November 1, 2020

Lessons from COVID-19 so far

Business Performance Optimisation By jamesam

Lessons from COVID-19 so far

If the current COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it is that when companies come together around a common purpose, goals that may have been otherwise considered impossible outside of that situation may be then within reach.

One evident instance of this is the numerous retailers who boosted their e-commerce capabilities, delivering food to thousands of customers who were isolating in their homes. What, therefore, are the foundations that a company needs to have in place to be able to respond to such situations?

Organisations must ensure that their teams can quickly respond to unpredictable circumstances. From modifying their planning, to design, and ultimately execution, as new information becomes available. The current pandemic has brought about the need for the deployment of fast and agile teams, enabled with the right structures and processes working together towards common objectives – free from micro-management from the top. This empowerment of such teams allows for more efficient and effective decision making and execution of tasks.

 Another area that requires attention is cost. Companies need to have an in-depth review of their costs and cost structure. Focus should be shifted towards removing any truly unnecessary costs, maintaining cash reserves, and considering different forms of collaboration with different stakeholders to increase cost efficiencies. In a time of crisis, budget cuts and head count reduction should be the last resort.  

This emergency has seen organisations working very differently than they did prior to the crisis. The concept of hybrid work – from working on-site, in person with colleagues and/or clients, to remote working – has increased. The benefits of this are already being made evident:

  • lower operational costs,
  • improved employee satisfaction,
  • greater flexibility, and
  • increased productivity.

In view of this, companies should consider each role and operational activity of theirs and define an optimal approach to this hybrid way of working that makes sense for them.

Several businesses have used this period as an opportunity to improve employees’ skills and knowledge through remote learning programs, to ensure they possess the capabilities that will be required tomorrow. Skills expire, and companies need individuals who are able to learn and adapt.  One unintended consequence of this pandemic is that CEOs and business leaders have been given the opportunity to identify tomorrow’s leaders. This crisis may have uncovered more about company employees in the past few months than normal HR processes might uncover in a year.

Consider your own company:

Who persevered?

Who was able to take decisions and execute?

Who took challenges head on and rose to the occasion?

Likewise, who on the other end of the spectrum got comfortable and sat on their laurels?


The digital transformation agenda has been gaining increasing traction, and most companies were already on their way of implementing digital solutions to improve their value chain and customer journey. This will become increasingly more relevant in enabling organisations to improve their responsiveness when meeting their customer needs – without increasing operational costs.

In a time of inevitable uncertainty, one thing may be definitely certain: during the current crisis, businesses have worked harder, better, faster and stronger than they dreamed possible just a few months ago. Businesses have had to think outside the box and look into myriads of possibilities in order to survive this pandemic; it is precisely that sense of possibility that provides an enduring source of competitive advantage.