Sink or Swim: Seven Questions Business Leaders Must Answer in the Post-COVID Recovery Phase

Peter will be delivering a live webinar on “Leading Digital Change: Strategic Foundations for an Agile Response” as part of JuiceIT Digital. Register for free access here.

For years, business leaders, tech companies, analysts and consultants alike have promoted the idea of “being ready for anything.” Was a global pandemic on the radar? Sure, but not like this. Interestingly, the World Economic Forum – Global Risk Report 2020 (15th Edition), written in late 2019, registered a pandemic risk as tenth in terms of impact, and outside the top ten for the likelihood of actually occurring.

As in Spencer Johnson’s classic change management tale ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ we look at the challenge of surviving and thriving in a business world of disruption and shifting goalposts. Now that we’re dealing not only with a pandemic but with the economic aftershocks, that ‘Cheese’ has certainly moved. While juggling supply chain impacts, the strain on infrastructure such as telecommunications, online systems and data centres, not to mention an increase in cyberattacks and data fraud, who has time to step back and process the situation?

The Tactical Response

The immediate impact of COVID-19 saw organisations scrambling to put their business continuity plans into action. IT professionals worked tirelessly to establish remote working capabilities for entire businesses, and to introduce staff to collaboration technology. Scaling cloud capacity became an urgent investment.

On the plus side, the sheer agility of modern technology has been evident. Even as recently as two or three years ago, the rapid response would have been far less effective for most workplaces. And if any boardroom questioned the benefits of realistic IT investment before, those who listened to IT leaders will now be thankful. Modern technology has been the lifeline for businesses in every sector.

However, this hasn’t come without cost. Larger planned digital transformation initiatives have been put on hold while the COVID-19 impact is assessed. Smart leaders will take time to reflect and to revisit strategic plans with their key partners. This is essential for any organisation to accelerate beyond the current situation, when the time comes.

Mindfulness and the Change Response

A quote from Warren Buffett springs to mind when we consider the COVID impact: ‘Only when the tide goes out, do you discover who’s been swimming naked.’ While you manage your response, it’s important to recognise that you will be impacted by those in your supply chain with a weaker business continuity plan response.

As your suppliers, customers and competitors are hit with the shockwaves, so too is your organisation. When your people, processes and technology are pushed harder, fault lines will appear. Leaders need to be mindful, taking regular time with your trusted internal and external network to assess how the situation is impacting strategic direction. Capturing what is or isn’t working can help you to fine-tune a more agile plan for facing the uncertain future.

Seven COVID Survival Questions Your Business Must Answer

When meeting with your leadership team and trusted partner network, there is much to consider. From human impact and employee wellbeing, to charting a new course in an uncertain world, the current situation will draw on all your collective strengths. To help structure your discussions, I would like to share the seven key considerations to focus on, driven by an OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) mindset.

Finding Your New Cheese

If previous change management focused on the world shifting and posed the question ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ today’s leaders must find a whole new cheese and navigate towards it. We must let go of the notion that everything will go back to normal – because it won’t. As leaders, we must engage our teams with vision, momentum, hope and energy towards building a new normal. Perhaps the worst thing would be to revert to previous ‘business as usual’ models that do not suit the current environment. Your customers have changed, and so must you.

Instead of clinging to the old, it makes sense to use the Lean Start-up model of capturing ideas, then building prototypes to quickly test and learn in an evolving market. Measure initial results through effective data capture and analysis, then feed this intelligence back into your strategic response. While tempting, hibernation is not a valid option, and it is critical to avoid bias and the ‘this is how we have always done things’ mentality.

The economic recovery may be slower than we would all like, but starting to plan and implement your future state now will make sure you are ready to capitalise on new opportunities.

Reach Out

While these times are challenging the best of us, they also provide an opportunity to learn and grow as a leader. It is a time to build greater personal and organisational resilience and to refocus on your core purpose. Support and sustain those around you, check in with your team, and find ways to embrace a deeper digital culture. And of course, don’t forget to reach out to others when you need support for yourself.

Unsure where to start, or need a sounding board? Talk to one of our experienced team – we can direct you to resources, give you expert knowledge of the market and share insights into what other organisations are doing. Read our resources:

Need more help?

If you are overwhelmed with immediate needs or need an independent view of your business situation, a Business Aspect Agile Strategic Change diagnostic checkup can help lighten your load. Our consultants will draw on their decades of business and government experience to work through a diagnostic with you to assess your technology and governance response, speak to stakeholders, and produce a mini roadmap that will be a valuable resource when adjusting your strategic direction.

The Health check is flexible, allowing you to focus on the issues that are most important to you, whether security, governance, remote access or a broader view. Contact me for a chat or more information.

Peter will be delivering a live webinar on “Leading Digital Change: Strategic Foundations for an Agile Response” as part of JuiceIT Digital. Register for free access here.

Tags: Consulting, Security, Change Management, Business Aspect, Modern Workplace, COVID-19


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