From reaction to sustainable change, strategies to capitalize the lessons we learnt

Last year was all about reaction. Businesses had to change their pace to adapt to a new world  order. A year after the pandemic started, we are challenged to embrace and build on those  changes. How do we leverage this new reality and drive long-term results? 

Since March 2020, and the subsequent  months, we witnessed numerous changes in  a large part of the value chain of businesses.  Common resistance and fear were moved  into the background. Companies did not  count with the right systems for remote  working but transitioned to it in just a few  days. Some companies which used to operate  mainly through physical channels  strengthened their digital capacities.  Additionally, new commercial strategies and  quests for efficiency that, perhaps, would  have hardly been implemented were  deployed in the face of the economic crisis  and its associated risks. 

Some of these changes were already part of the agenda for the next three years. Others  were prioritized but  ended up being replaced by a long list of  excuses and never saw  the light. However, an unexpected worldwide event forced these  changes to happen overnight. 

It was not the new technology, an innovative  methodology, or a detailed plan: it was the  pandemic that speeded up a great number of business trends.

This new modus operandi is unusual, without  the urgency and need to react most  organizations operating in normal conditions costs, and ensure operations so as to survive would have acted differently. Far from  perfect, these were the right answers at the  right time.

Changing vs. Reacting

Both people and organizations tend to react  to crisis, threats, or risk. We respond quickly  to change course by developing plans and  solutions, most of the times effectively.

However, these solutions are usually a  reaction rather than a change. Reaction has a  short-term impact, however, unlike planned  changes, it is harder to sustain in time.

Most of the actions and the initiatives that were put into  practice soon after the  pandemic can be  considered reactions  triggered by the need to  maintain wages, reduce in the midst of a critical situation.

Today, a year after the pandemic new  questions arise. How can we transform these  reactions into changes that can be sustained  in time? How can the developments that took  place in 2020 work as a Minimum Viable  Product, a basis to build on? How could we  transform the new processes and built capacities into the coveted prize we all want  to obtain?

Look ahead, inside and out

We now face a new challenge. We need to be  ready to offer solutions and improve our  current product. We have the chance to look further to develop  a winning strategy after the lesson learnt in the last months.

What percentage of our sales will be driven by digital channels in five years? How will logistics  respond to demand changes? How and where will employees work? 

2020 may have given us an opportunity to try,  fail and learn. Today, those learnings are the  key to answer more accurately all these  questions and set the proper goals.

At the same time, we have the opportunity to look beyond. How did other players in  different industries behave under similar  circumstances? Such was the need for  innovation that a great number of new ideas  and solutions arose. We were only able to  identify those ideas and solutions that were  close in the eye of the storm. Now more than  ever, we need to learn from others. 

Finally, we have the opportunity to look inside. Which behaviors, attitudes and mindsets changed to allow us to act in time? What  obstacles did we overcome to bring about  change? How do we drive a deeper  transformation through our past learnings to  meet our future ambitions?

Individuals and companies alike, witnessed an  amazing and unimaginable capacity to adapt.  We were able to collaborate and co-create  solutions as a whole, we were able to change  processes rapidly to continue operating, we  learned to use new tools and we changed the  way of doing things. Many of these values  helped us strengthen company culture. Now  the challenge lies on how to generate the  necessary levers to uphold those values in the long run. 

We lived challenging times in 2020, critical in  many cases: we drove changes and overcame  situations we could have never imagined. 

Now, with a different perspective, those  companies which were able to capitalize on  the lessons learnt are the ones that will have  a competitive advantage over the rest. We  must create companies capable of  strengthening what we have built, identify what to maintain and develop new and  different capacities to prepare for the  upcoming challenges.

Daniela Olstein
Manager in Tandem, Decision Solutions.