Business Post Covid 19: Rethink, Reassess, Realign and Resurge
No one could see or imagine a crisis of this magnitude. Who could have ever imagined that a single calamity could bring the entire world to a halt? Who could have thought that the largest and strongest of nations, corporations, and the entire world could be brought to their knees? What one has witnessed in the first few months of 2020 is like a story from some other Planet. No war, no financial meltdown nor any natural calamity could have done what a single virus has done to the whole world. The entire world
has simply stopped on its track.
All world Leaders, economists, financial and business wizards of this century have only thought about growth and its management. I get amazed by the predictions of GDP figures being made by the biggest economists and financial analysts. To my mind, we are sitting at a 15 % + reduction in world GDP; I say this without even the slightest of doubt. We are also looking at changed consumer behavior, maybe changed priorities, and hence the altered spending and consumption patterns for a lot of goods and services.
In such a situation where one is not even aware of the variables, where does one start, what does one do?
I think the first step that all businesses need to do is to "rethink".
But what and how does one Rethink? Most businesses have been used for incremental thinking. Most Business Planning Processes are based on past year performances and the incremental shifts that can be made. What is required here though is more fundamental thinking? Does each business need to think about what they exist for? Do they need to think like a start-up that first defines what Problem / Need of the customer do they satisfy? They may need to rethink their Product/ Service range, existing Price, existing Channels, existing Customer Segments, the need for these segments, the USP for these Segments. In short, they need to really re-look at the whole value proposition for their customers.
The next step is to "reassess".
Armed with the rethinking, all businesses need to reassess their present and the changes that they need to make it to the future. The reassessment will need to be around which strengths do they need to leverage, what priorities to focus on, where to spend the capital, and where to conserve it. Reassessing the value proposition at present and what it will take to meet the customer needs of tomorrow. At such times, a reassessment may also be needed of the very need of the business in the changing world. During such tectonic shifts when the business is stressed, there are difficult decisions to make and most decision-makers are likely to take paths that look easy e.g. cost-cutting by reducing manpower, etc. and hoping that things will become the same in coming times. Sometimes answers may lie in even extreme steps like exiting or may need total re-alignment. If the answer is not exiting, then the next step is Realignment.
What and how to "realign".
Once one is clear about the Objective / Goal based on the Rethinking/ Reassessment about Market, Needs, Consumption Patterns and Channels, etc, one needs to think about realigning the Products / Services, Strategy, Processes, Structure, Work style, Competencies, Employment, and all other dynamics to go with the new fundamental thinking. In many cases, the change in consumer behavior is significant enough to compel adoption of Technology. I can already envision the realignment in the delivery of products and services in almost everything. The advent of telemedicine, e-learning, the hastening up e-commerce and the fourth industrial revolution is imperative. With the increasing pace of automation by the use of IoT, ML is almost inadvertent.
It may also be an era of localization. If machines have to produce products and hence if Manpower involvement and hence costs as a percentage of the top line are slated to decline with the use of more technology, then what is the need for manufacturing being put up in third world countries. The basic reason for this was labor cost arbitrage and if labor costs can be reduced to insignificant levels by use of technology, the basic hypothesis itself changes. With the e-meetings and the "Work From Home" being the new normal, the organizational structure will need to be realigned. It may mean a much flatter structure and much more technology-enabled, self-directed teams becoming the norm. This may lead to the need for realigning teams and also bringing to fore competencies like self-discipline, creativity, resilience, etc. The traditional method of employment may also need re-alignment with more Project-based and success-based employment patterns becoming the flavor of the day. One may need to realign the whole value chain. Of course, if the first three steps are in order then the business will resurge. To me, these are times when many companies will perish as they would not be able to Rethink, Reassess, and Realign correctly. For doing these things one needs leaders of an exceptional level. Leaders who are not insecure. Leaders who can take along third party thinkers and philosophers. Leaders who are strong but flexible at the same time. Leaders who understand the fertility of rethinking alone or with only insiders, who are tuned to thinking and perceiving things in a set manner. It is fundamentally impossible for someone who has thought about the business in a certain fashion to suddenly start Rethinking it, in a totally different fashion.
It is hence a prerequisite that one needs to take an outside ally, who is not connected to the business or line of business, to take along for rethinking, Reassessing and Realigning. There has been a role of thinkers and philosophers in world history, who helped bring about changes. The fact that these philosophers and thinkers are independent and hence not shackled by the burden of the Past makes them help in carving out a better future. The leaders need to be able to find the right ally and also have the innate ability to listen with an open mind and encourage them to question. How many can do this simple thing is a million-dollar question but with Tectonic Shift in Geopolitics, Macroeconomics, Regulation, Human behavior, Technology, and Industry dynamics which this pandemic crisis is bringing, it is imperative for Survival and Growth!