Changing with the times

In today’s guest blog, Beth Graves advises on the four things to do to successfully adapt during the Covid-19 crisis.

Our environment plays a crucial role in an organisation’s success. Pollution, climate change, and global warming are just a few of the environmental hot topics we hear about today. But, the definition of environment in a business sense is broad. It includes the competitive landscape, the industry, and regulatory issues. It includes company culture, values and human resources. It is all those internal and external factors that affect how well our organisations function.

The entire world experienced an environmental change because of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is not one single organisation that has gone untouched. As a result, leaders are calling for adaptation. Many have adapted by way of remote work, supplier diversification, and the use of new technologies. These are necessary changes that needed to take place to realign the changes the pandemic brought on. Since Covid-19 changed the business environment on a worldwide scale, all organisations must be thinking about how to further adapt to the new environment in which we live and work. While it is crucial to adapt as a result of crisis, many wonder how this is done successfully. But first, it might be helpful to understand why it is necessary to adapt.

Adaptation aligns organisations with the environment

While many of us are starting to emerge from our homes, it’s captivating to look back at the events that have unfolded because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many are considering it the greatest challenge humans have faced since the Second World War, even though in this century alone, the world has experienced at least six pandemics.

To stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, most affected countries have either urged their citizens to stay home or banned them from leaving their homes. Although the impact has varied across the world, not one single sector has gone unharmed. And even for our industry, where food and beverage can consumption has increased as a result, we are not immune to the impacts of the volatile supply chain, as well as the changing viewpoints about global supplier reliance.

Amid the disruptions to business, we also cannot ignore the emotions that result from those we have lost because of this pandemic, as well as the enormous social challenges that have affected the entire human population. There is no question that the global business environment has changed. This change requires us to adapt because most-likely, we are no longer aligned with the environment in which we do business.

In some industries, such as retail and consumer electronics, environmental changes are constant. As a result, organisations within these industries are constantly changing and adapting themselves to match their ever-changing environment. For relatively stable industries like ours where constant fluctuation is atypical, environmental changes because of global pandemics present major challenges. But as organisational leaders, we must have the ability “to look at chaos and find the pathways through it,” to build our organisations to not only withstand change, but support it. Therefore, we must constantly seek environmental alignment by adapting. Companies that are properly aligned with their environment are better able to navigate challenging times and ultimately succeed.

The Four Elements of Adaptation

Now that we better understand why we must adapt; we will dig into how to adapt.

Time to Think Strategically: From the moment I started to hear governments talking about a “stay at home order”, I was personally set on a frenzy of activity. I worked on our remote-work plan. I created a staggered staffing schedule. I checked inventory and then double-checked it. I reached out to customers asking for plans and responded to their inquiries as well.

But in all this frenzy, I forgot how important it was to stop and think about strategy. Strategic thinking is the process of finding alternative ways to continue to deliver customer value. The path leaders choose to navigate their organisations through crisis plays an important role in the success of the organisation. Engaging in strategic leadership essentially starts by thinking. When dealing particularly with ambiguity and chaos, as would be accurate of the environment in which we find ourselves, it is often necessary to think about the problem to see the way through it. It’s challenging to adapt unless we slow down and take some time to think strategically.

Consider culture: As leaders, we are responsible for the culture in which we create. In my company, we are a tight knit group of individuals who care for each other. As a result, we all work very well together and that radiates to our customers. Other organisations may have a different sort of culture: some are competitive, while others are more relaxed. Every organization has its own culture. The important take away about culture is that it can be a secret weapon, especially if it’s unique. Therefore, during periods of crisis when change is necessary, it’s wise to consider how these changes might impact the company’s culture.

Understand your values: Values simply represent what is important to us.

Ironically, during challenging times, there is a move away from more human-oriented values. This can result from the fear of the unknown. However, companies that know exactly who they are and what they stand for more easily navigate change. Therefore, a good understanding of one’s values is important during change.

Determine your key competencies: Key competencies represent what you do best. For instance, our company is best at culture, stability, customer-focus, innovation, quality and learning. But the question to ask is what new competencies are now needed as we adapt to the changing environment?

Changing with the times

Many key themes have emerged from our industry as we continue to navigate Covid-19 and the environmental change it has ushered in. Many are concerned about supply chain and the challenges this will present as time continues to pass. Most understand the need to adapt and change with the times. Taking some time to think strategically, as well as understanding exactly what your company stands for will help. Who you are as a company is representative of your company’s culture, its values, and its key competencies.

  • Beth Graves, president at Prime Controls.

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