The COVID-19 offshoot: Three (3) ways to manage changes in a swift, transformative business environment

The COVID-19 enforced lockdown is psychologically transformative. It is changing global understanding of what change truly means. Firmly put, change can happen at anytime. It is shapeless and ruthless.

Change has consequences. The consequences either make a victim or raise a champion. In the business world, every enterprise falls on either side of these possibilities. It is like saying, ‘since there is no armour against destiny; there can never be a shield too strong to prevent change’.

Economies transform; nature metamophorses, society grows, and mankind advance. Just as well, organisations are impacted by any little tweak to the economy, nature, society and mankind’s onward push to innovate. In the end, who champions change? Who scripts its phases? Whose curative mind scheme its timing?

Most changes are products of inadvertent attempt by geniuses to push the frontier of possibility – Henry Ford and Albert Einstein are great examples. Some changes are a product of convergence of disimilar occurences in distant and outlying societies – take for instance the Arab Spring and the present trade protectionism reignited by Donald Trump. At other times, change could take the form of organisations, or better still, businesses, attempting to contol their own destinies by transforming the market through innovative products and grand projects – Cirque du Soleil and Amazon are perfect examples.

More, change can also happen when unplanned systemic or natural phenomenon that impact society well-being take place. We are seeing that in the global lockdown of economic and social activities as the COVID-19 insistently tests the ingenuity of political leadership, the capacity of health agencies, and the depth of the financial institutions world-over.

It is even going to test the strength of love between families as they are stuck together for weeks. Like the families, health agencies, businesses and government will be strained. Some will crack, others will buckle; a few will come out with battered emotion but stronger resolves, while humanities learn for the umpteenth time the fragility of existence, co-existence, and markets. Change leaves nothing the same.

In essence, change creates a whole new scene, new mentality, and drives some more possibilities. For businesses these can determine their relevance, sustenance, profitability as well as acceptance in the long run.

Hence, there is no static market. Products can lose relevance; services can lose fit, and customers can lose taste. The antidote to all these sustenance threats is for a business to be continually projecting and adapting in quick succession to keep pace with changes.

Presently, we see retail giants across the world seething in frustration as their relevance gets further caged by new realities. First it was the growth of e-commerce, now the lockdown.

Going forward, it is unlikely that any business serving a client-base starting from 1000 upward will be able to survive without developing an online portal to support its value delivery chains. Churches must support offline services with online gatherings. Every food chain, clothing chain, grocery chain etc. must build online request and delivery platforms to manage future outbreaks or conform to the new normal.

Here is the realities: communal lifestyles as we grew to know it in the 70-90s have been disrupted dramatically by technology and sporadic cases of viral outbreak.

Who knows what is next?

Many organizations have fallen victims of gross unpreparedness in the past. Take for instance the scenario in the retail sector a couple of years ago in the UK. For not projecting quick enough to set up a bulwark of supportive and adaptive mechanism to react to changing consumer habits, Next retail put itself in trouble. New Look went bankrupt; Toy ‘R’ Us (UK) phased out.

Ms Kate Hardcastle, from consultancy Insight with Passion, according to BBC, provided  this insight to reflect the growing susceptibility of retail businesses:

“So you have seen the rise of Primark on the discount side, Asos and Zara on the more fashion-oriented side and a consumer very much influenced by Instagram and social media”.

Ms. Kate then railed at the victim, ‘lazy’ retailers: “It’s just too much of a turnaround, too much of a challenge for these quite heavyweight retailers who have expected to trade the way that they always have”.

Now, since your business is not near the brinks yet, how can you ensure you are ready with the supportive and adaptive measures needed to help you confront change heads-on?

  1. Do Not Ignore News: Any new development among strategic group always has a spillover effect on the competitive landscape. If high street retailers had taken seriously Amazon’s transformation from online book retailing to general merchandise, just as Walmart did, many of them would not have had to file for bankrupcy. IKEA responded smartly when it snapped up ‘help-do-it’ ToolRabbit to protect itself against any future incursion from new media competitors. ToolRabbit has been a support for buyers of IKEA furnitures who need direct access to out-of-store assistance via an app.
  2. Take Competitors Growth & New Project Seriously: In Nigeria, Promasidor’s sachet milk, Cowbell, was a game changer a decade ago. It was a niche where Promasidor developed strength to scale, and somehow extended upward. Because that move wasn’t quickly matched by Peak, Promasidor has grown its wings and is currently contesting fiercely the tin milk market where Peak used to be a marshal. The lesson is ‘never allow a competitor to develop a niche; counter as soon as you discover the move’. Canon didn’t have that flair when Samsung initially began to develop strong camera phone. Now it has learnt its lessons and is fighting for its future. What’s more? Ford is also taking its automobile future seriously in the face of Tesla’s relentless, though faulty push, to build a niche around electric cars, into which it may build strength and compete heads-on strongly against the automobile giant. Ford is building manufacturing plants for its electric car projects. That is how to stare away from being pushed to the brinks.
  3. Be Nimble, Be Flexible: In modern economics, the market can take a plunge any moment. The only defence is for organisations never to cast their processes and procedures in concrete. It is better to always have swift approach to changes in such a way that bureaucracy doesn’t stop the flow of instant actions.

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