Running Business during COVID-19

It is official, the virus has gone global and businesses are badly affected as supply chains and labor are impacted. The new epicenters are outside China, and what seemed to be an isolated problem is now a global problem as the world is much more connected than before.

The COVID-19 crisis has been evolved over the weeks and from out engagement with our clients and research data from consultants and experts, here are some tips that we picked up that we think are good advice for companies.

  1. Monitor situation daily

The situation changes everyday. Events unfold daily and the government react and change guidelines according to the situation. New strategies on containment may change policies. New emerging technologies are getting updated and the way we do business is changing.

Be updated with the latest news and think critically on how it will impact your business and operations. Have a meeting with team leaders every 72 hours to update the situation and adjust business plans accordingly. There may be weak signals overlooked and be prepared for the worst.

2. Take all the information with a pinch of salt

Experts are pressured to come up with solutions without fully understanding the situation. Political biases may put pressure on the messaging as well. Expert opinions differ even on critical issues like putting on masks and optimal containment or economic policies. We are still learning and it is good to be informed from multiple sources and make decisions based on empirical data you are receiving.

3. Adopt an agile framework

Review plans frequently and constantly test different scenarios. Processes may need constant review and changes. Test various new technologies and get feedback. It is important that you monitor the team and understand the impact of the changes. If you are using video conferencing or other new technologies, ensure ample training and try to get a response from everyone on how it impacts their work. There must be other business process changes to make many of these technologies work, and the solution needs to come from good feedback and information.

Beware of too much bureaucracy. In crisis, urgent and sensitive issues may need quick decisions. An overly generalized or conservative perspective and a slow, cumbersome process may do a lot of harm in this period. A small trusted team needs to be empowered to make some quick critical decision and too much management of the communications can be damaging in a time when you need quick actions and resolutions.

4. Develop resilience principles in developing policies

Six characteristics in crisis responses.

  • Redundancy:
    Due to supply chain fluctuation, companies need to need to look beyond normal sources for solutions, manufacturing and logistics can easily be impacted in a pandemic.
  • Diversity:
    Have many ways of doing something new. The problem may be from different dimensions and solving a logistics problem as a financial problem may not yield results.
  • Modularity: 
    Integrated systems can be efficient, but when one thing breaks, everything is down. In crisis mode, organisational units or supply sources that can be combined in different ways — offers greater resiliency
  • Evolvability:
    Things evolve and situations change. Systems built on peak efficiency may face difficulties as situations change. There are no right answers and getting feedback and making decisions based on results may be most effective strategy in the short term.
  • Prudence:
    With the constant change in strategies, policies and situation, business continuity plans need to be reviewed as situations change. Worse case scenarios and contingency plans need to be updated with developing situation.
  • Embeddedness:
    The whole business eco-system and communities are under great stress. When supply chain fails, there will be trickle down effect which may not seem apparent at first. Solutions that solve for an individual company at the expense of or neglecting the interests of others will create mistrust and damage the business in the longer term. Conversely, support to customers, partners, health care, and social systems in a time of adversity can potentially create lasting goodwill and trust. 
    It is easy to forget about others in crisis, but this is also where your values shine.

5) Reflect on the changes ahead.

The crisis is usually not just a one off situation. We should expect more crisis to occur and be ready. With the experience from this crisis, what new policies can be developed and reflect on the lessons learned. 
When the crisis is over, we may wake up to a whole new world, and there will be new changes to the way we do business. The Internet will play a big role and will we have more webinars, video conferencing instead of business trips? Will there be a shift to online shopping and education?

Only time will tell.