COVID-19 has shaken our old beliefs and started us on many new paradigms. With social distancing and remote working, many long-established norms for business meetings, decision making and working together are no longer relevant. A new normal is being set in place. Across the world, governments are taking steps to help businesses stay afloat so that the sources of livelihood do not get disrupted in a major way. These developments are impacting the way consumers buy products and services; hence, manufacturers and service providers are revamping the ways they design, develop and deliver their products and services. These changes do not seem short-lived because the virus hasn’t lost its way yet; neither the humankind has found a sure way of winning over it. Hence, this is a point in time when companies need to bring in a transformative agenda!
Keeping the current state in mind, we have to crystal-gaze and form our own picture of the future. We have to revalidate our vision given our view of the future. This reality applies to all businesses; one could be a baker, a florist, a grocer or running a business with multi-million turnover. Normally we are tempted to apply a patch hastily and keep going with many course-corrections along the way. That’s a natural reaction.
However, COVID-19 being a major event in our lifetime, we need a complete review of our thoughts and a revamped vision. We need to ask if our raison d’être is still relevant for the humankind. Many businesses have gone away from certain countries either because imports and substitutes were cheaper and easily available or the products and services were no longer relevant.
Airlines, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, malls, media, places of worship, retail and many such industry sectors need to retool and revamp their vision for the journey ahead. They need to ask of themselves what unique values they create; if the methods of value creation are still relevant and their practices need any change. Do they need to make some changes in their identity in the eyes of their stakeholders?
This is the time to think about incorporating greater automation and introduction of new technologies such as blockchain, IoT, robotics, mixed reality and artificial intelligence. Everything said and done, leaders have to co-create the vision with the employees and make it aspirational. No amount of automation can replace leadership abilities and practices of the human beings running the enterprise.
This is a good opportunity to take a pause and review the practices on the ground. A day in business, as usual, must conform to the vision and fulfil the ambitions of the enterprise. For example, technology is ubiquitous now and must be an enabler of our vision and hence, the work processes must reflect the use of technology. We have seen digital commerce companies invest energy and attention on their platforms facing customers, but for the company’s day to day governance, internal systems and processes do not receive a similar level of investment. While shaping the future of an organisation, we have to strengthen the internals as well as make the external offerings robust. Technology has to enhance productivity and help the enterprise stay agile in adapting to the changes in the environment.
Financial capital is another important enabler for the future. We need the best effort going in this domain. The transformative agenda needs investments and a close watch to ensure we are making progress on this agenda. Most often, the CFO partners with the CEO and the top managers in making this critical gear turn and generate the results for the future.
Going by the kind of workforce we hire, our organisations need to be structured around quick decision-making, high transparency and analytics of the critical business processes. Talent is not easily available; hence, organisations have to seize every opportunity of building a strong employer brand in the minds of the talent pool.
Apart from technology, finance and operations, we need a future-proof talent strategy. Competencies such as collaborative working, continuous learning and an undying spirit of continual improvement are the golden traits. Talent with these competencies is going to future-proof the organisation.
We have seen companies like Amazon committing 700 M USD for up-skilling their workforce of nearly 100K; similarly, Walmart Pathways as a program shows Walmart’s commitment of 2B USD for wages and training. Accelerated learning of new skills for the existing workforce is the way forward. And at the same time, companies have to infuse talent with specific expertise from outside and learn to manage the disruptions produced by the infusion of talent from multiple sources.
Shaping the future of an organisation is undoubtedly an exciting challenge for all of us interested in pursuing excellence.
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