Challenges that Leaders and Organizations would Face in a World Post-COVID

With time as COVID lockdown has been easing in various parts of India, various organizations and industries are shuffling to operations in the hope of becoming normal in the coming 3-6 months only.

Despite the “new normal” which organizations will confront at a time when the lockdown will ease entirely, various organizations will face a challenging time ahead. This article discusses the different scopes of challenges that organizations would require reckoning with and negotiate as well.

For this context, it is important to divide the organizations into various dimensions related to structure, strategy, culture, and processes. These challenges have been generalized too though they would differ from one individual organization and industry to another to some degree.

The chief strategic challenge that organizations will be needed to deal with is lessened demand as well as reduced markets. Taking into consideration the loss of livelihood, lessening in economic and income depression, there are chances that consumers would become highly conservative or postpone the process of purchasing items and services.

For an organization, it means a failure in revenues. When they decide to remain profitable, then they will be compelled to lessen costs. Additionally, they will cut the activities too that might be treated as non-essential in matters of reducing staff and the short run. It will also become important to postpone the investments besides stopping the new hiring.

These things might be effectual for profitability during the short run, but are hazardous in the long run. The organizations need to become particularly observant about lessening activities and functions, like development and research that habitually tend to be non-essential during the short run but happens to be vital for surviving in the long run.

Organizations shouldn’t mistakenly consider non-urgent as unnecessary. Similarly, when employees get laid off, then organizations habitually lose superior quality talent. Again, it always leaves an enduring mark in the employees’ minds who get retained due to the indication that these kinds of expedient actions do communicate regarding an organization’s long-term values.

In matters of increasing losses and decreasing revenues, the organizations with deep pockets will only survive and it will result in lots of acquisitions as well as industry consolidation. Therefore, it would be an excellent opportunity for big and cash-rich organizations to hunt for smaller organizations that they would be able to purchase inexpensively.

When this occurs, industries would become concentrated that will be habitually turned into bad news in the long run for the consumers until and unless the regulator prevents probable cartelization or monopolies.

Now, those organizations that will survive would do excellently well for seeking partnerships and alliances, most probably with competitors for sharing resources and undertaking joint activities.

Here, one might notice some innovations. Private equity layers, investment bankers, and management and strategy consultants might notice higher demand for the services but organizations should be capable of hiring them. Proposing financing and credit will turn important for selling one’s items and services and so, keep the consumers remain loyal to the organization.

In this situation of crisis, the structures of organizations have turned centralized and COVID has become a crisis that people had not ever seen. Commonly, a couple of reasons are responsible for this.

A crisis needs a fast response from an organization and in these times, the organization cannot afford the time which is required for consensual and decentralized decision making. However, you don’t wish to have lots of discussions and debates related to the finest path for escaping when you find your house has caught fire.

In these situations of difficulties, employees who happen to be engaged in different states of distress and discomfort seek help from their leaders so that they can get direction. This act naturally lessens the discretion of the employees and turns the organization highly dependent on some leaders’ abilities.

People have been already witnessing a few control of decision making in supremacy on the policy as well as a political front. It has a probability to augment as a method of responding to quick challenges.

It will give its outcome in higher regulations and rules within an organization. So, it can be said that organization structures will become more formalized and centralized and when both of them become justifiable for fast response to the condition can result in the dampening of creativity and loss of flexibility in the medium and long run. This will also escalate the dangers of being reliant on only some individual leaders.

An organization runs on processes and routines and strong processes allow organizations to develop long-term capabilities by doing things correctly repeatedly and also improving them incrementally.

This also allows an organization to allocate the attention of the senior management’s attention, a rare and valued resource to jobs that are strategic and exclusive in place of bothering about standardized tasks.

Processes and routines become strengthened and entrenched in organizations via repletion until a point when they become nearly an unconditional reflex. Nonetheless, routines tend to degenerate when they aren’t practiced and it might have occurred to the majority of the organizations at the period of lockdown.

Though numerous organizations have become innovative in forming new routines, like meetings happening over video conferencing, yet their present processes and routines like customer acquisition, upholding relationships with employees or suppliers socialization might have disappeared or withered from the memory of the organization.

So, the need arises to revive these disrupted processes and routines and bring them back into the empire of consciousness even when organizations are required to adopt fresh routines for dealing with many strategic challenges that are discussed before. The evaluation of these routines too is important for weeding out redundancies and ineffectiveness so that costs can become reduced.

When an organization becomes capable of investing in IT (information technology), then a few routines could be made automated for saving costs and increasing efficiency. This will be a tough tradeoff for making investments upfront for getting benefits in the medium and long term.

Finally, organizations need to form novice routines for dealing with the contingent circumstance of lockdown. They must consider whether or not these routines can be adopted in the long run even with the abating of the crisis.

Getting engaged in web-based conferences and working from home come armed with both pros and cons. Though they are effectual and have a lesser environmental footprint, yet they create a gap between employees.

