Bruce McAlpineLeadership

5 Questions We Must Ask Coming Out of Lock-Down

By June 17, 2020No Comments

Quoting Winston Churchill from the attached McKinsey & Co. article, Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”  We are now coming out of the COVID 19 lock-down, slowly, and in different ways depending on our locations.  As leaders we must survey the landscape, assess the damage, and seize the opportunities presenting themselves to rebound as quickly as possible.  We know that the “Old Normal” will not be the “New Normal”.

A good starting point is to ask ourselves and our teams the following 5 questions.  You may wish to tackle the first 4 questions one at a time in weekly team meetings over the next month.

  1. Looking back over the last 3 months, what has changed in our business environment?

Here, we need to ask ourselves questions like the following:

– How have our customers changed the way they buy?  For example, if our customers are now preferring to purchase remotely without face to face interface and we are offering high-touch customized products or services, how have we adjusted our customer nurturing approach?

– How have our competitors reacted to changes in the market?

– How have we had to adapt (supply chain, marketing, business development, technology, office space usage, finance, staff levels etc.)?

  1. What will return to the “Old Normal” and what changes will become permanent?

Here we need to take time to expand on the previous question, asking questions like:

– What parts of our business model will return to the “Old Normal”?

– What changes that we have made (or need to make) will permanently become part to the “New Normal”?

– How can we optimize both the old and the new methods of conducting our business?

  1. Where will the new opportunities come from?

Here we explore marketplace opportunities through questions like the following:

– Is this a time for restructuring, acquisitions, sale or closure of a business unit?

– Is geographic expansion viable?

– Is the market calling for new products/services or product line extensions?

– Do we need to explore other options like new channels to market, new supply chains, or new uses of technology?

  1. Where will the new threats come from?

Here we try to identify potential threats to our business model by asking ourselves questions like the following:

– Will our move to virtual workplaces and home offices increase our exposure to cyber attacks?

– Will our move to virtual workplaces and home offices reduce our employee loyalty?

– What macro-environmental threats can we anticipate, like changes in legislation, extended recession, tighter credit restrictions, etc.?

  1. How will we implement these changes?

Finally, once we have digested the above factors and implications, we need to get down to implementation.  Here we will need to address the following:

– How will we prioritize our new initiatives?

– How will we finance them, balancing cash-flow and profitability factors?

– Who will be responsible for each change project?

– How will we measure success?

More than ever, a bias to action is essential, which will frequently mean getting comfortable with uncertainty and disagreement.

The path ahead will surely have ups and downs, but we must not let this detract us from thoughtfully moving forward.  It is crucial to have aspirations and plans about the post-COVID world, but be sure to build in the resilience and flexibility necessary to make them a reality.

For a more detailed look at how to plan for the future of your business, you may appreciate this article from McKinsey & Company, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/coronavirus-15-emerging-themes-for-boards-and-executive-teams#

Bruce McAlpine is President of Fulcrum Search Science Inc., a Toronto-based executive search firm solving Mission-Critical hiring challenges throughout North America, and Past President of the Association of Canadian Search, Employment & Staffing Services.  Contacts: bruce.mcalpine@fulcrumsearchscience.com or 416.779.8505