The latest episode in our Resilience Unravelled series has now been released, Resilience Unravelled – Business Resilience. A conversation for the post COVID-19 world.
In this episode, Dr. Russell Thackeray talks about how Personal Resilience, the ability to bounce back from times of adversity, is something that can be applied just as well to businesses and organisations. A resilient business is one that is able to overcome obstacles, meet evolving challenges and make the most of its opportunities. In the current climate it’s more important than ever that businesses look at the issues that determine their resilience and how they can bounce forward and thrive in a post COVID-19 world. As well as ‘the financial picture’, Dr Thackeray discusses the non-financial resilience factors businesses need to consider and outlines some thoughts and questions that may help you think about these issues in your own setting.
1. Mindset – People are dealing with stress and pressure in different ways. Some are running for the hills, some are coping and others are innovating or pivoting and seeing the situation as an opportunity. For some, the fear is overwhelming rationality and needs to be controlled. The future rolling forward could be devastating, it could be benign or it could actually be quite good. There will be a variety of views and whichever comes into being we need to be ready for it. What is important here is the mindset to see this situation as an opportunity and figure out to make the most of it. What mindsets are modelled and need to be adapted in your organisation and team? Given mindset can be adapted and developed, what steps are in place to begin to change the corporate conversation and stimulate fresh thinking in this area?
2. Managing for today and tomorrow – An important part of resilience is managing for today whilst having an eye for the future. If we don’t have a sense of purpose or an idea of what life is going to be at the end of this, then what’s the point of surviving it in the first place? Many businesses only focus on today – whilst business needs to be agile and think about the future. Why are we working in the way we are working? Why are we running expensive retail shopfronts when customers could wear virtual reality headsets? Why are we sending people around the world when it could be done virtually? How can technology, with which many people are becoming increasingly comfortable, add value for employees and customers?
3. Warning signs and triggers – Seeing the warning signs and triggers and knowing when your resilience has been compromised both as a business and as an individual is essential. To what end has your organisation become incapacitated or only wounded by the lockdown? There may a recession coming – perhaps discontinuous trading opportunities and organisations that recognise this may be able to diversify and develop the skills and agile processes (and cash) needed for a recession. Things will not be what they were before this whole episode so now is the time to get ready – perhaps some people furloughed would be best reactivated to plan and build capacity into processes and structures?
4. Building capacity – We’re all generally not best at building capacity, often preferring to ‘put fires out’. When times are good, we very rarely invest sufficiently in assets and resources that can help us during the bad times – and this can be exacerbated by a benign trading picture making us more complex and less lean. Are you aware that taking the decision not to spend any cash to invest in the future now means that you may be restricting your ability to bounce back?
5. Technology to the fore – We can now see the benefits and the risks of technology. Human beings come together because they want to come together and currently some interesting approaches and thoughts are being shared about this. The advantages of smart technology in organisations are clear and whilst some businesses are utilising AI and VR others are struggling with very outdated systems. How much are your IT systems holding you back? How much has the internal politics of the organisation restricted the ability to acquire the most appropriate IT capacity?
6. Economic futures and models – A big (national) debate about how will we bounce forward is looming. Growth funded by consumer and corporate debt is not sustainable over the long term so what’s needed is the key players to sit down and have an ego free conversation about what’s right. Does it look as if the opportunity to really grow a more socially balanced future is in our grasp if we can resist the opportunity to simply begin to trade as if nothing had happened?
7. Sharing ideas – As the population continues to grow how are we engaging across the wider planet? We’ve all come together to beat the pandemic and this coming together has produced a flow of ideas. In the scientific community ideas are shared for greater good regularly so should we go back to a narrower approach? Is it time to decide to invest in ideas and produce ‘things’ rather than simply create more coffee shops and services?
