COVID-19 Pandemic Impact – The Need to Transform
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic response has impacted businesses worldwide. Big or small, new or established, companies of all types and stages must take steps to ensure survival and, ultimately, growth. Whether you hang on or thrive, will, to a significant extent, be based on the strategy that business takes to get through the short-term.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
– Henry Ford
From the Bottom, We Rise
It may seem counter-intuitive, but when things are at their worst (or it feels that way), opportunities abound. Many businesses delay implementing new methods of doing business when times are good. Either because they think if it isn’t broke, why replace it (systems, equipment, processes, and so on).
Those same businesses may stick to doing everything the same so long as sales and profits are in the acceptable range, even if they are declining over time. It takes a catalyst to spark change and innovation. Our post-pandemic economy will be the spark for innovation and transformation for businesses who must do something different to survive and ultimately thrive.
Proactive Innovation – Transform Your Products, Services, and Business Models
Every day the world changes. Lately, the degree of change and speed of change has accelerated, as has our uncertainty about how the world will operate post-pandemic (when we get there). With the external pressures on our businesses, we must be proactive and take charge of the transformation our companies need because there is no denying that every business will be changed. Our timestamps will no longer be Before the Common Era (BCE) but Before COVID Era.
Proactive transformation requires an honest assessment of our current state of business. Clarity means we need to talk to our customers, vendors, and employees. We need to look at the local, regional, national, and global economy to access opportunities that we can pivot to pursue. Once we have those opportunities identified, we need to redefine and redesign our organizations to pursue them.
The viability of our companies depends upon finding the right problems to solve and needs to fill. Just as the automakers pivoted to produce respirators and other personal protection equipment needs, we need to look at both short and long-term pivots to generate revenues.
It Begins with Capabilities from the Pandemic
Would your first thought be that an automaker would pivot to manufacture respirators? Probably not. However, as business owners, we need to look at our capabilities and identify how we can rethink and reframe the possible applications of those capabilities. Now is a time to innovate and remove the self- imposed restrictions on what you do, how you do it, and whom you serve. You can define your business as an automotive manufacturer. You can also describe yourself by your capabilities. The automotive manufacturer becomes an innovative manufacturing company that produces complex systems that include: computer, IoT, smart, mechanical, electronic, green, and digital products that include automobiles. This new capability focused perspective opens your organization to a broader range of opportunities.
Transform Via Your Processes, Systems, and People
Today is a great day to identify your business’s core competencies and capabilities. Your analysis should examine your systems, processes, and people. Look at each component of your business individually first. You may want to list every person, piece of equipment, software, and procedures, then do a deep dive into what they can do in and for your business.
Once you have the individual elements identified, look at how you can configure them to do things differently to provide a new service or produce a new product. Perhaps you can move from making products for inventory to on-demand production of small runs of specialized products. Maybe you can team with another business, one of your vendors or a current customer, to leverage each of your company’s capabilities to go after a new market.
Opportunities abound to transform business models to reduce cost, increase flexibility, and solve newly discovered challenges that have been created or uncovered by the COVID pandemic. While the challenges are real, they are not yet fully defined. We do know that business as usual (the way we use to work) isn’t coming back. The pandemic has made many companies realize that they don’t need their teams physically in the office, and they don’t want to travel to do business.
We also know that we need innovation on how we motivate, supervise, and compensate our telecommuting and remote workforces. The business models than arose out of the industrial revolution concerning compensation and other aspects of managing our workforce, vendors, and other stakeholder relations have revealed the opportunities to innovate.
Timeclocks and Other Anachronisms in the Age of Innovation
Many people may disagree with me, but the age of having our professional, salaried workers paid based on time has passed. Yes, there will continue to be time-based relationships within and external to the organization. However, a shift to results-based compensation would align more closely with our business needs. Let’s say I have a website I need built. I have performance and functionality parameters, content and quality requirements to be met including the deadline for it to be up and running. If after establishing all the parameters of the website, it takes my contractor 3 hours or 30 hours to produce the website as long as I get it by the deadline does it matter? Under the time-based compensation where I pay by the hour it matters. If I compensate my contractor for a set amount for the website, it doesn’t matter to my business. On the flip side, as the contractor, I know how much I will earn for the website. You bet it matters to me how long it takes. So I am going to be laser-focused on understanding the requirements, getting it done on time, up to the parameters and standards required.
In my automotive days, I watched the real-world difference between focusing on the time or the product. Under union contracts, the production team had a set number of components to make per hour. Based on the number of hours scheduled, the total production goal was determined. The employees could stick to the contracted hourly production rate, and schedule or they could exceed the per hour amount and push to get the total production quantity produced in the least amount of time. As their supervisor, I couldn’t direct them to exceed the production rate. As a team, they could decide what rate they wanted to work. Their motivation was to get the job done as quickly as possible. Typically, the team would produce a 12-hour shift production target in less than 8 hours. They worked for eight hours flat out, then spent four hours on what I’ll call team building activities.
The importance of being production quantity focused and giving them the discretion to manage production became very apparent one day when a senior-level manager came by our area. He commented that if they had time for team-building, they weren’t working hard enough, and their production goals weren’t high enough. The next day that manager and the entire company learned the difference between focusing on the result or the effort. The team decided to work focused on the hours and not the production targets. The change to an emphasis on production by the hour shut down all the assembly lines and some assembly plants.
Focus on the Outcomes and Results
I think you get the point. We find it convenient and customary to manage time. A time focus tends to fit a project to the time available. A focus on outcomes provides a reward for getting things done faster.
Another example from my corporate life called face time (not the app). Face time was the number of hours you stayed in the office so your management could see you working. It won’t surprise you that I was never good at face time. I wanted to get in get the job done and have a life. While I am not a morning person, I preferred to come in early to have time to get things done without interruption. I also liked to match my work hours with my customers’ schedules.
It became a point of contention between me and management that they didn’t see me in the office the same late hours as my counterparts. The fact that I worked more hours than my peers and was more productive didn’t count. They could measure the productivity differences, but they held on to see me in the office late into the evenings. One day things finally resulted in my direct managers demanding that I stay later and stop coming in early. I had to agree, but it only lasted two days. Because on day three, senior managers (VPs and Directors) called my direct managers to set them straight. They needed my productivity and early schedule to support their programs.
With the Pandemic, Challenge Your Assumptions and Try Something Different
Now is the time to change your perspective, look at other ways to apply your capabilities. Take a different approach to leverage your team and other business assets. From the pandemic, you may find a new niche, new customers, and new ways that make your business more profitable than it has ever been.