For most people, the pandemic represents a major change. Relaxation of the lockdown is in sight, but not life as before. Some clients said they had to impose an order freeze because they could no longer handle the flood of orders. Others are struggling with the decline, the slump. Perhaps one of these two cases also applies to your organization.
In either case, decisions have to be made without having an accurate picture of the future. Many upcoming decisions are far-reaching and irreversible. The decisions are rather not routine decisions. There is no time for long analyses and research. When in doubt, it is the time for intuition and gut feeling.
Management guru Peter Drucker spoke of the balance of continuity and change. This balance has been shifted for everyone. It is a chance to break with the old and the outdated, to question things and develop new beliefs, narratives and habits.
Below are some ways to gain some clarity and strength in this thicket:
Everyone is somehow coping with the pandemic. Everyone has a story about how to deal with the pandemic. As a colleague or manager, you are currently learning more about the private environment of others than is the case in normal times. Use this to build a stronger bond. This bond creates trust, which will continue to exist even after a return to "normal" life.
If you are able to start up the business again, you will deal with the employee base much more comprehensively. Some belong to the risk group, others have family or other relatives to whom they must show consideration. It is the time of humanity, because only by taking into account the needs will commitment and motivation remain high. This is the source of the energy you need to master the challenges ahead. You create the basis for building new things.
Sharpen the saw
In normal times there is often no time for reflection. However, this is the key to sustainable change or transformation. You are probably now in the situation that old things are not continued as usual. If you take the time for reflection, you might ask yourself what kind of leadership style you want to use in the future. What are the triggers or mantras that have determined your behavior in leadership situations. What narratives have you used? How do you want to handle this in the future? Instead of reacting in the old rut with the same spontaneous answers, what options do you have? How do you want to react to triggers in the future? Are there better possibilities?
These and similar questions will help you with your inner transformation. They are not easy to answer, but only the active engagement with these topics enables personal growth in private and professional contexts.
Not only, if you are in the situation that you cannot continue your business as usual, it is helpful to focus on the purpose of the business. You will find ways to achieve this purpose through other means.
Hubert Joly, Executive Chair of Best Buy, a retail chain in the USA, did not see the purpose of the company exclusively in operating stores or online markets to distribute electronic items. He saw the purpose as making people's lives easier or better with the products. He started a business to provide security for elderly people with sensor technology .
The return to the purpose helps employees to find meaning and motivation for new things. It is linked to a deep human need to create something good for the world and ultimately to feel recognition and joy.
Due to the unique condition and the need for adaptation, the readiness of many is higher than in normal times. Nevertheless you should take a look at culture and structure. If you come from an environment where scaling and efficiency were the top priorities, the culture and structure will be geared to this. However, if you are in a highly uncertain and complex environment, you need willingness to tackle things, to dare to try something new, to experiment. This will not be easy for everyone, even if the need is great. Small autonomous teams are more flexible during this time than a strongly hierarchical structure.
To give you an example: Haier is a Chinese home appliance manufacturer. Haier underwent a structural change many years ago. The company, which employs about 70,000 people, organized itself into tiny, autonomeous teams. Haier came out of the crisis well and was able to rebuild the supply chain in no time at all. This example may not be applicable to your company or easy to copy. But you could find ways to empower teams and employees to act faster than in the past .
Search for constants in the needs of your customers. Which ones exist regardless of the crisis, which ones will continue to exist? These are the old constants with which you should continue to focus. What offers result from this?
Which new constants will result from the crisis and the foreseeable trends: Robotisation, intelligentisation, digitalisation, sustainable energies, life and health technologies, new mobility, further flourishing of Asia?
What will be the new customer behaviour after the crisis? What can we already see of it now?
It is important to maintain the emotional bond with your customers. Invest in trust and visibility. Organizations that increase advertising spending now will emerge from the crisis with larger market shares. Optimize your customers' points of contact with your company in terms of brand experience. Can you build competitive advantage here?
You may agree Peter Drucker when he said: "I never see anything in the future! I just don't believe it!". He had a deep-rooted belief that you can't know the future, so you shouldn't have a firm opinion about the future. Instead, you should look out the window and try to use common sense to find patterns in the things you see. He said, "Look for the real story."
What is happening out there? Why are customers adapting their behavior the way they do? Can you see the constants in the needs, in the desires or in new things that are relevant to the customers? How do you get to the bottom of the truth?
In reality, every future development is already there. It may be small, but it is there. Look at it through the window! Spend some time examining what you see. Especially things about customers and their needs. Ask questions! Listen to the stories from the entire organization! Listen to different voices to dispel biases and bring clarity.
With the knowledge of the constants, the view and trust in your strengths and core, with the sharpened look out of the window, it will be easy for you to take the first courageous step.
Peter Drucker also said that every company has only two main functions: marketing and innovation. Take the crisis as an opportunity to put your marketing and innovation skills to the test. How can you strengthen these areas? How do you create a true customer culture? How would learning be made easier in your organisation? How can you expand the range of instruments? What are the benefits of further partnerships?
Maybe you use little stories in your work. Stories about customer experiences with existing or future products, services or contact points with your company. In addition to numbers, data and facts, you use them to capture the emotions associated with the use of your offer and bring humanity into the relationship. The customers will thank you for it.
If you would like to reflect on these topics to explore opportunities for your organization, please call me at + 49 176 471 88 250 or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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