8. Lessons in leadership – The way we manage or lead people when they work in different places needs to adapt. We need to know our people better so the concept of tough love leadership comes to life. The virtual workplace seems too good an opportunity to miss. How will we develop managers and leaders to grow productivity and performance in a more distributed world?
9. The property boom? It may be the case that landlords and property owners have again been well protected in this lockdown. As more diverse technology platforms have been used and utilised, should we still be spending so much time thinking about property rental and ownership? Should we use and think about property assets and change to a more agile investment strategy? Whilst some organisations need physical locations, others definitely could innovate either existing premises or create new access points – could you redesign your property needs perhaps focusing on where office space really creates a ROI?
10. What we do and why we do it – A massive amount of time has been saved by not sitting in endless meetings or travelling, but the risk is that the prevailing culture is spilling into the new world with traditional face-to-face processes being replaced by endless and needless Zoom meetings. There is an opportunity to ask who needs to be in a meeting and when and why it’s called. In fact, how much of what we do at work is relevant and/or add to ROI? How many people have burnout or are currently burning out through irrelevant meetings, systems, processes and inefficiencies?
11. How important are we really? The furlough process has been a bit of a shock to some people who have discovered that their roles aren’t as vital as they thought. The people who actually deliver something tangible seem to be more prized and valued. Is there an opportunity to look at roles and decide whether some of the vague, ill-defined roles need to be trimmed – allowing those people to carry out more meaningful work
12. The role of the media – The media are driving short-term negativity. 24 hour rolling news means programme space needs to be filled and it’s easier to talk about something bad which triggers our negative bias. Constant media interrogation means politicians are appearing to be on the back-foot. We all need to be able to make mistakes, learn from it and move forward, this includes politicians. We need media who ask intelligent, forensic questions that we need answers to rather than the endless pointless questioning and blame game. How much of our organisational attention is focused on blame and exposure rather than accountability and learning?
13. PPE – COVID-19 has made us focus on what keeps us safe rather than what makes us money. The switch has made us focus key resources on the people who really need them and how they get them. When it doesn’t appear, the physical manifestation is the proof that going forward the entire world will not be online. We need the people who turn up and fix things. How much do we need to revalue the roles and efforts of those people?
14. Innovative thinking – Innovation and creative thinking is needed. We need to celebrate what we’re getting better so we need marketeers, creatives and innovators to show us what we can do. Recognising innovation should be part of what we do and should be quantified but not just financially, sometimes in the identification of difference and opportunity. How much innovation in organisations is squashed because of the need to make an instant return?
15. Mental health – Frontline workers may well suffer from PTSD so the effect on economy as well as the individuals will need to be factored in as we bounce forward. Other staff may have issues from staying at home for three months and there may be more lockdowns over the next few months so we will need to make sense of that rolling forward. How well geared are we to support the resilience of people so that they can be effective? How much do we invest in development that inadvertently disempowers managers from helping or making decisions as any form of employee symptom is categorized as a ‘Mental Health’ ‘condition?
16. Develop a sense of purpose – Purpose is essential in building resilience. Businesses are too complex and resilience wise we need to be simple and agile with a better outward focus. A long-term strategy with a culture that people buy into is required to give uniqueness and the ability to not only stand-out, but to stand up for what you are about. How strong and compelling is your sense of purpose? How are you measuring the benefit of that purpose?
17. Market reaction? – Speedy reactions will be needed. When we come out of this people will want to congregate, which is a natural part of human existence. We’re all missing the buzz from uplifting artistic and sporting enterprises but when we all start meeting up will it be wearing sponsored facemasks to protect ourselves? The range of opportunities that will manifest themselves is exciting and challenging – but will your available innovation capacity help you rise to the challenge?
18. Managing expectations – We should move back to productivity as a measure rather than satisfaction or engagement. People are generally satisfied if they are working on the right things, doing the right amount of it and meeting the right quality standard. We need to think about people, what their contribution is and what that means rather than just making them happy. How well situated are you to build this type of culture?
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