COVID-19 has swept the globe, spreading uncertainty and upheaval wherever it goes. These are undoubtedly anxious times, in which leaders are worried about the health of their families and employees, first and foremost, yet are also overwhelmed with business challenges.
This is no ordinary economic downturn: Fundamental changes in consumer behavior, supply chains and routes to market are knocking companies off balance. Suddenly, it’s impossible to forecast and analyze trends. Traditional benchmarks and insights used to manage the business are suddenly obsolete. While uncertainty rules the day, it is possible to take back some control by protecting your company and taking better care than ever of your customers and employees.
"Never normal" might be the new normal as leading companies learn they indeed have the ability to outmaneuver uncertainty in rapid cycles. We have some clear guidelines for what companies can do right now to regain stability and what’s needed to create growth in the future.
Protect your core revenue and take care of your customers now
Although there is no proven playbook for this moment, past crises are instructive. Retention is the first step. The American composer Stephen Sondheim once wrote, "To get what you want, better see that you keep what you have." Listening to and meeting your core customers’ needs is foundational. What sets apart those that will thrive in the aftermath is their ability to anticipate market shifts and react and adapt to new customer needs in real time.
We offer three clear actions for leaders:
Find new growth paths next
The future will belong to the prepared. While it might sound counterintuitive to spend time today identifying the new growth paths, lessons from the past two recessions suggest companies that balanced growth and cost management outperformed their competition in the aftermath.
To be ready for what’s next, prioritize three goals:
Shift your long-term corporate strategy for the never normal
To position their companies for growth in the recovery, leaders are now thinking about disruption more pointedly and are strategizing to make their organizations more resilient and competitive.
As you think to the more distant future, which may not be "business as usual," we encourage you to consider three possible actions:
Make the impossible your guide
We’ve learned "what can be done." Appliance companies and auto manufacturers can design and manufacture ventilators in 10 days, alcoholic beverage companies can produce hand sanitizer, fashion brands can manufacture masks and tobacco companies can support clinical trials to find a cure, all within days and weeks. "What can be done" has been reframed.
We’ve also learned we have the capabilities to innovate, collaborate and succeed at a rate assumed to be impossible. Will we return to 18- or 36-month product lifecycle development processes? How will CEOs react the next time someone says, "that’s impossible"? We cannot unlearn what we’ve learned. It’s up to us to apply these newly revealed capabilities to our business and our lives.