What is COVID-19 Teaching Us

Two major lessons we have learnt in the last 4 months; we as humans do not have total control and dominion over our environment and that we need to look after each other. Are there some, if any, trying to go back the pseudo-comfortable, non-sustainable, non-agile pre-covid era?

Yes, business will return as it always has, some will have been in the right place and the right mindset, with the right product/service to make the most of a catastrophe, for the rest of us it is not so good. The question is, what has been learnt and are we putting these learnings into practice. Are we evolving as people, as businesses and societies to manage this return to business.

There will be a huge number of specific lessons for businesses but with a broad brush I propose that we should, as businesses, have learnt some generic, wide reaching lessons and be taking actions to update our processes and policies to reflect the new normal. The obvious ones that comes to mind:

  • How do we keep velocity up in the decision-to-implementation process? We had a LOT of noise and extended project time within business, with the discussions, budgeting, planning and execution. Yet when time was seen as critical because of the situation we got things over the line in months instead of years.
  • Have all the contracts been reviewed and updated for new, realistic and versatile SLAs/KPIs, termination triggers and with flexibility to cover unexpected events.
  • Have alternative sourcing protocols been instigated. Have supply lines been reviewed for potential outages and solutions agreed with suppliers.
  • BCP (Business Continuity Plans) – this is the document that for so long was only given lip-service. So… has a BCP been drafted and in place, covering many, broad scenarios.
  • Have HR and WHS policies and systems been put in place that will ensure the safety and welfare yet effectiveness of all employees. Is WFH a new paradigm within the business? Has the working “space” been reviewed?
  • Cyber-tech. Any lessons here? Was software and hardware adequate (also the current trend for security breaches must be included). Did you manage without issues? Is this area a major part of your new BCP – what happens if there was a software COVID, a major, self-propagating virus that had no “vaccine” yet far more contagious than we have seen to date (rest assured, someone will be working on designing one). Most could recover but the outcome for too many could be fatal.
  • Psychological impacts and fallout from a major incident how are they going to be handled and addressed. People will be anxious and more focused on self-preservation (jobs and lives). Will there be an avoidance of risk, will this add value or limit the ability of your business to survive. Plus, the fallout will not just included employees, there will be multiple stresses placed on everyone within society, including suppliers, customer and investors. All will now have their own priorities.

Those are some of the lessons that I can quickly think of to date, there will be more as the economy improves for as history shows, the economy will not return like the slow turning of a tap, it will come in surges and waves.

So you survived the initial downturn, do you have systems and people in place who can work with agility and velocity to keep up with a variable, unknown return.

There will be changes in all areas of life, especially now as we have a second wave of COVID-19 rolling through many countries, reinforcing the fact that we are not as invincible as we thought and yet we are capable of stepping up when we have too.

Overall lesson: do we now know HOW and WHEN to step up.

Innovation – Fueled by failure, driven by success.

I am currently reading a book called “Innovation – the Attacker’s Advantage” by Richard Foster, although written and purchased a while ago (1980’s), it is still very interesting reading now that we can  travel back to the future, and still pertinent.

Another very good article on Innovation is from Stanford Graduate School of Business on why failure is considered a good thing:  Why Failure Drives Innovation.

My personal observations are that people of Mind set-1 (see Why Failure Drives Innovation)  rely on systems and procedures to improve what they have in an attempt to continue the success they once had.  Yes the tools such as 5S and six sigma and TQM and Lean and …..etc,   all add value to the process of improving quality and  reducing costs.

But it is the innovators, those that Baba Shiv calls Mind set-2, who are the ones that bring real success.   Improving what you have to the Nth degree is all fine and good and does save plenty of pennies. But this is neither sustainable nor effective in the long run – refer to Richard Foster’s  S-Curve pertaining to Performance vs Effort (funds).

Take land transport:  although humans have used the horse and donkey for a long time it was not until the invention of the wheel around 4,000-3,500 years ago when things really got moving, especially with the advent of the cart and chariot around 3,500 years ago.  But things remained slow for a couple of millennium, yes they improved the carts and wagons but they were still limited by the technology of the time. Then came steam during the 18th century and mass transportation began, people and goods being moved all over the country – but restricted to the rail corridor.  The next leap forward was the invention of the internal combustion engine by an innovator called Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir – although the automobile was not patented until 1890’s.  And now, we have car  companies improving the effectiveness, efficiency and aesthetics of the automobile but they are still pretty much the same.  The next leap forward is the introduction of the electric car and levitating train.

As you can see, the periods between innovation are getting shorter. But innovation is at all levels, in all industries and in all countries, it is the Innovators who are making the jump, building the bridges to the future, the rest follow, some with eagerness while some dragged and screaming and the rest blindly.

Me, well I can’t wait for the strap-on, Personal Anti-gravity Commuter vehicle. Now that’s a back-pac!