How must organizations combine a few of the remote-working practices with the present routines that will be needed to be evaluated carefully related to a particular context of an organization and job? For instance, unstructured teamwork regarding the interaction between colleagues is lesser amenable of being accomplished remotely in comparison to structured and sequential teamwork.

The last component is considered an organization culture. An organization achieves its strategic objectives via a unified job of a structure’s trinity, culture, and process.

Therefore, they are hugely interdependent and can’t be observed in isolation. There is also a possibility of many organizations’ culture to become fractured at the time of this crisis when nearly every organization has stopped working or muddling through.

As employees join the work, they will become more fearful, uncertain, and full of doubts related to their organization, career, and profession. Some of them would also have suffered disaster on their front.

Again, many would find that a few colleagues aren’t working any longer for their organizations and it would end up exacerbating their distress. An absence of discretion and measures of cost reduction are opposing to the mental contract that exists between organizations and employees.

This inspires employees for giving their best to the organization. So, there will be a deficit of trust that can lessen organizations perilously to huge economic transactions that are focused on the short period only.

Now the question arises as to what senior management and leaders would do to revive and resume their organizations? Experience of managing transformations has taught that any alteration which is perceived or imposed can be resisted when these changes happen to be excellent for the organization as well as its employees.

Due to this, these alterations have emerged to be unsustainable. For handling the crisis, leaders need to bring many transformations in the organizations that include both short as well as long term.

When these alterations in organizations and work patterns are planned carefully, then it would be considered an imposed change that the majority of the employees would either consciously or unconsciously fight.

Being that mindful, leaders must focus chiefly on three things, concentrate on organizational needs, differentiate between long-term changes and short-term measures of contingency, and for the sake of achieving these things, rebuild the culture of the organization.

Every organization needs to exist for a need and it explains why it needs to spend resources and time for creating a specific item or service. An organization’s policy is planning for achieving its needs while its values do guide the organization for making choices along the journey. Most often, during business, the demand for particular objectives and situations demote the

es engulfed in doubt, this becomes the job of a leader to return the concentration of the organization to its core mission, values, and purpose. No matter people are running a gym or involved in selling credit cards, they require revisiting and reaffirming why they exist and what they can do very well and how can people form value for their customers and the society.

This is the finest method to clear the doubts that have managed to creep into people’s minds during the previous few months at a time when numerous organizations discover themselves unprepared and inadequate for various tragedies that have been unfolding all across. A few organizations might have altered their chief line of activities dramatically for aiding people in the crisis that is laudable.

Now, with the lessening of the crisis, leaders are required to return the organization to its actually selected track by revisiting collectively the values and purpose of an organization before deciding on an ideal policy to achieve it.

Purpose provides meaning to what people do and how their efforts do contribute to the great good. The purpose allows people to be hardy and determined regarding apparently insoluble challenges besides getting inspired in spite of the failures and losses that people have suffered earlier.

At a time when the purpose tends to be meaningful and values happen to be appealing, then employees would form pathways all around many obstacles that most probably come in the way.

There isn’t any doubt that there would be many challenges and obstacles in the forthcoming days and the leaders would be provided with the job to inspire other employees by repeating an organization’s purpose.

However, after the pandemic, organizations would change dramatically and a few features of functioning would require changing irreversibly while much is needed to be revived. Hence, the second responsibility that leaders would have is distinguishing between alterations that are being applied in the form of short-term contingencies for tiding over the crisis besides those that require being made for forming long term benefits.

Concentrating on values and purpose would aid in making these choices that might get confusing. An investment for a new product development might need to be halted for this time but when developing fresh products is vital for the organization then leaders must have a concise idea regarding when they need to resume investments.

Again, it is also important for them to think about what they need to do at the time of the intervening time so that an organization doesn’t lose the benefit regarding product development.

Differentiation between alterations for the long term and a short term will allow a leader to form the ideal frame of reference to make tradeoffs besides taking vital decisions. As already mentioned a fractured organization is scarce in trust and trust can be re-developed via transparency in communication.

The majority of the employees would understand the fact that an organization is going through a tough phase and leaders are required to make difficult decisions. When there is clear communication regarding why a person is doing that is being done, then employees most probably accept those decisions.

So, leaders with their honest communications should set crystal clear hopes regarding the possible things and what can’t be done. They need to prepare employees so that they can survive in the long run and become role models who can take up various challenges even after accepting their apprehensions and vulnerabilities.

Even when the culture of an organization gets fractured but it can be restored with adequate patience and appropriate care. At times, a culture that becomes healed does emerge being resilient.

The job of the leaders is very tough and during a crisis, they get adjudicated by their risk-taking capabilities and decisiveness. Again, when the crisis gives way gradually, then leaders are arbitrated through their follow-throughs and how they bring forward their besieged army home.

A mountaineer can tell people that the majority of the fatalities don’t happen when you have been climbing up to the top but at the time when you are coming downwards. After COVID, it requires being a period of consolidation and careful consideration for an organization along the 4 dimensions of structure, strategy, culture, and process. Only then an organization will win the war after enduring the battle.

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Source: The Forbes India