January 2021

Hindsight is 20/20 (Especially From the Year 2020)

Our world as we know it has been changed by COVID-19 but there is also a very real human understanding that as people we have very short memories and the lessons that we take from 2020 can be forgotten far more quickly than one could ever imagine. Let us examine the takeaways we can have from 2020 as far as organizations and businesses are concerned. Let’s look at the top ten items we can learn from 2020.

1.      Examine the business for agility. The ability to adapt to what the situation calls for is necessary when it comes to managing all the aspects of a business. The company has to be flexible to ensure the effectiveness of its actions. Is remote work possible and more efficient? Will the company be able to continue generating revenue? Business agility is the capacity of an organization to adjust rapidly to the changing market dynamics, customer demands, and profitably without compromising quality.

2.      Prepare financially for hard times. Preparedness is one piece of business advice that you may have heard before, but this year has made the need for companies to prepare their business and staff to ensure that they can withstand a crisis more crucial. This way, even if another disaster strikes, the company will have enough “cash” on hand. Pay attention to expenditures, new services, or products and more when building a reserve for rainy days or years. All companies should prepare operations and examine revenue and expenditures for situations similar to lockdowns and quarantines.

3.   Adapt and continue to develop more robust strategies to meet the needs of customers. 2020 led to a reinvention of consumer behavior that has pushed businesses to rethink how they engage their end-users and develop creative ways to sell products. Last year, companies were faced with the question of how consumer behavior has changed, not only in the basic attraction of a product and service but the real sense of need. It also led to more and different ways for services to be provided. Future ways to meet changing customer behavior, need for products, and shopping and delivery methods need to be continually assessed.

4.      Realize we have far less control over our work than we think we do – especially considering pandemics, natural disasters and more. People feel safe if they think they have control of issues and situations. Otherwise, they feel or think things are chaotic and believe chaos is a bad thing. Many times, better efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation come from chaos or change. This is a painful, yet important, lesson in humility about our position in the world. We need to think more about sustainability (and our lack of control) during the tough times when living in the good times.

5.      Explode communication efforts and initiatives. Interaction with others changed in 2020 and we have been forced to find new ways to establish human bonds that did not rely on being in the same physical spaces as one another. Strong clear decision-making and communications, both within organizations and externally with clients and stakeholders, has been fundamental to successful reactions to the pandemic. From moving physical site visits to virtual walk rounds to bids being submitted via microsites instead of in- person, new initiatives are saving time and allowing clients to move at their own pace and time. During the pandemic, many organizations have realized their communications are lackluster and crisis management was non-existent. Start thinking now how communication is essential to your business and build a contingency plan.

6.      Reset and reimagine. While the pandemic is still very much with us, we are starting to see a shift in organizations moving from a reactive mode into one of reflection so to be proactive. They are considering their next moves with the benefit of having been through the pandemic which has enabled them to look at things differently. Leadership in businesses need to retreat to reset and reimagine new dimensions and a refreshed path to reach their vision.

7.      Work as a highly effective team. Cultivating relationships is the key to success. Make a concerted effort to meet with other colleagues and employees. It is important to discuss the direction you are taking, why you are taking it, and why it will ultimately benefit you and the business. Then it is just as important to hear the team’s ideas and input. Trust, the basis of relationships and teamwork, is not just given; it must be earned. The only way trust exists is by developing solid interpersonal relationships. Create new relationships and develop your current team bonds to ensure the relationships are trusting, accountable and committed when you hit tough times.

8.      Examine productivity. The true nature of workforce productivity came to the forefront during 2020. Working from home revealed how many distractions there are in the office, according to several research studies. Many respondents found themselves more productive in their home environment without the interruptions they had in a physical office. Some of these practices that will stay include businesses being more trusting and empowering of employees (53%), managers increasing flexible working hours (49%), virtual teams working across locations and departments (38%), and agile teams forming and disbanding around specific activities (37%). Tele commuting or working remotely will remain (62%). It is very apparent that people can be productive when not in a typical office. It is apparent that most employees still meet performance levels during tough times. Productivity and performance depend on the organization culture you currently have. 

9.      Invest in technology. We have all seen that having technology in place with employees trained to use it may have been the difference between seamlessly shifting to remote work and lagging. Many smaller, local retailers and restaurants were caught off-guard by the pandemic. Where they should have been ready to serve online customers and provide delivery and curbside pickup services to keep afloat, they instead had to play catch up.  Prepping for the future includes making sure your organization is ready to meet demand.

Sharleen Smith photo

Sharleen Smith
Director, Continuing Education and Outreach
Troy University                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           334-983-0005