Computers require a re-boot every so often; sometimes, a simple restart will do the trick, but, on the rare occasion, they are affected by a virus requiring a complete restore. Like computers, the world is a system of cause and effect. Regardless of the view you take on the cause, the reality of the impact is that humanity has been affected in unprecedented ways. Take, for example, Covid-19; the virus has changed the way we live, the way we work, and, most importantly, our viewpoints of the world. Our blind-spots to inbred ’viruses’ that have been progressively eroding the systems and structures that we have had in place have been removed.
Responding to the pressing concerns and the most vulnerable in our communities is paramount, this, however, needs to be coupled with long term strategic measures to ensure a swift recovery and an improved calibration to the new-normal. South Africa (SA), as an example, has invested in equipping health care services and introduced measures to assist companies and employees most affected by Covid-19. In May, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a social and economic relief package worth over R500 billion as an economic stimulus to assist organisations and save jobs. Additionally, similar to most African countries, SA has high poverty levels, overcrowded living conditions and strained infrastructure, causing preventative measures to slow down and overcome this pandemic more difficult. Extended suffering will be inevitable, shortened only by the responsiveness of organisations to the current situation. It is thus imperative that organisations re-align their strategy as quickly as possible.
From an organisational perspective, the health and safety of employees, customers and suppliers has emphasised how people are central to the functioning of any organisation. This imposed change has been met with difficult decisions to manage overheads and ensure the sustainability of the organisation. Business survival has become imperative – adapt or die.
Resilient organisations have been able to adapt quickly and reallocate resources, while concurrently shifting strategic objectives and goals. While this is a clear opportunity and can provide organisations with a temporary competitive advantage, the cost of not adapting could result in the death to many small businesses, and with that, our economy.
The agility of organisations in making decisions and adapting to changes in regulations, policy and stakeholder interface is now more imperative than ever. Alignment of strategy to the new norms and having a framework and direction is necessary to ensure operational decisions are not only swift but also guided by long term objectives. Decentralised decision-making may become a necessity to allow for a speedy process and service, together with functional communication structures within organisations, which is essential to ensuring that opportunities are not missed, and implementation of mitigation measures are not delayed. Trusting employees will be critical for the virtual work movement.
Covid-19, in a short space of time, has re-engineered the way we live, the way we celebrate occasions- smaller gatherings, virtual birthdays; the way we manage our welfare- home exercising, online medicine and grocery shopping, healthier consumption; and the way we work- virtual meetings, online customer service and systems, as well as, remote working. Our social occasions now include family and friends from different cities, we have access to a broader array of consumer products and pricing competitiveness, we jump off remote meetings in various cities and different countries instead of a plane, and we reach customers we had not previously even considered. Employers have started experiencing a tangible global economy and resourcing reality that is more plausible now than ever, with many employers also surrendering their office spaces to make the change more permanent.
Digital transformation enables us to open the borders that Covid-19 has closed, and the manner and efficiency in which systems have been implemented highlights the potential embracing technology has on transforming the way we work. Most organisations were already
developing plans and even initiating digital transformation strategies before the pandemic. Accelerating these efforts, together with aligning them to long term objectives, will allow organisations to not only improve management and effectiveness during the crisis but also to handle the shifting demand towards digital customer-centric systems after that.
Figure 1: Aligning strategy to meet short-term and long-term objectives
Aligning your strategy to the new normal requires perseverance to withstand the storm, robustness in operations to maintain and further develop strengths, and agile strategic planning and design to recover and obtain a competitive advantage once this pandemic and the subsequent response begins to settle.
Optimising expenditure can enable efficient agile and robust systems of operations, through the removal of redundant resources. Reassessing non-optimal office and retail spaces, non-essential processes and formalities, as well as resource-consuming manual processes that would be more effectively completed through digitisation and automation, will allow for organisations to increase working capital, enable workforce flexibility, increase productivity and ultimately open new market opportunities.
Evaluating and refining your organisations business strategy will ensure past investments and plans can be re-aligned to current and future requirements. While concurrently allowing you to develop a future-state model, to identify potential impacts to operations as well as critical capabilities required to execute your strategy.
When change is forced upon us, innovation thrives. The time for change has arisen again to reimagine what success in the new normal is. The question is, are we re-booting our systems, or creating new, unimagined ones?
Ismaeel is an Associate Consultant at AIA. He has a Civil Engineering background, having graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand, together with being certified in Project Management Fundamentals. Ismaeel has been involved in several public sector and international energy projects, developing experience in the oil and gas, strategy, and organisational design fields, as well as market and competitor analysis, amongst others.