COVID-19 and the new normal: How business organizations can adapt

New realities await work and daily living after the lockdown.

Apparently a health crisis is fast turning into a financial crisis for many consumers, and by extension businesses. Governments presently place more importance on securing citizens’ lives than sustaining the economy. Consequently almost in every part of modern society full or partial lockdown is being enforced.

Businesses are being forced to innovate to beat the economic lull. Work-from-home is now the default operational setting. Apps are being deployed to educate kids kept away from schools. Health institutions are looking for a virtual-approach to broadening testing. This is the new normal.

In the meantime, long term goals need to be substituted for near-team survival. It is sort of asking ‘how do we ensure we don’t pack up?’

Ian Davis, former managing partner at a global consulting firm, pictured the scenario during the previous large scale global crisis. During the 2010 global financial crisis, Davis said:

“For some organizations, near-term survival is the only agenda item. Others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and things return to normal. The question is, ‘What will normal look like?’ While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years.”

The reality now is no different from what that top consulting executive emphasized 11 years ago. To survive in the face of COVID-19, every business organization, according to Kevin Sneader and Shubham Singal, two experts working for McKinsey & Co. across offices in Hong Kong and Detroit respectively, must embrace RESOLVE, RESILIENCE, RETURN, REIMAGINATION and REFORM.

These are the highlights of Kevin and Shubham insights:

RESOLVE – Put in place business-continuity and employee-safety plans with remote working serving as default operational mode.

RESILIENCE – According to the two experts, it is important for organizations to maintain “Near-term issues of cash management for liquidity and solvency” at this time.

RETURN – Management must reassess the available capabilities necessary to return business system (including supply chains) and production to full scale after the lockdown. Retraining and rehiring will have to take place to readjust and reset internal operations in line with new external realities. This is not going to be easy though as China is finding it hard to return to full scale work after the lull.

REIMAGINATION – Market forces are bound to experience a level of change. Consumer preferences will change; lifestyle will change, and so will spend patterns. In sum, how people live and work and spend money will be transformed for a long time as a result of the lockdown. It is very important for business organizations to reorg to adapt to the new normal. Simply put, your business has to make some changes after the government reopens the economy. You make have to adopt technology widely as ‘contactless commercial interaction’ become the norm.

REFORM – Massive policy changes are on the horizon as governments put in place strategies to revamp public health infrastructure and protect the citizens. Businesses will be forced to adopt new protective guidelines that will ensure they do not serve as weak-links in the race to combat future outbreaks. As a sample of the new realities, Kevin and co, reiterate, “Educational institutions will need to consider modernizing to integrate classroom and distance learning. The list goes on”.

They add, “The aftermath of the pandemic will also provide an opportunity to learn from a plethora of social innovations and experiments, ranging from working from home to large-scale surveillance. With this will come an understanding of which innovations, if adopted permanently, might provide substantial uplift to economic and social welfare—and which would ultimately inhibit the broader betterment of society, even if helpful in halting or limiting the spread of the virus.”

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