The situation that we are in right now is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. The COVID -19 world is truly representing what we call in management terms a VUCA world. Well, the term VUCA, seems to be originally coined by the US Army during the disintegration of the USSR about thirty years ago. Times like these have truly changed how we meet, greet, communicate, travel, buy, sell, procure and our perspective of life.
But at the same time, we as human beings we have always chosen to grow to evolve. Because we have the capacity to imagine, think and create. Right from creating fire to the stone wheel to steam engines to cars to airplanes to rockets to computers to robots to Mangalyaan to Chandrayaan we as human beings seem to have infinite potential. From scared nomads living in caves to fearless explorers wanting to settle on new planets. So even in this situation we have chosen to fight, to change, to grow and to evolve.
We are no astrologers or Crystal ball gazers to predict what is going to happen next, but as we move from survival mode in lock down to defining exit strategies for co-existence, we can attempt to analyse the current situation and prepare ourselves for the future. With this positive mindset, we have to quickly adapt our business to the changing times.
So, what’s changing, and what are businesses doing in this situation?
The current situation has resulted in businesses and people adopting technology like never before. We have actually accelerated ourselves by at least a year on the technology roadmap. Most CIOs, must have had their enterprise digital transformation agenda approved and adopted in the last three months. We have seen during the lockdown that businesses that were Digital first had very little impact on their operations. Banks, Financial Services, Stock Markets, IT companies, Insurance organizations were able to leverage their digital assets and shift to online modes of operation to serve their customers. Basic IT infrastructure, laptops, networks, cloud solutions, security and of course internet will be part and parcel of any business. Business on Digital is the new normal. Businesses will need to efficiently and effectively adopt and leverage technology to survive.
In past, we have seen that changes in the socio-political-economic environment have resulted in businesses diversifying themselves to survive. In such situations, businesses have identified their core capability and gone back to the drawing boards to come up with new offerings, new operating models and new delivery models. We have seen the case of Fuji Films which survived while Kodak perished. Similarly, now too, businesses are changing. Take the example of Media & Entertainment industry. While cinema halls remain shut for public, the industry has chosen to leverage the online digital platforms. Many of the recent Hollywood as well as Bollywood movies have been premiered online. Also, with the customer shifting to online platforms, many mainstream actors, producers and directors have also shifted to online media (web series). Hotels are proposing to covert to Quarantine Homes and train their staff on nursing, sanitization and first aid. Many alcohol, chemicals and paints manufacturers have shifted to manufacturing sanitizers using their core raw materials. Others have leveraged their raw material components to manufacture mask, hosepipes, bed covers, tubes, bottles. Business will need to think out-of-the-box to diversify and survive.
Work From Home (WFH) has been a new find for many traditional organizations who believed that work can only be done from office premises. Most of the businesses have adopted this model. While there are pros and cons, businesses have been able to operate successfully using this model. This has also led to businesses thinking about leveraging the WFH model for driving their cost optimization strategies and improving operating margins. A large Indian IT company has made WFH as the foundation of its so called 2025 mission wherein seventy five percent of its work force will be on the WFH model. Businesses are revisiting their policies and procedures to implement the WFH model. While it may not be possible to have a hundred percent WFH model, we are definitely going to see a hybrid. Alongside on-premise and WFH employees, business will also have contractual workers, freelancers (gig workers) and machines due to the agile nature of work assignments. Along with professional relationships there is a lot of emphasis on Trust based relationships horizontally and vertically in the organization. This Trust based relationship also extends to Suppliers and Customers. So, the definition, construct and composition of workplace and it’ associated relationships is definitely changing!
As businesses diversify, newer operating models come to fore and nature of work is becoming more agile, organization structures are also being revisited. Management is re-imagining the organization units, questioning the relevance of existing reporting hierarchies and re-designing teams to align with the needs to the future. While we expect normalcy to return in a few months’ time, not all resources will be available from day1. The pandemic is in various stages across the world. There have been people who have been impacted, who have migrated and those who will never return. There will be a gap between required and available. This requirement is expected to be fulfilled in a staggered manner. Also, social distancing is a norm now. Shift Rosters, Breaktimes and Attendance policies will need to be reworked to avoid overcrowding. Workplaces will need to be redesigned to incorporate social distancing norms – more space and real estate may be required. Businesses will have to rethink how they acquire, develop, deploy and utilize talent and resources.
The COVID19 situation has taught tough lessons to not only us as individuals but also as a society, community, society and country. It has taught us how to manage technology, human resources, finance, education, routine operations in times that have never known before. These learnings will be incorporated as reforms, compliance requirements and new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Laws regarding Healthcare, Safety and Wellness at workplace will see revision post the COVID19 era. With WFH, there will be new reforms on work timings, data security & privacy, travel and transportation. Compliances to Social distancing, regular health monitoring and maintenance of hygiene standards will be required from businesses. With governments doling out economic recovery packages, there will requirements to report the leverage of these packages by businesses. We will be entering into a new world of compliances centred around human welfare.
Businesses will have to prepare themselves for the above changes if they not only want to survive but also have a competitive advantage. Challenges bring opportunities and opportunities bring growth. India still has the ability to achieve it’ dream of being a $5 trillion economy. With the current situation giving rise to a new low in the US-China relationships, India is expected to gain. Many companies who are currently having their global supply chain bases in China may look to move out. India seems to be their next and preferred destination. With the right political will and leadership India may be in the right solar storm to accelerate its economy through many light years!