes to the way in which we live our lives. This will result in the emergence of radically different ways of doing business. New business models will be created, and the competitive landscape will be permanently altered.
Surviving and thriving in this new world will require significant transformative change for most organisations. There are some clear areas where change can be undertaken, despite the current uncertainty. However, the change needs to start now to avoid being left behind.
About the author … Dr Jason Talbot is a Chartered Accountant and the Managing Director of Graphite i2i, a specialist boutique management consulting firm which provides business transformation, performance improvement, M&A, strategy, and governance services to medium and large organisations. The company’s highly innovative business assessment and transformation methodology, 6C Framework, provides CEOs and Boards with a holistic view and understanding of their business’ capabilities, allowing them to readily identify areas in greatest need of attention or determine where future opportunities lie.
Should you require assistance dealing with an uncertain future:
Call Jason on 0450 049 444