Managing change as a COO

Insights created to navigate the operational challenges which COVID presents

The recent report published by the World Economic Forum, highlighted the 10 risks which would create global impact in 2020, with infectious diseases, cyberattacks and natural disasters featuring in the list.

Three months into the year and the world has already received a seismic shock with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused mass-disruption and uncertainty.

Transmission of the virus continues to expand, with a burgeoning effect on the healthcare, aviation, leisure and energy sectors to name a few, with significant impact on businesses projected to remain over a prolonged period.

As businesses are compelled to realign their processes and operating models to navigate the pandemic, there will be several aspects which may have a lasting effect on the way we live and work, once we re-adjust around the world, these are explored further:

Digital workforce

In general, businesses across MENA have not widely accepted flexible working models, however as we are now required to work differently, business leaders and owners have an opportunity to test the model, its impact and overall effect on employee morale.

Virtual working models have proven to have a positive impact on work-life balance and productivity levels. As businesses continue to address the needs of its clients and wider market through the adoption of virtual working, we may see flexible & remote working on the rise, along with embracing the real rise of the gig-economy, which to date has been a concept which businesses have been grappling with.

As businesses re-adjust their talent models, they will need be more open to flexible working, particularly as employees may struggle to regress back to the traditional working pattern of being physically present and available from 9-6pm. Leaders will need to consider tapping into global resources virtually, which may address talent gaps, whilst safeguarding future such pandemics.

Refocusing on what matters

Working away from teams can often be alienating, it is therefore important for leaders to understand the need for wellness and mental health management of human capital, which will become a core focus for business leaders and management teams. This becomes increasingly important as virtual working comes into practice more widely and beyond the pandemic control measures.

The current period is providing much needed time and space to stop, think and act on the way we have been living and working. The drastic need to reorder diaries may become a permanent fixture during the working week, where time is ringfenced to ‘think’, whilst virtual meetings increase and travel times reduce.

Businesses will continuously reframe their priories and plans as opposed to bi-annual planning, particularly as the world experiences such seismic events, that require a more agile and responsive strategy.

Robust and progressive planning

Businesses have been tested to their capacity in respect of reengineering their business processes for sudden change. Many will have identified the vulnerabilities in their business continuity plans, whilst other businesses may rush to develop such plans. Either way, the need for regular robust planning will take effect, with the need for such being further highlighted in recent weeks.

These plans will move beyond business operations to focus on real global risks which we have been neglecting that appear now to be realities, these risks include climate change, a breakdown in global communication channels, natural disasters and the return of COVID in its varying forms.

Leaders will realign their focus beyond the profits of their business to planning and managing for frequent and unpredictable crises, which have the ability to impact their people, business and operations.

Trading off fixed operating costs for investments

Fixed costs such as offices and resources will be reconsidered in order to build a flexible future business which can weather global uncertainty. This would require businesses to enter into SME and P-2-P partnerships in order to build and invest in innovation which will provide agility and rapid response for any future challenges.

Digital communication and virtual engagement will become a key priority for businesses, with investment being placed in channels which allow organisations to remain connected real-time and in critical mass with their clients and virtual workers.

The current short-term adjustment will highlight several vulnerabilities, which will require businesses to consider their tech-transformation effort to date, along with investing in the necessary infrastructure and tech-talent, in order to keep the business moving forward without minimal disruption in the future.

In conclusion, businesses will need to prepare for rapid recovery, with consideration being given to the changes which the pandemic will leave behind. COOs need to move beyond the continuity planning phase and now consider the aspects required to manage the reboot phase, where people will be reintegrated back into work and where supply chains, partnerships and clients will each require engagement strategies.

11 The evolving working model
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