COVID as Opportunity: From Crisis to Growth

The Change Consulting Group has developed a practical three-stage crisis management model to help organisations take stock of the impact of the COVID pandemic, as well as find opportunities in this crisis.

There is now no doubt that there are severe economic consequences to the lock-down approach taken by many countries (while outliers like Sweden remain of interest for their different approach and emphasis on herd immunity). We need to urgently find practical ways to open up our economies so that we can start building our way out of the current situation.

The specific application of the model to achieving a positive change outcome differs for each organisation (given sector, size, geo-location, etc.). Regardless, the following steps apply to all seeking to both survive COVID but also find the unique opportunities and hope that the crisis offers your organisation:

Save Lives and Cash: Stabilise or Stage 1 of the CCG crisis management model emphasises taking every precaution to protect and save the lives of employees, vendors, shareholders and stakeholders in the organisation. Strict protocols with respect to entering and exiting facilities, social distancing, work from home policies and meeting management protocols are required at this stage.

Simultaneously we would strongly advise companies to look at current budgeting and eliminate wasteful or duplicated spend (different functional or operational areas might be purchasing similar systems, processes or products that might be procured at reduced cost if bundled together from a single service provider for example).

Plug the Leaks: Consolidate or Stage 2 of the model focuses on identifying areas of the business that are operationally at risk. Examples might include employees who are COVID vulnerable and are no longer able to perform critical tasks at the level required (an extreme example of this is the UK Prime Minister contracting COVID). Does your organisation have a clear succession plan in place for each leadership and technical function?

This phase might also include identifying broken aspects of your supply chain (an example of this is a supplier who is no longer in business post lockdown), or organisational design and change work required to build out new capabilities and functionality as a result of COVID. This might result from opportunities that emerge from the crisis and your organisation is perfectly positioned to take advantage of.

Build for the future: Grow or Stage 3 of the CCG crisis management model is the most important by far. We stress this stage at this time since most countries have either left lock-down in part or whole. It is critical to move through Stages 1 and 2 above and focus on Stage 3 as soon as possible in a crisis, because many organisations tend to focus in a fairly myopic way on the crisis itself and become immobilised by it.

Action in the near term is absolutely vital (and by this we mean May, June and July 2020) and will determine to a very great extent the ability of your organisation to thrive or otherwise post COVID. It is now time to think deeply about what opportunities exist to grow your business or operations, what aspects of your organisation might need to be reinvented (in other words, is no longer relevant), or those areas of your business that need to innovate (where existing technology or capability can be leveraged into new areas of growth, or vertical/horizontal growth opportunities).

Stage 3 is all about change. Examples of this include a relook, refresh or redesign of company strategy, your operating model, organisational design (to accommodate new functional areas and capabilities), and managing the impact of distributed work, social distancing at the office and the like on corporate culture and employee engagement. As expressed in previous posts, CCG is not in favour of the wholesale makeover of corporate environments and have been critical of open plan offices (and particularly hot-desking) for years.

Critical at this time is ACTION. Action is not only imperative at this time to ensure the survival of your organisation. COVID is a change event the likes of which we might never again see in our lifetimes. It provides an opportunity to look at current practice, and pivot, re-invent and change the way you do things for the better. It is a rare opportunity to position your organisation for growth and future success.

Fear, a lack of strategic vision and the inability to change is your worst enemy at this time.