There is no disputing that the Irish government took brave and bold steps with an appetite for borrowing to preserve enterprises and employment as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was essential to hep sectors of the economy to survive. But how do companies give themselves a bright future in 2021?
History is littered with cyclical episodes of the war being won and the peace, almost lost, - a sense of pyrrhic victory prolongs the hurt and slows the recovery. The contrasting intents and outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles and the Marshall Plan illustrate this for me. One hopes that there are further creative ideas and supports to come, but this new phase of recovery will be different. The sense of all being in a VUCA event together will be replaced by a level of competition driven by a desire to recover as quickly as possible.
Organisational agility is defined as the capability to make timely, effective and sustained change when it results in performance advantage (Worley et al, 2014). The businesses that will survive will be those with the agility to change, seize opportunities and remodel themselves. A first step in this agility is that there is no long term growth or gain by going back to the pre-pandemic world. The past is in the past, it is not the future any more - the most obvious example being an idea that everyone will return to working from offices or other such premises next year. The models of employee engagement are in the workshop for a re-fit – especially as what was trialled during 2020 may not have the long-term sustainability for 2021 and beyond. What happened over the past 10 months is an example of agility in reaction. A good example of this is the challenge faced by independent clothing boutiques, many of whom reacted and dove into getting an online offering in place when their doors were shut. Agility will be required to see beyond 2020 and how not to think of this as a distantly second sales channel. Even maintaining an online presence on as “as is” basis will not be enough, nor will the idea that the customer base within notional boundaries is enough for the future. Real organisation agility will be measured by how agile your organisation is in innovating quickly into 2021.
There have been some big winners in 2020. Companies such as Amazon showed creative agility because they were prepared for a pandemic through scenario planning and road maps on how to move quickly. Dell and HP showed the value of diversification. If these companies hadn’t expanded their portfolios of offerings in the past two decades, they wouldn’t still have low margin boxes in their offering. But by innovating and being agile in their supply chains, those low margin boxes brought in a lot of cash in 2020. These companies won’t settle for continuing to react. Their agility will be based on influencing and shaping the world of working from home with new product offerings at enterprise level. This kind of agility is what is needed in 2021 – it is absorbing the learning of 2020 and adapting it to shape 2021.
So, how will you adapt to 2021? Will your agility in a crisis be harnessed to enhance your organisational capability in 2021?
Will you bring your team back into the business with an approach of re-boarding them to the business and unlocking opportunities by listening and acting on what they have learned?
Did 2020 bring you closer to your customers? Did you do something that seemed like survival at the time, but actually grew their trust in your business?
Real organisation agility focuses on the processes that leads to results, so are you focused on the processes and giving your team the time and resources to be agile?
For now, celebrate the successes - against how you define them - of 2020 and be confident about 2021 by being an early and agile adopter of opportunity this year.