Acceleration in the time of Covid-19
By Vincent Kowalski the 24 September 2020
Business transformation has certainly been high on the agenda since the advent of Covid-19, as companies across the globe have been forced to accelerate at an exceptional rate.
Our most recent white paper – “Inspiration for Acceleration” – showcases the wisest words from speakers at our 2019 Business Transformation Summit. In view of the current situation, the issues and learnings within that white paper are even more powerful today.
The pandemic has thrown many business models into a state of flux. However, as we learn to deal with the effects of the pandemic on our companies, there are three topics within the white paper that now truly resonate.
Evolution is better than transformation
During the early lockdowns, many organisations had to quickly upgrade their technology to allow people to work from home, where possible. Those with the technology already in place managed the transition easily, helped by having implemented a strong strategy that developed over time. Those without the right infrastructure, however, struggled.
At the Business Transformation Summit, Digital Anthropologist, Rahaf Harfoush, spoke about the need to evolve our business models, rather than rush things simply to stay competitive.
“Evolution implies a constant change, where you have to continuously adapt to changing market conditions,” she says. “But it also suggests the work is never ‘done’. You’re never going to be transformed. You’re always going to be evolving.”
Future disruption is inevitable. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must be prepared for the unexpected. Long-term thinking and strategic planning are keys to success, so we need to make sure our people are at least adequately prepared for a sudden shift in business activity.
An urgent need for agility
In the early part of 2020, business leaders were forced to make game-changing decisions quickly. And they had to do this against a backdrop of severe uncertainty.
Julian Birkinshaw – Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School – suggests companies should embrace what he calls ‘adhocracy’. He defines ‘adhocracy’ as increasing the value of action whilst emphasising flexibility and decisiveness. At the same time, leaders should focus on setting direction and enabling others to find the answers. This means stepping away from traditional areas of focus – such as productivity and reliance on big data – to create an environment that fosters creativity and experimentation.
It is likely the pandemic will be with us for a while yet. Leadership should embrace this opportunity to devolve more decision making throughout their company, to inspire creative solutions to complex and unpredictable problems. In turn, a more agile business model will better prepare companies for any sudden disruption in the future.
How to lead at speed
Long-term planning is ideal, but sometimes the moment calls for urgent action; the pandemic being a perfect example.
Sophie Devonshire – brand specialist and author of “Superfast: Lead at Speed” – took us through the five steps leaders can follow to prepare for rapid decision making. Start by understanding yourself, then learn about how technology can help you act quickly. It is important to be good with people but don’t be afraid to aggressively prioritise. Finally, energise yourself through exercise and rest, while giving yourself time to think.
Gary T Judd – leader of the FranklinCovey’s Global Speed of Trust practice – emphasised the importance of trust in leadership. If people already trust you, they are more likely to follow orders during a crisis. But if that trust is broken, then crisis management is going to be very difficult.
We desperately need leaders who are calm under pressure and unphased by massive challenges, particularly in times of crisis. It is therefore important to upskill leaders, so they are well prepared for any further disruption.
The ‘Inspiration for Acceleration’ white paper goes into depth about all these issues and much more. As we deal with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, and try to plan our way out of it, it helps to learn from others that have faced similar challenges in the past.