Optimize. Energize. Improvise. Riding the COVID-19 storm

The global pandemic, COVID-19, has halted life as we know it. As of writing this, the number of cases has risen to over 2,000,000, at the cost of more than 100,000 lives. Governments across the world have rightly taken steps to ensure social distancing. The global emphasis at the moment needs to focus on containing and mitigating this disease. However, beyond the disruption of day-to-day lives and the unfortunate human toll, the implications on the economy and businesses are as damaging and far-reaching.

In this situation, organizations need to cope by finding the right balance between assuring the safety of their employees while ensuring the smooth running of their operations. The circumstances beckons for an approach towards demonstrating resilience while being cognizant of external factors that are likely to cause disruption. Here are my thoughts on three key things businesses need to do, in order to deal with the situation, and come out stronger.

Optimize: 

Indeed, a global event as this will come with multiple challenges. Still, successful businesses can look at this as a wake-up call to how the business runs and what can be improved. For instance, some of the questions I ask myself today would be:

  • What changes to the business model can be made for the short term? How would this be applied in a post-Covid-19 world?
  • How is my customer behavior changing, and how do I cater to this new customer mindset?
  • How do we find new ways to take our products and services to the customer?

Optimization for a pandemic has a lot to do with finding a balance between spending money to keep things going and knowing when to pull back. On the one hand, investing in products and services which have a long selling cycle may use up much-needed cash reserves. Leaders will need to assess whether spending or not spending will hamper the business. On the other hand, it also is essential to take stock of what you own already and understanding if it is being utilized effectively. Inventory management will be necessary for businesses across different domains. Many companies, including telecom operators, tend to have money tied into unproductive inventory, which could be liquidated into useful cash.

Manpower planning is also an essential part during such a situation when everyone is working from home. There can be issues like internet, family commitments that need to be accounted for when your workforce operates from home. How efficiently you can manage help your employees navigate through these challenges while ensuring transparency will define the success of this exercise. Moreover, you can spend this time to invest in your employees by helping them build additional skills that increases productivity and efficiency in the long run

Energize:

Energizing the business by improving efficiency to deliver success, despite the hurdles, is what differentiates good companies from great ones. A situation like this demands a level of efficiency which surpasses what would be typically required, considering the adjustments (physical and psychological) which need to be made. The entire workforce is now remotely located, and meetings are virtual. This kind of work environment demands a different level of resilience, commitment, and teamwork to operate smoothly to deliver efficiently.

Of course, this also demands a balance of perfection and agility, and what I mentioned in an earlier blogpost, takes greater meaning now. Agility has to become the norm, and while it should not be at the cost of perfection, the former needs to take the front seat now.

Improvise:

Vince Lombardi, the American football coach famously said, “It is not about whether you get knocked down, it is about whether you get up”, and the quote fits in perfectly with the current scenario. Yes, most businesses seem to have taken the metaphorical punch in the chin, but the ones that will emerge out of this situation are those who planned ahead. This is the time for asking the right questions, a phase of introspection, and an opportunity for validation of age-old processes and practices. There is no doubt that the playing field will be altered drastically post the pandemic, and businesses need to critically look at areas to improvise, in order to succeed in an arena that is not very familiar or even favorable. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that surviving this crisis will not necessarily guarantee thriving in the post-pandemic era, unless businesses have the foresight to improvise their plan of operations for the short term and the long term.

Silver linings:

The coronavirus crisis is a story with an unclear and indefinite ending. The pandemic will remain in the annals of history as one of the most tragic and devastating events in the modern era. The impact it has on human lives is catastrophic, but I am hoping that this makes us stronger and wiser when we return back to our normal lives. The same can be said from a business context as well, as the onus lies on leaders to help their companies learn from this crisis and innovate while protecting their employees, addressing business challenges and risks, and helping to mitigate the outbreak in whatever ways they can.

Until the time we bounce back, please stay safe, and look out for the ‘silver linings’.

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