Navigating The Unknown With Resilience, Innovation and Agility

Navigating The Unknown With Resilience, Innovation and Agility

The world has suddenly been plunged into an unforeseen crisis. When it started to pan out in China in December 2019, it seemed far away and remote, and many of us were relatively confident that it would be contained just as it was with Bird Flu, SARS and Ebola. little did we know that most countries, particularly the advanced ones, were ill-prepared for a pandemic and that the kind of devastation being experienced across the world could happen.

We are where we are today, and we begin to ask how do we move from here to there?  As business owners our first thought is how to ride through this, and not only survive but come out strong.

More than ever, this is the time to be Resilient, Innovative and Agile.

Resilience is having the ability and capacity to go through a difficult situation and come out strong.  To survive in this time, you need to be resilient.   

Being Agile is possessing the ability to adapt to change quickly, take decisions, implement them and understand that failure is part of the process. It is also a time to come up with innovative solutions to move ahead.

At a time when there is so much uncertainty, no one seems to have a firm grasp of  what is going on, you have to lead with what you have as well as your instincts , you will have to keep forging ahead and be willing to change. 

A resilient and agile mindset, asking questions and working through the answers will help you navigate through this period.  Below are six things you can do:

Be Positive, Do Not Panic – we are all in this together and panic is the last thing you want to do. It’s affecting the whole world but one way or the other we will get through it. It’s tough, but we are still here and therefore, we have hope for a better tomorrow. It is time to roll up our sleeves, put on our “out-of-the-box” thinking cap and begin to make changes.

Remember, when the going gets tough the tough get going -Do not let fear in as that could paralyze you. You can listen to the news to get just enough information to know how to move forward.

Do not dwell on the negative, look at the pandemic with a holistic approach – it’s global, there are 7 billion people on earth, solutions are coming in at a fast rate, social distancing and testing are working, more people are recovering than dying,  we will make it, we will survive and thrive at the end of this.

Set up a Crisis Management Team   – In a time of crisis, you need a group that will drive your business response to the events. This could be a small group comprising of 2 -10 people, depending on the size of your business.  The first thing is to look at is Business Continuity. If you have a business continuity plan, it’s time to pull it out and implement the relevant aspects of the plan.

However, the plan may not cover some of the issues presented by the pandemic as most likely this type of crisis was not considered.  Whether you have an existing plan or not, you need to ask questions.

The key questions here are focused on customers and employees, without whom there will be no business.

How can you continue to operate during this shutdown?  

What key products and services have been affected?

How are your customers affected?

Are you still able to provide services expected to your customers?

Do you have the right infrastructure to see you through this period?

Do you need to move some assets and investments around?  

How are your employees faring?  

What can you do to help with their well-being, safety, and other needs?

Do you have the tools for them to work from home?   

What is your financial state?

Where do you need to cut costs?

Do you operate a lean model temporarily?

What services can go remote?  

Through this exercise, you will be able to quickly identify some key steps you need to take and define the action steps and assign responsibility. You also need to identify some key parameters that are fundamental to your business survival and ensure you review them consistently throughout this period.

Set up an Innovation team – This is the time to think out-of-the-box – either by innovating existing services or creating new ones. Stay at home, Social Distancing etc. have resulted in much wider use of technology.

Review your products and services and determine the direction you need to go in being innovative:

What products or services have been impacted?

Is there a service you can still offer your clients remotely?

How can you leverage technology in these times?

Ask – If I were to change my service / delivery model and make it more technology-oriented, how would that help?  In your industry what are the essential needs?

Do you have products or infrastructure that can help meet certain needs in high demand due to the pandemic? For example, some factories have dropped their core products and started producing face masks and ventilators. Some grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers have quickly strengthened their Ecommerce models so that customers’ needs can still be met through online purchases.   

Review your strategy for the year – In the context of this pandemic what is relevant? What does not make sense anymore? Which services can you continue to provide? What needs to go to the cooler for now. Do a SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunities Threat) analysis in this VUCA (Vulnerable Uncertain Complex Agile) time. 

How can you move through the year and be relevant and thrive beyond the now? Tweak, revise and adapt to be more relevant today. Remember you must have an agile mindset and be ready to adapt continuously as the economic environment continues to change.

