For years now we have heard business leaders talk about “disruption.” They want to be disruptive. They want to manage disruption well. They want their employees to be comfortable with disruption.
Well, these days we’re all pretty disrupted. How’s that working out for you?
The COVID-19 pandemic created serious challenges for businesses as it made its way around the world. From working-from-home to reduced customer demand to supply chain challenges, this has been a period of upheaval that surpasses the global financial crisis only a decade ago.
As countries start reopening their societies, you might have a sense that the end is in sight. With Singapore ending its “circuit breaker,” Thailand looking to reopen its borders in July, and Vietnam targeting 5% GDP growth this year, people may think we’re emerging from disruption.
Get that thought out of your head.
There is a lot of uncertainty in front of us, and we need to be adaptable during the recovery period. The International Monetary Fund has said that the global economy is likely to contract more than 3% this year, and it might be 2022 before we truly recover. There could be another wave of infections in the winter. We have no realistic idea when a vaccine will be created, and even once it is, it will take a long time to distribute it globally. A lot is going to happen in the next couple of years, and we don’t have all the details.
Of course, organizations don’t just want to survive; they want to be able to grow. Your market may create new opportunities for you during the recovery, so be on the lookout for those. The folks at Zoom would certainly agree that opportunities for growth can occur even in bad times.
Finally, don’t get so overwhelmed by your challenges that you just focus on what’s happening internally. You need to maintain external relationships, not only with customers but also with suppliers. In challenging times people are more likely to stick with those whom they know and trust, so don’t assume you can ignore those relationships and re-establish them later. Your customers may have found someone else to help them. Likewise, if your supply chain is disrupted, then you want your suppliers to try to support you, not your competitors.
The post-pandemic recovery is going to take quite some time; this will be a marathon, not a sprint. You cannot just wait to see what’s going to happen; instead, you need to be creating your own path rather than sitting back and waiting for whatever Fate hands you.
The Three P’s of Recovery
You probably don’t have an in-house fortune teller or a crystal ball to help you, so consider how the 3 P’s might allow you to navigate your post-pandemic recovery.
If you have survived the immediate disruption but have not started planning for the next phase, you should get on that NOW. First, you’re going to need to try to figure out what your market will look like. How does your product fit into customer demand, and what’s happened to your competition? In particular, you will want to evaluate your relationships with your customers and your suppliers. Are they still buying what you’re offering, or are they still in business to sell you what you need? How have your customer market and supply chain been affected? Finally, you need to give some thought to getting your employees to the new normal, whether that involves reopening your offices or something else.
Having the right people, with the skills and knowledge necessary for recovery, is essential. To the extent that you can, you need to try to keep your people rather than letting them go; the loss of institutional knowledge is not going to be helpful as you try to dig out from your current mess. If you can, try to use this time to develop your employees; if they have some downtime, use it! Many companies are limiting training to reduce costs, but cutting your development just when you need people to perform at their best is a bad idea. Finally, as you map your path forward, seek inputs from your employees; they often know better than you what their capabilities are.
You have had a lot of opportunities to learn about different ways of working during the pandemic; don’t let that learning go to waste. As you found a way to increase efficiency during the pandemic, see if there’s some value to working that way even as the situation changes. If there are processes you stopped when the pandemic began, ask yourself if you really need to start them again. Consider how your employees work, how you interact with customers, and how you share information within the organization. You have probably learned some lessons you should be incorporating into your work, so don’t throw all that out just because things are changing again.
If you think you see the light at the end of the tunnel, that might just be the headlights of an oncoming truck. We have a long road ahead of us, folks, and we need to be thinking hard about what that road is going to look like. In the next few weeks we will share some specific, practical ideas for putting the three P’s into practice. If you don’t think you can wait that long, reach out to us and we’ll see if we can help.