There has been a lot of talk about what the post pandemic world will look like and how it might impact our businesses. Will there be a shift in the way we operate, or will we return to the way we were?

We decided to ask our clients and friends what they are thinking about. This is a summary of their views. It reflects 120 responses to an on-line survey and interviews, but we are not holding this out to be representative of businesses at large; there is no scientific basis to the selection criteria.

Topics selected were drawn from areas that were already being debated prior to the pandemic and included areas that could impact on the way wealth is created over the long-term. We summarise below the average extent of change expected across each business area, against a scale of 1- No change to 10 – Significant change. We should emphasise that there are significant variations in views that are hidden by the average! The study has revealed areas where there is a debate about what might happen in the future and respondents’ reflections from their experience through the pandemic.

 

 

The impact of this work has been varied and often the result has been to create the debate in the businesses of each respondent. Yes, there are areas where organisations are facing similar challenges (remote working, short term survival tactics) but largely each is experiencing their own version of the crisis, depending on several factors:

  • The sector and geographies in which they operate
  • The state of the organisation immediately prior to the crisis
  •  The quality and experience of their leadership
  •  The culture already established within the organisation
  •  The relationships in place with key stakeholders

The survey has raised questions for us, and these have been posed within each section of the report. Whatever the impact the pandemic has had so far, we believe a good discipline will be to consider each of the questions for each of our organisations. These questions are summarised in the appendix.

Early in the crisis, it became clear that a lot of the changes being experienced were trending prior to the pandemic but needed acceleration to respond to the crisis. In this study, remote working and reappraisal of business travel would be examples. Other examples might include the continuing move to on-line retail and the demise of the high street, the replacement of cash by plastic and a requirement for more flexibility in office accommodation. It might be that there are other changes which were evident prior to the pandemic that might now need to be addressed.

What has caught many organisations off guard is the speed at which these changes have appeared. Changes seen on the next 5-10 years horizon have occurred in 5-10 weeks, causing a major organisational development challenge. The impact has questioned:

  • The quality and style of leaders – do they still have the stomach for handling these new conditions?
  • The ability to foresee the future trends
  • The alignment and dynamic of top teams to judge the innovation/risk balance needed to reset and renew
  • The effectiveness of working remotely and having less time/opportunity for social interaction/relationship development.

It’s likely that the virus will be with us for some time to come so waiting for a return to normality is not an option, business leaders need to start taking control.

And there are some areas that may be worthy of further examination:

  • A unified view of reward principles that should apply to wealth creators in what is now being labelled a ‘responsible’ capitalist system. The varied responses in the reward section suggest that this topic might need to be ‘unbundled’ to see what is driving reward systems.
  • A more uniform view on the features of good governance and a wider understanding of the responsibility of boards to be more than to the shareholders. Much debated and the subject of increasingly stringent codes and regulations, but does this need to be better understood outside of the boardroom?

No single answer and no ‘one size fits all’ but questions for each organisation and its leadership to ponder? Yes, there will be an opportunity to reset, but not all will see the need to do so.

The full report is available on request from aglauda@telospartners.com

Telos Partners
1 July 2020

 

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” – George Bernard Shaw.

Let us admit it fairly, as business people should,
We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good
– Rudyard Kipling

 

Telos Partners supports clients in the successful execution of strategy, transformation and the delivery of business potential sustained over time.

 

Appendix

The responses to the survey have created more questions for us and may be worth asking within each organisation. They are summarised below.

The way we operate
With ways of working changing significantly over the past few months, areas for lasting change have been identified.

Questions arising

  • Will these changes remain in a post-pandemic world?
  • Will we revert to office-based working, stay with remote, or seek a blend of both?
  • Will we change the way we interact with different locations? Fewer, but higher quality visits? Reshaped annual conferences?

Building resilience
Planning for adversity is not always easy but it can be done.

Questions arising

  • What level of cash resources do we need to retain to assure successful navigation of a future uninsurable business disruption of, say, three months?
  • How much resilience is there in our workforce? Do we need to plan for support that may be needed in a similar future disruption?
  • How resilient is our supply chain?
  • Are our risk management and mitigation procedures strong enough? Are they visible to our investors and banks?

Being held to account
Now more than ever, organisations need to be seen to be “doing the right thing” for a wider variety of stakeholders.

Questions arising

  • Has the pandemic caused us to focus more on a broader set of stakeholders?
  • Do we need to be more aware of our impact on the environment and our communities?
  • Are there new challenges in caring for the mental and physical wellbeing of our people?

The definition of success
What does success look like for our businesses?

Questions arising

  • While maintaining the need for strong shorter-term performance, will we see more indicators of longer-term success?
  • Will we have more operational measures on people wellbeing? Societal and environmental impact

Rewarding performance
Since Covid-19, the impact on reward has been varied.

Questions arising

  • Are our reward systems fit for purpose? Is there a need/ opportunity post pandemic to look at reward criteria?
  • Does reward need to be aligned with broader success measures or stay with financially driven criteria?

Leading others
There will be very few times when a leader will need to make fast decisions and/or hard decisions. A crisis is one of those times.

Questions arising

  • How well did we perform as leaders during the pandemic?
  • What leadership behaviours proved beneficial during the pandemic? Which will you maintain post-pandemic?
  • Who has demonstrated the potential to step up into more of a leadership role?

Business finance
Having financial stability is a necessity for any business.

Questions arising

  • Will there be a need to review levels of gearing once back to normal (or near normal)?
  • Will there be pressure on cash retention to strengthen resilience?

Board effectiveness/governance
Is there a need for a wider understanding of Board responsibilities?

Questions arising

  • Is there scope to improve the wider understanding of directors’ responsibilities to produce a unified view of what governance should embrace?
  • With governance codes and requirements firmly in place, is there a need to focus on board behaviour (beyond effectiveness reviews)?
Leave a Comment
Return to: Our Thinking