Read, Learn and Share – Knowledge at this time of ambiguity and so many unknowns help. Join discussion groups, read articles, attend Webinars and share your knowledge as well. One mustn’t fill oneself with negative things, only solutions and things that will help your business and others move forward.

Collaborate, Get involved and Give – If you are a small business or a large one, this is the time to collaborate with other organisations or someone else in your industry or related business. Two are stronger than one. Explore collaboration to deliver a service or product.

Is there anything you can give back to customers, frontline health or essential services companies/workers or even the vulnerable in our society?  This calls for joint efforts and seeks opportunities to collaborate with other organisations to make you stronger – educate others and give back.

This is an unprecedented crisis. Even though the Spanish flu pandemic occurred in 1918, one would not imagine that a century later, with all the technological advancements, the world would be unprepared for another pandemic. The possibility seemed so remote and we didn’t pay adequate attention across the world.

However, we are in this now and we need to forge ahead. No one has all the answers, no one has been there, everyone is predicting the future partly from past events like the 2018 recession, 9/11, and scientific models. These, however, are only part of the equation.

Therefore, we all have an opportunity to be part of the solution. Ask yourself what tools and resources you currently have, what you can learn from what is going on; put these together, look inwards, trust your instincts, be ready to take risks to navigate through these uncharted waters.

You must remember that if you fail, you should fail fast (don’t stay there), look for ways to improve and try again, because failure is the path that will ultimately yield success.

I believe this pandemic is an opportunity for everyone to be more innovative, creative, adapt to change quickly, be more sensitive to the needs of others, be generous, and ultimately come out stronger and together we can make the world a better place.

Business Etiquette and the fate of the handshake

Business Etiquette and the Fate of the Handshake

As a result of the ravaging effects of the COVD-19 pandemic and considering the anecdotal projections by U.S medical experts suggesting that social distancing may extend till 2022, the ubiquitous handshake is under a serious threat of extinction.

Except for a few countries where handshaking is regarded as culturally offensive, the handshake in business settings is historically an indication of the amicable completion of a business transaction or agreement.

Rarely would you attend a business etiquette training without the facilitator taking participants through the techniques of a good handshake. This, we have learnt repeatedly, would help to make a strong first impression and coupled with other desirable etiquette practices and excellent negotiation skills would ensure the deal is sealed.

Will the handshake, a globally accepted mode of greeting simply disappear in the face of the current pandemic? Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker opined in a recent CNN interview that, “it is safe to say that the handshake may be doomed if the current contagion continues.”

Furthermore one of the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci made bold to suggest that “we may never shake hands again” which pre-supposes that other acceptable modes of greeting and concluding transactions which do not involve skin to skin contact may eventually replace the handshake.

Time, of course, will tell but human beings have short memories. We all recall the sudden national rise to super hygiene practices that trailed the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. Hand sanitizers surfaced overnight in offices and many public areas and the ubiquitous handshake was quickly replaced by the elbow touching Ebola handshake.  

These practices did not stand the test of time as they quickly disappeared post-Ebola.  Five years later, we have joined the world to revamp the same hygiene practices and mode of greeting that was predominantly peculiar at the time to the African countries ravaged by the Ebola virus.

One could argue that, had the Ebola and other recent viruses impacted the world as COVID-19 has done, perhaps the hygiene and social distancing practices that have rendered the handshake unwelcome may have stood the test of time.

The Spanish flu in 1918 is the only other virus that could be akin to COVID-19 in terms of its impact on the entire world, albeit with far greater quantitative impact than CoVID-19. One can only wonder if the handshake would still exist today, had medical experts at the time ventured to recommend its abolishment as part of the measures to curb the spread of that pandemic.

What implications does all this have for HR practitioners and business etiquette practices?

 I foresee significant cultural transitions occurring in the near future in the manner in which businesses will be conducted and in our human interactions in general.

Apart from the obvious increase in the reliance on digital technology as a means of business communication, we may begin to see in the Western world, the adoption of Asian cultural greetings  – clasped hands or bowed heads, but without the subservient implications that sometimes underlie their styles of greeting.

Social distancing will become buzz words in our business and social etiquette dictionary as these will become the expected norm for proper human interactions.

This is the time to revamp training curricula in line with the current global realities and in line with what has become the new norm.

Bola Adeniyi-Taiwo