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The post-pandemic practitioner

As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”.

COVID-19 is disrupting life all over the globe.

Organizations are having to change to survive, let alone thrive.

For example we are seeing:

  • Changes in how people work
  • Disruption to the supply chain
  • A need to reconsider where we manufacture products
  • Shifts in how people purchase goods and services
  • and more

Whether we are talking about corporations, not-for-profits, or government agencies, leaders are changing how they run their organizations today and how they will run them tomorrow.

They face different challenges today than they did three months ago (or just last week) or will in three months’ time.

Here are some useful pieces for you to consider:

Some interesting quotes:

The coronavirus pandemic has radically changed demand for products and services in every sector, while exposing points of weakness and fragility in global supply chains and service networks. At the same time, it has been striking how well and how fast many companies have adapted, achieving new levels of visibility, agility, productivity, and end-customer connectivity—while also preserving their cash.

All over the world, companies are being challenged by the COVID-19 crisis to find new ways to serve their customers and communities. Many are rising to the occasion. Almost every leader we speak with has an inspiring story of radical, positive change in how work gets done and what it can accomplish.

Amid the fear and uncertainty, people are energized as companies make good on purpose statements, eliminate bureaucracy, empower previously untested leaders with big responsibilities, and “turbocharge” decision making. As one executive we spoke with observes: “Our senior team meets every morning for 30 minutes. It’s incredibly productive. We make decisions and go. We don’t have full information, but that’s OK—we can’t afford not to move.”

The speed of the pandemic surprised everyone. So, too, did the fast reflexes of some companies: even their own leaders were shocked at how quickly colleagues stepped up, made dramatic changes, and began performing at new levels.

In our conversations with operations leaders, we find that many are energized and inspired by the progress the crisis has forced them to make. Production lines have achieved record levels of availability and output: one automotive company found that manufacturing productivity actually increased when it introduced physical-distancing measures. After switching to daily planning cycles and gaining real-time visibility of their operations, managers don’t want to return to the old cadence of monthly planning and metrics that lag behind the situation on the ground. With physical stores closed, online and direct-to-customer sales are booming in many categories. That’s inspiring companies to upgrade their sales and distribution capabilities to meet this new type of demand.

As uncomfortable as it feels, leaders are finding that they can make decisions faster than they thought possible—and with imperfect information. The aha moment for some executives is the realization that when urgency and uncertainty collide, the time spent waiting to decide is a decision in itself.

Inertia is clearly riskier than action right now, so companies are mobilizing to address the immediate threat in ways they may have struggled to when taking on more abstract challenges, such as digital technology, automation, and artificial intelligence (all of which still loom). Bold experiments and new ways of working are now everyone’s business.

..the post-pandemic reality will likely be very different. Businesses may find, for example, that their trading partners have been undergoing changes too and that relationships may change. Vendors they used in the past may no longer be available, or may be available on different terms. Customers that were loyal before the pandemic may have shifted to new providers. Consumers may have developed new habits that will inform their preferences and behavior when the pandemic is over.

Planning has never been a particularly easy task, but the spread of COVID-19 has made it even more difficult. Finance professionals are used to accuracy, consistency, and relatively predictable planning cycles, not the unclear economic conditions and time horizons of a global pandemic. As one executive told us: “The five-year plan that we would be sending to the board right now is completely out the window. How do we plan in this environment when we don’t know what is going to happen?”

What leaders envision for their enterprises today may change with new information or new, yet unanticipated behaviors in the market. An organization needs not only a reemergence plan but also a framework for updating this plan in a way that does not generate confusion or uncertainty.

Amid the terrible human toll of the pandemic, some organizations are finding that, by working differently, they can rise to the occasion and help their employees, customers, and even their communities.

Across industries, companies are realizing that they can aspire to much more than simply a safe return to work. They want to take what they have learned during the COVID-19 crisis and create a new kind of operational performance.

As business operations make the transition to the next normal, speed will continue to be of the essence. Companies that are willing to maintain their momentum while also setting new standards and upending old paradigms will build long-term strategic advantage.

The organizations we serve as practitioners are changing.

Surely, we should be at least open to changing ourselves: changing how we work, the services and information we provide, and even our own self-image.

I suggest that we all set aside what has worked for us in the past, even the professional standards and guidance that we have followed.

Instead, let’s challenge ourselves by answering this question:

How can we best help our organization survive and then thrive today and tomorrow?

Here are some clues:

  1. How has the organization changed in the last couple of months?
  2. How is it likely to change over the next few months and into next year?
  3. How has management of the organization changed?
  4. What are the issues and challenges consuming management and board attention and how are they different today and into the future?
  5. How have essential business activities changed?
  6. How has the board changed in its activities?
  7. What information do your leaders need, especially what information do they need but are either not getting or are not getting reliable data promptly?
  8. What do they need to know about how the organization is behaving?
  9. What do they need to know about the capacity of the organization to meet demands over the next months or so?
  10. What can you do?

Now ask and answer that question again:

How can we best help our organization survive and then thrive today and tomorrow?

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

How have you changed?

  1. May 18, 2020 at 11:54 AM

    A helpful and timely article; appreciate the links. If not already available from the ERM group, IA should consider developing its own COVID-19 risk assessment for the organization. I used an 8K disclosure by Ingersoll-Rand on their risks to help develop a risk assessment for our organization (a couple of Power-Point slides with left-to-right organizational chart structure, major stakeholders in the first layer and risks or topic areas building off that), then sent it to a few executives for feedback and to consider in their own response. We’ll use it in our next ERM meeting.

    • Norman Marks
      May 18, 2020 at 1:20 PM

      David, did it include opportunities?

  2. Kalim
    May 19, 2020 at 3:06 AM

    Good Article, very useful.

  1. May 16, 2020 at 10:40 AM
  2. May 18, 2020 at 5:38 AM

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