Sometimes when you are head down in a crisis, it is almost impossible to think beyond it. Businesses must now strive to lift their heads up and look forward. Clive Woodward, the England Rugby World Cup winning Coach, said in the heat of the game and under pressure, “You need to play Heads Up Rugby”.
“With the spread of the coronavirus and the increasing amount of travel shutdowns, entire industries in the US and Europe are starting to panic. Meanwhile, businesses in Asia are already resuming operations.” Humphrey Ho managing director at North American Hylink Digital.
“For many companies, short-term survival is the only priority. Others are peering through a mist of uncertainty, considering where they might position their business post-crisis and things return to normal. The big question is, ‘What will normal look like?”. Surprisingly, these words were written 11 years ago, amid the last global financial crisis, by one of McKinsey’s managing partners. They ring true today but if anything, understate the reality now.
What will it take for you to steer through this crisis, now that traditional metrics and assumptions have been rendered irrelevant? Perhaps now, it’s our turn to answer a question that many of us once asked of our grandparents. What did you do during the war?
Many organisations are dealing with acute shutdowns in operations, while some are looking to accelerate to meet demand in critical areas. For example food, and medical supplies. Education is moving online as physical classrooms shut down. This is the stage on which many leaders are currently focused.
If you actually step back from this pandemic, every country is focused on preserving its Health System. What is clear, however, a health crisis is turning into a financial crisis.
Returning your businesses to operational health is extremely challenging, as China is finding even as it slowly returns to work. Most businesses need to reactivate their entire supply chain. The impact of coronavirus means global supply chains face shutdown and gaps. The weakest point in the chain determines the success or otherwise of a return to rehiring, training, and attaining previous levels of workforce productivity.
What do you need to do as a Leader? Leaders must reassess their entire business system along with a plan for contingent actions to return to effective production at pace and at scale.
A shock at this scale creates a discontinuous shift in the preferences and expectations of individuals as citizens, employees, and consumers. These impacts on how we live, work, and use technology will emerge more clearly over the coming weeks. Businesses that reinvent themselves to make the most of insight and foresight, will disproportionally succeed. Effects could prove significant as the pursuit of efficiency gives way to the requirement of resilience—the end of supply-chain globalization. For example, if production and sourcing move closer to the end user.
The crisis will reveal not just your organisation’s vulnerabilities, but opportunities to improve the performance of businesses. As a Leader, you will need to reconsider which costs are truly fixed versus variable, as the shutting down of production shines a light on what is really required versus nice to have. Decisions about flex in operations without loss of efficiency will also be informed by the experience of closing down production. Opportunities to push the envelope of technology adoption will be accelerated by rapid learning to drive productivity when labour is unavailable.
Above all this is where your marketing team should be, gathering insight, learning and planning.
At ADS, we are looking forward, we are gaining insight into our markets, customers and how we operate. We think we have already made changes in the midst of the crisis to protect employees and customers. By looking at new markets, engaging with customers differently and avoiding the hard sell in favour of a ‘relentlessly helpful approach’. We have strengthened our proposition and modified it in terms of delivery. Will we succeed? To be absolutely honest, ask us in 6 months.
Lift your head up (Plan), see what is, or maybe, in front of you (Insight) and act. “What You Do Differently Tomorrow”, will help you succeed.