In late 2020, I had the opportunity to listen to the global CEO of a professional services firm speak about their response to the pandemic. This CEO said that “never waste a good crisis” had become a central theme in their approach to planning. When asked what they were doing to prepare for the future, however, he replied that they were still in discovery mode, since “the future has not yet revealed itself.” To me, this is precisely the definition of wasting a good crisis.

Before the pandemic, transformation (versus continuous improvement and incremental change) had become the new normal in all industries. Many business leaders were already using the term VUCA (volatile, complex, uncertain, and ambiguous) to describe business conditions, – specifically in relation to the effects of technology on business models, operating models, customers, and employees – and had significant transformation initiatives underway.

For many, though, the pandemic put these transformation efforts on hold. While research conducted by firms like McKinsey show that COVID-19 accelerated digitalization, a lot of the investments in digital were made to correct pre-existing business weaknesses that were exposed by the pandemic. Early studies showed COVID-19 slowed investment in innovation, as many CEOs prioritized reducing expenses over investing in growth.

Many leaders are now beginning to look again towards the future, but like this CEO, they are finding themselves stuck in wait-and-see mode, having paused their pre-COVID transformations once the pandemic hit in order to focus on survival.

To advance transformation efforts through this crisis, organizations must:

  1. Prioritize carefully. Resources are scarce, and COVID-19 fatigue and burnout are real. Ensure you are spending resources on the activities that are highest value by setting specific criteria to select transformation initiatives.
  2. Take an agile approach. Prioritize speed over perfection and put mechanisms in place to collect and act on customer or user feedback to optimize (or cancel) solutions over time.
  3. Keep the idea pipeline full. As the pandemic continues to unfold and conditions continue to shift, some initiatives may no longer make sense to pursue. Keep more initiatives in the queue so you can keep the forward momentum going.
  4. Eliminate friction. Now is the time to take a close look at your organization’s processes and eliminate or revise those that frustrate employees, get in the way of customers, or slow down projects.
  5. Work on mindsets and skillsets. The pandemic will one day end, but our old ways of working will not come back. Hybrid work and customer collaboration models are here to stay. Make sure that your people are ready to thrive in the next normal.


About the Author

Michelle Moore is the Senior Vice President, Strategic Solutions at HORN. Michelle has over 25 years of experience working globally with organizations to use human capital to solve complex business challenges, and with individuals to maximize personal effectiveness and career success. She has expertise across a broad range of industries and holds specialized knowledge in innovation and digital transformation.

About HORN

HORN is a learning and development company dedicated to creating learning that cannot be unlearned. We go deeper. We create lasting changes in behaviour, performance, and business results for salespeople, sale managers and leaders.

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