In business circles, disruption has been a buzzword for a few years now. Yet with the pandemic, it has become something tangible. We’ve all experienced the effects of true, large-scale disruption on every level.
The ability of humans to survive this sort of crisis is definitely worth highlighting, even celebrating. But we also have a tendency to acclimate quickly; arguably, no topic has been more discussed in recent months than what the ‘new normal’ might look like.
Maybe you were quick to accommodate remote working across various positions in your company. You shifted more business operations to the cloud in a cost-effective manner through a cloud computing reseller. You took the lead in ensuring that employees stayed positive, maintained communications, and collaborated effectively through different platforms. That’s great, but the question remains: what’s next? And can your team continue to respond to unforeseen challenges?
Good response only goes so far
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to overshadow other major trends and events around the world. Tensions across the international scene, such as with the recent US-China trade wars, should have already given rise to questions concerning many companies’ global supply chains. Those concerns may have been obscured by matters of imminent survival, but for how long?
Moreover, a disruption on this scale can lead to a domino effect of further complications. Governments around the world may change their regulations across industries. Suddenly, outsourcing manufacturing or other operations might not be worth the hassle. Your team could already be susceptible to an increased risk of cyber-attacks due to the rise of online activity.
New problems will continue to arise, along with lingering unaddressed issues. Like managing any individual’s to-do list, you can’t be reactive if you want to get tasks under control. We admire leaders for their ability to react and handle a crisis. But from a leadership perspective, a good reaction shouldn’t be critical if you adopt the right proactive approach.
Planning based on effects, not events
However, no one can predict the future. Even experts can’t agree on details such as a timeline for a vaccine, or the specifics of the new normal. State governments have variously reopened or remained on lockdown, and are constantly debating the pros and cons of each side. How can you lead your business with a proactive approach when you’re faced with such uncertainty?
The key to effective prediction actually lies in accepting the fact that you never know the specifics of what it holds. It involves having multiple playbooks, covering different possible scenarios. It also means expanding the coverage of your planning to include more high-impact, improbable events; the so-called ‘black swans.’ In fact, Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb himself argues that the pandemic was not such an event. Yet by choosing to be blind to the risks of such disruption, many big organizations have been left reeling from the shock.
You can learn from their mistakes, and plan based on the likely effects on your personnel, supply chains, and consumer base. Can you source the same materials or processes from local partners with reliability and cost-effectiveness? Will you be able to ensure high standards of quality with third-party providers, when communications are almost exclusively online? And as customer profiles shift in a time of economic downturn, how does that affect your target audience?
Making readiness permanent
With a renewed focus on being proactive, you can swiftly pivot to the appropriate strategy, regardless of the specifics that drive the change. Less time will be spent on deliberating. More emphasis is placed on productive, value-driving action.
At the same time, though, your organization needs to have a necessary level of readiness. Teams that are too compartmentalized lead to individuals not seeing or caring about the big picture. They fail to act quickly, and the impetus to change is lost. In this regard, the pandemic has been a harsh teacher. Those businesses that have survived need to avoid reverting to their old ways.
If your current success is driven by people who were empowered to act quickly on consumer feedback, make sure those people retain that sense of agency moving forward. If you were able to seize new opportunities by innovating with a focus on your shifting consumer base, don’t stop that. Remain attuned to your core audience and follow lean processes to enhance their experience.
The world may be changing rapidly, but your business success isn’t contingent on foreseeing the unpredictable. Build your organization around readiness and a proactive attitude, and you can quickly find the right response to any disruption.