In 2020, uncertainty rippled through the world economy, causing radical shifts in the behaviours of organisations. New ways of work were implemented overnight. Business models were shredded and rebuilt. Lives were upended – mine included.
Until 2020, as the CEO of a global management consultancy, my life was a hectic round of flights, meetings, hotel rooms and more flights. I was on a different continent every week!
Lockdowns changed that. I ended up staying in Kuala Lumpur instead of returning to London when they started.
As a result, I have not been on a plane in the last 11 months and I have been running the company from a laptop in an apartment here.
Interestingly, I found that without the constant travel, I had more time to think and figure strategy out, which I could only do in fits and starts before. It allowed me to take a deep look at the business to see how we can improve. As a result, the firm is on a mission to transform itself. I am sure that if not for the lockdowns, this wouldn’t have occurred.
I believe many businesses had the same opportunity to reflect on how they can do things better.
For many companies, the first step for survival in 2020 was cash conservation. With no clear view of when the unpredictability would end, businesses cut their capital expenditures (CaPEX) to the bare minimum. Expansion and growth plans were put on hold and costs were pared to the bone. Those were the first actions taken by most businesses globally to manage risk.
Fortunately, a vaccine is now available and there’s hope that things will improve. Once mass vaccination gets underway, I believe there will be an enormous hunger for businesses to grow and transform.
The thirst to grow
In my conversations with CEOs around the world, many realise that if they don’t change or accelerate that change, they will be left behind.
I think there is pent up demand for CaPEX spend, expansion plan execution and overall transformation. The plans that were shelved in 2020 will be dusted off, which should result in the post-vaccinated world growing at a higher-than-normal rate. I have seen this first-hand.
A client of mine, one of the world’s largest logistics companies, put all their expansion plans on hold (they wanted to build new infrastructure and invest in new transport companies) in 2020 because of the fear of the unknown. Now, they are back with a vengeance, taking over infrastructure and developing opportunities rapidly to be ahead of the market as there is more clarity for the future.
This year, the challenge for most companies is to accelerate transformation and to implement them successfully. Many companies can make significant gains if they answer the following questions:
How efficient are our processes?
COVID-19 forced many companies to operate out of the box. As a result, many flaws surfaced, some of which resulted in lost business.
Scrutinise inefficiencies and fix them. Optimise your operations and enhance productivity, and you’d be able to optimally use your resources to help your organisation gain a competitive advantage.
Will our transformation initiatives reap the right benefits?
In 2020, organisations that successfully embraced transformation (including the adoption of new digital channels) sprinted ahead and grabbed market share, leaving behind competitors who were scrambling to adapt.
This year, transformation efforts should continue, but there’s a rising urgency to implement them successfully and quickly.
While the keys to successful implementation lies in many factors, companies can begin the journey by being clear on:
- How the transformation initiative will benefit the company’s goals and vision
- How to communicate the why, when, what and how of the transformation to the workforce
How can we refine our remote working efficiency and productivity?
Remote working will be around for some time, even after vaccinations happen. According to a Gartner, Inc. survey of 317 CFOs and finance leaders, 74% of companies planned to permanently shift to more remote work post COVID-19.
No doubt, many lessons were learned from working remotely in 2020. This is a good opportunity to use these lessons to refine digitalised processes and workflows to empower your distributed workforce to work more efficiently remotely.
How do we establish a culture of continuous improvement in our organisation?
The ability to transform as an organisation quickly and efficiently will be one of the most valuable capabilities a company can build this year.
I find that organisations with a culture of innovation have a proactive workforce that is unafraid of failure. Instead, they view setbacks as a way to move towards a better direction.
Empowering your employees to be unafraid of failure and take calculated risks may sound, well, risky, but when workers realise that experiments are encouraged and out-of-the-box thinking is welcomed, the organisation will be better for it in the long run.
The way forward
As difficult as 2020 was, there are many opportunities to be had in 2021. But companies must be ready to grab them. The mission for organisations this year, if they want to succeed, is to build back better.
I leave you with a question to ponder on: How can your company be agile, resilient and innovative enough to gain the competitive edge in this ever-evolving world?
Krishna Paupamah has worked with companies globally to transform their business for over 35 years. He is the Founder and Group CEO of Renoir Consulting. He can be reached at [email protected].