Companies and large organizations are still grappling and trying to come to terms with the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. They are dusting off old books and implementing every trick their exhausted minds and strained sight can conceive despite the odds. The economic waters are still choppy and most companies have been sucked into the whirlwind of closure, but there’s still some fighting chance for others as they are steering the ship of innovation on relatively ‘old’ phenomenon which have enough bearing on their survival and dictates their mission to the North Star of dominance once the wind of the pandemic blows over.
One fascinating implication of the pandemic on businesses is that, there has been a shakeup in the organizational structure of most companies as they have had to adopt online strategy in remaining a top priority amongst their client who have the windows of the internet to move, view and make transactions. Technology, which seemed but a luxury and a convenient accessory you brace on the sophistication runway has become a handy tool in chipping off redundant policies, strategies and bureaucracies within the corporate landscape which isn’t needed in the current dispensation.
Interestingly, organizations who were previously semi-inclined to online machinations are now ‘tinkering’ their businesses with digital transformation and are adapting quite well in the crisis than their peers who are averse. For these companies, their business models and working processes mean that they are able to pivot more rapidly or accelerate changes already in motion. Conversely, businesses which are digitally weak or averse find themselves in a dilemma as they are caught between evolving by making drastic changes to entrenched business ideals or become fossils which are only referenced as failed enterprises. Albeit the former seem a much better prospect, their resistance is shrouded in conventions of hierarchy which calcifies any change and stumps any engineered business continuity plans. Software companies who are providing collaboration tools are rather expectantly experiencing high level of demands to meet the evolving behavioral patterns of customers. Technology however, isn’t the only determining factor altering the face of businesses.
As COVID-19 smokes out innovations from the burrows of organizations, there’s an astounding exposure of the deep seated and often latent power in a swivel chair waiting for an economic shock to be nudged into action. A survey conducted by McKinsey and Company found that companies globally are finding ways to serve their communities and customers. It said, “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”. It chronicled the journey of some businesses who wanted to have their cake and eat. For instance, “a fast-food chain that had to shutter its operations avoided layoffs by partnering with a health and wellness retailer, thus helping the retailer meet spiking demand in a newly designated “essential business.”Also, One large retailer dusted off a pre-pandemic initiative to launch a curbside-delivery business. The work plan said 18 months. When the lockdowns hit, it went operational in two days. Another financial-services company transitioned more than 1,000 of its global operations staff to work-from-home arrangements, equipping them with new technology within 72 hours to ensure business continuity and finally, retail conglomerate in the Middle East retrained 1,000 people in two days, redeploying them from a suddenly stagnant business (movie theaters) to a booming, critical one (grocery retailing)”.
The assertion from the survey conducted was that, organizations which are on a treadmill of staying in business and on demand may very well be hunkered down by exhaustion as their venture may be largely unsustainable. Amid the fear and uncertainty, people are still energized as “companies make good on purpose statements, eliminate bureaucracy, empower previously untested leaders with big responsibilities and turbocharge decision making. One executive McKinsey interacted with said,
“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.”
It observed that the pandemic is revealing certain dissatisfaction in the organizational workspace which is being reformed as the ‘sovereignty’ and ‘invincible’ tags associated with bureaucratic organizations, are gradually shedding of. In lieu of this, the mere fact of their persistence in denting and flattening the curveball is commendable.
The three tenets which McKinsey and Company proposes to alter the face of the ‘new’ organization when the phase of the pandemic remains a nightmarish memory are premised on: who we are, how do we operate and how do we grow? For any organizational structure, the purpose, value and decisions become the fulcrum which gravitates it to the victory lap.
WHO WE ARE (Corporate Identity)
Identity has always been the currency for transacting business within the bank of humanity and business sector. We make deposits of ideas by investing in brands, garnering a formidable team who understand the innate corporate spirit and value and also make withdrawal on profits and competitive upper hand across board. Under the current circumstance, many companies ironically stand the risk of being complacent because in as much as they want their businesses to outlive them, stay relevant and solvent, their corporate purpose cries wolf of betrayal as most plans and projections are definitively in the now. In other words, purpose means profits regardless of how unsustainable they are. Undoubtedly the crux of any human venture is trapped within the vault of profit, but corporate purpose acts as the surveillance system which ensure optimum security on its protection. McKinsey identified that,
“What makes purpose real is following through on its implications and letting it guide the choices you make”. Organizations need to be intentional with their culture as “successful, high-performing culture has its own unique behavioral recipe for how it runs the place”.
It indicated that, Rodney O. Martin Jr., chairman and CEO of Voya Financial, describes seeing the benefits of a performance culture firsthand during the earliest, most bewildering days of the current crisis. He recounts how middle managers at the company announced its new work-from-home guidelines and encouraged their teams to feel comfortable making the shift—right away, if they chose. The decision came from people who would normally never make it, and it arrived without hand-wringing. But it wasn’t a surprise to Martin. It was in keeping with a cultural value the company had intentionally prioritized: caring for one another. “People here do the right thing,” Martin says. “The message has very much been ‘we care about you”.
Evolution and innovation are the vanguard of the operational element and success of organizations. Ordinarily, companies which would have smirked at the thought of having to overhaul operations within their environment have presently taken keen measures to safeguard employees and ease financial and operational coverage. Most reputable organizations have had to reduce output and suspend operations in affected regions to cut back losses. Companies are inducing the free flow of their creative juices to refresh the norm of transacting business. McKinsey highlights this by saying, “As companies adopt new ways of working at speed and at scale, three lessons are emerging: a vindication for flatter, faster, nonhierarchical structures and approaches; the need to turbocharge decision making; and a reminder of the role of talent in making everything go. By focusing on three thematic areas such as “a vindication for flatter, faster, nonhierarchical structures and approaches; the need to turbocharge decision making; and a reminder of the role of talent in making everything go”, organizations are likely to remain robust and forge a more dominant face in the corporate environment.
“Talent should underpin every strategic choice and other business decision you’re making right now. Companies that overlook the importance of their people will always miss the upside potential of what their colleagues might have been capable of. They will fail to capitalize on the opportunities that inevitably arise from this or any other economic shock”.
HOW WILL WE GROW?
Assuredly, the phase of the transient crisis will regress and things will once again ‘normalize. Things which normally would have happened in businesses will be considered anachronistic as ideas and models being implemented currently will hopefully become the norm. Recovery may move painstakingly slow but the impression on organizational structure will become indelible. Most organization will likely retain ideas which are currently being implemented. In order to fully mature in operations and profits, McKinsey advised “three organizational characteristics which are proven sources of resilience and are worth noting”.
It highlighted companies should adopt an ecosystem mindset where all companies rely on the support of an extensive network of external people, vendors and partners. Secondly, they should embrace data-rich technology platforms where the ability to gather, organize, interpret and act on data and analytics as this will be the defining competitive differentiator of our lifetime and finally, companies should learn how to learn. By this, organizations that equips their employees with the ‘metaskill’ of learning how to learn, adapt, and change quickly will be better able to thrive and succeed.
The bane of every organization is reliving the trivialities of the same culture despite going through a life-altering occurrence as this pandemic. Hopefully as this pandemic runs its full course, the positive impact will be the running order for most companies.