“The past is a nice place to visit, but it’s not a good place to stay”
These are wise words from an anonymous source. However, given the current challenges due to COVID–19, I am sure that many of us would gladly return to 2019 and pretend that none of this has happened.
However, here we are, and as McKinsey discuss at length in their latest report, the future is not what it used to be. Almost overnight, we have seen significant personal challenges that the virus has brought to many of us – either directly or indirectly. Not to mention changes to businesses, industry sectors and whole countries over the last few weeks.
We have seen a massive social experiment take place over a matter of weeks with a great many of us now working remotely. That is assuming that we can work remotely, and assuming our business is able to carry on in the current circumstances. We also know that many involved in the retail and tourism sectors, for example, have been critically affected by the recent lockdowns.
There have been widespread challenges to all industry sectors – many of them negative – and dramatic demand placed on Healthcare and Social Care providers, Frontline workers, Food distribution businesses and many more.
The current situation has also highlighted how COVID-19 is driving Digital Transformation in many businesses as they have realised the need to automate and digitalise at pace in order to cope – for example, online food retailers and delivery organisations having to respond to massive increases in customer demand.
Moody’s have produced a COVID -19 Heat Map that very clearly articulates the challenges to each industry sector:
But Digital Transformation alone will not deal with some of the more fundamental challenges highlighted over the last 3 months:
- Cost effective supply chains are not always very resilient to significant change
- Business models are often organised for cost and efficiency, not for agility to react in a crisis
- Channels to market are often centred around a narrow set of core products and services, and can be easily affected by industry-wide issues – either as individual product demand massively outweighs supply (toilet rolls), or existing products and services become unnecessary (services for bars and restaurants)
- Many businesses are over-reliant on a core set of customers, products and services and cannot quickly change to embrace new opportunities
So how do we better position ourselves for an uncertain future?
Key to surviving in this new future will be the ability to cope with the changes quickly, adapt in the right ways and continually re-invent oneself as new challenges arise.
We believe that this is best done by focusing on:
How do we make sure that the organisation is able to operate in a cost-efficient way, even if many employees are off sick, working remotely, or otherwise facing their own personal challenges? How do we maintain efficiency if suppliers and partners are struggling and fail? How do we build self-sufficiency into our business model without increasing costs?
How do we structure and support our employees and our business to be more resilient. How do we cope and react faster to large-scale change, and embed a culture that means we can handle a constant flow of challenges?? How do we build resilience in ourselves, our employees, and our business operating models?
With significant changes coming thick and fast, how do we stay agile? How do we create a capability within our people, and in our operating model that means we can quickly, and efficiently react in the future? How do we make sure that we are not constrained by our current ways of working and hence are too slow to adapt?
A new ERA of business is emerging - the future is different and we need to adapt to survive.
We can’t stay in the past.
Mark Lockton Goddard
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