Emerging from the Covid-19 crisis: Some interesting twists and turns

Wednesday June 3 2020

 

By Mark Ocitti

Globally we are beginning to see signs of easing off the Covid-19 related restrictions imposed on life as we knew it.

Many countries are talking of easing the lockdowns and going back to work. Closer home, in East Africa we see the same happening with the countries that had gone into lockdown announcing phased approaches to re-opening.

Generally economic activity had slowed down across the board, but we can now see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

The question at this time on several leaders’ minds would therefore be “how do we return from the ashes?”My simple answer to this question is, “go back to basics”.

While you were away the landscape shifted. The post-Covid-19 world will be as different from the pre-Covid-19 world as AD is to BC.

The change is permanent and is here to stay. So just like those who lived pre and post the Second World War had to do, we need to start reconstruction afresh.First you need to re-discover your customer. Did they survive the crisis?

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If they did not, it would be good manners to commiserate with their friends and families. If however they did, where are they now and what is their new consumption or purchasing pattern going to be like? What are the behavioural shifts you expect to see from them as a result of changed human behavior in the new world? Having answered these questions you may need to align your product or service offerings before you set forth to meet the changed customer.

In some cases, this may mean small (or even no) alignments, but in other cases, it may require a total overhaul of your propositions.

For instance, a simple change like social cum physical distancing, a practice we shall see for a long time going forward, will change the way fun seekers relate to each other in a social location like a pub or club and will therefore call for revised sitting or bathroom arrangements in those locations.

These changes can be quite significant and need to be well thought through if you intend to remain relevant.

Innovation will be the new buzz word. Companies that offer tech solutions do this instinctively because that is what their survival has depended on since time immemorial. However, for some of the more traditional products or services providers, innovation is not something that comes naturally.

“My customers have always behaved in a certain way and there has never been a need to offer them something new and exciting”.

For those who think like that I have one sentence of advice, “wake up and smell the coffee!” Your customer has changed! He/She has discovered that it is possible to work from home and be just as effective so why for example would he/she need to spend fuel and waste time in traffic jams driving long hours for short meetings?

Does that not call for an innovative solution to keep them occupied during the hours they would have spent in the jam?

Does that not also spell doom for the traditional fuel retailer who depend-ed on traffic jams to make their sales? Innovate or die!! The empty or near-empty pocket situation your customers will find themselves post-Cov-id-19 also brings home the need to innovate.

The prices of your products may need to be revised downwards to address this therefore innovation must not only be thought of in terms of new products and services but also in terms of restructuring your organization, re-thinking your processes, re-engineering your value chains and in some more drastic cases a complete change in your offering and shifting to completely new services to meet the new realities.

One of the most disturbing revelations of the Covid-19 crisis has been the revelation of the ‘essential’ worker or service.

Was it not a big surprise to discover that lawyers, consultants, insurance gurus and other glamorously titled professionals are not considered essential?

If this revelation does not change the way you see your profession, then you have missed a whole two months of lessons.

Personally, it has caused me to reflect on career choices for the younger generations and how best to position them for success.

Some swanky titles will unfortunately be rendered to the ash heap of history as a result of what we have been through.

A positive outcome of Covid-19 though has been the way in which relationships between people have changed. The need to relate and be known as people rather than statistics will become more important.

Therefore, your relationships with your staff and your teams will have to change as well. People will want to be appreciated more and be treated less as machines.

If you were a Machiavellian type of leader pre-Covid-19, now is the time to go back to leader-ship school. Your old type will just fade away in the new world.

Finally, I am reminded of an old Darwinian quote: “It is not the smart-est of species that survive but rather the ones most adaptive to change”.

This change is here to stay so I would encourage you to toast to, and embrace the new world.

Mark Ocitti is Managing Director of Serengeti Breweries Limited