Without a doubt, the whole world is facing one of the most though public health and economic challenges of modern history due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Suddenly, each of us had to change our daily routines to protect ourselves, our families, our teams, and our communities from the disease. Now, it is time to return to business. Still, as we know so far, the reality is that the aftermath of this novel coronavirus pandemic may not be coming back to our business as usual.
Companies are facing challenges to operate safely to ensure the health of their employees and customers. There are new requirements per official health institutions to meet. For example, organizations need to invest in modifying office layouts to ensure the workplace provides enough space for social distancing. The use of technology applications for contact tracing might be another tool that employers may need to put in place to ease and expedite the identification of individuals who may have come into contact with an infected person. And this list of requirements might keep changing and growing as we experience and get to know the virus better.
Even when we are ready to get back on business fully, our suppliers and service providers may not. Based on the high level of degree of integration of the supply change today and at the same time so geographically disperse, our network of suppliers (raw materials, laboratory supplies, field service providers, etc.) may not be fully available per their particular situation because of the outbreak.
The Covid-19 may also have a significant impact on financial plans, including revenue growth and product demands forecasts. Just as of last week, Apple Inc felt after skipping forecast for the first time in years, and this raises concerns on whether the company performance will suffer later this year.
And so on, we keep hearing the sad news, and it seems no sign of hope that things will get any better in the short term. Agree. But, as business leaders, we do not sit to “watch the world go by.” We act, and we know that we must do our part to improve this situation.
When I was a kid back home in our backyard, I was mesmerized to see how quickly ants started to get back on work to reconstruct their nest when someone crumbled it. Of course, there was a moment of confusion first. The ants ran all over. But, after a little while, the colony started to work back in unison, rebuilding their home.
Being optimistic and have a strategic vision to embrace change are the best tools we have at hand to move forward to lead our teams through this situation. Every day, we may face challenges from different angles, including performance changes from our direct reports or colleagues. An extra level of flexibility might be necessary for managers to address each situation with emotional intelligence and empathy. Because everyone may be experiencing the effects of the pandemic differently: distancing from the significant ones, kids studying from home need more assistance from parents, gyms and places of faith are closed, etc.
From the operational perspective, managers should conduct risk management evaluations of their operations with inputs from each subject matter expert in their organization. This exercise should end up in developing action plans in which the course of action is prioritized based on risk severity and criticality. There should be close monitoring of action items implementation. Finally, managers should ensure the proper evaluation of risks when new issues arise.
Conducting business in this time of uncertainty is a challenge. Adapting our operations to a new normal bring struggles. Let’s use this difficult time to grow stronger, to be better leaders, and to drive our teams to find and develop new ways to do things differently and even better before the Covid-19 pandemic.