The Post-Pandemic Lockdown Handbook
Navigating the perfect storm
The Perfect Storm is a film starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. It tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel caught in the Perfect Storm of 1991, a confluence between several powerful weather fronts and a hurricane.
After ignoring repeated warnings, the crew, driven by overconfidence and a desire to profit from their catch, carry on as normal. They are never seen again.
Business leaders too face a confluence of seven powerful forces colliding with a hurricane-amplifying pandemic.
Carve out time to explore the future
Like the crew of the Andrea Gail, most competitors will try to ride the storm. They’ll make few adjustments and carry on as normal, comforted by the knowledge that what got them here has served them well in the past. They may never be seen again.
The enlightened leader, however, with an eye tuned for change, will strikeout to find new ground and create their future.
This handbook is a guide for all leaders looking for solutions in a world turned upside down. It is designed to encourage you to ask questions and offer up answers. It explores the next normal as the world adjusts to the storm and aftershocks of living with the novel coronavirus.
Carve out time using this handbook as a guide to think what the future might look like. Consider: How employees and customers will be changed, how you can satisfy new needs and what your company must do today to build a competitive advantage in tomorrow’s world as we adjust to living with the virus.
Think through how to navigate an upturned world
Moving from the new to the next normal:
The coronavirus crisis created the new normal – a world of physical distancing, self-isolation and working from home.
The new normal is now rapidly being replaced by the next normal — remerging to live with the virus and contending with seven other forces of disruptive change, which never went away.
The next normal is far more than a pandemic crisis; it’s also an imminent restructure of global social and economic order.
What we know about living with the virus
Scientists are beginning to piece together the following parts of the coronavirus puzzle. Here is just some of what we know so far:
Four coronaviruses already circulate in human beings. They cause common cold symptoms and we don't have vaccines for any of them.
According to the World Health Organisation, the virus may never go away
Immunity to covid-19 may not last, with researchers at MIT saying people could catch coronaviruses twice in the same year.
We need to consider the impact of coronavirus returning every year like the common cold.
It is believed that 60-70% of people need to be immune to the virus in order to stop it spreading easily (known as herd immunity). However, that would be billions of people around the world.
“What is unique is we have to go so fast and so huge,” says Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson. “When Ebola was a problem in Central Africa, with a few hundred thousand vaccines you could get it under control. Here you need billions of vaccines.”
Vaccinations will need to reach all corners of the world in order to effectively tackle the virus. Distribution is going to be a huge challenge, particularly when it comes to the last mile.
The pandemic's economic impact will be stark. Half the world's workers, 1.9 billion people, may see their livelihoods destroyed.
It is clear, businesses need to develop strategies for the long term impact of coronavirus.
Coronavirus is the metaphorical hurricane in our perfect storm
As the virus collides with other disruptive forces, it will speed up and amplify the economic and social change organisations face in the 2020s. Think about AI and robotics. Already an emerging trend, this force is being sped up as companies explore ways to use automation and overcome constraints of humans having to social distance.
We can view this as a once in a lifetime crisis; or as a revolutionary period between two ages — A rare opportune moment in history where leaders who are tuned towards change seize opportunity to create the future. The choice is ours to make.
Individually, each force promises significant disruption. Impacting together, they will transform the world forcing companies to rethink how they operate in virtually every area from channel delivery, to pricing and procurement to supply chains, sales, marketing and cybersecurity.
Force one: Pandemics
Coronavirus is the result of two mega trends:
Species destruction: It is believed the virus may have spread from pangolins to people. Pangolins are critically endangered, but illegal trafficking is widespread as there is a high demand for their scales which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Urban migration: It may have taken 10,000 years of civilisation, but by 2007, 50% of humanity or roughly 3 billion people had moved into cities. Amazingly, between 2007-2050 that figure will more than double again. By 2050, close to 70% or 6.5 billion people will live in cities. So, what took humanity 10,000 years, will be done again within 43 years.
This degree of migration on steroids combined with species destruction means that the probability of future pandemic disruption is extremely high. We need to be better prepared.
Coronavirus is the first shot across the bow; there will be others. Pandemics are predictable and can and will come from anywhere.
Businesses should work with government to develop better responses to future pandemic driven disruptions.
The climate emergency has taken a back seat as policy-makers focus on containing the pandemic. But the problem isn’t going away – 2019 was the second-hottest year on record.
While some argue the reduction in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions due to lockdowns serves as an illustration of what can be achieved, others say concrete plans to take action are being shelved. In New York, carbon monoxide levels shrank to half their usual March levels and in China, the initial lockdown saw pollution levels fall 25%.
The coronavirus has shown us how hard it will be to fight the climate crisis, but it also has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to flatten the climate curve.
Force three: geopolitics and globalisation
Coronavirus is unravelling globalisation as we know it. As economies reopen and people nervously return to the new world, don’t expect a quick turnaround to a carefree world of unfettered movement and free trade. The pandemic is politicising travel, immigration and entrenching a bias towards nationalism and self-reliance. In the coming weeks we will discover just how dramatically the pandemic is reshaping world power. As the US remains absent without leave, China is using the crisis as an opportunity to start setting new rules and gain new allies.
After early oversights, China is working hard to turn Covid-19 into a success story; we are seeing a face-off between the ideologies of authoritarianism and democracy. By offering assistance to Italy and other badly affected countries, China is further reinforcing its credentials as the go-to global leader. Many express concern that the virus will be the tipping point for China to overtake its superpower rival, the US.
None of the western powers want to live in a world where China controls 90 per cent of the active ingredients for our antibiotics and dominates medical equipment. Companies will begin to pull back, but building manufacturing and innovation capabilities long handed to the East will be difficult and costs will rise. Stagflation beckons and the era of easy money will come to an end.
Force four: ageing populations
The world is ageing. Before coronavirus, it was predicted that the median age in China would reach 50 by 2060. Europe and America would hit this milestone in the 2050’s.
This global demographic mega-trend is on a collision course with Covid-19. The implications for society and business will be severe as older people bear the brunt of the virus and the younger contend with the burden.
Force five: AI, automation and the loss of jobs
According to analysis firm Oxford Economics, up to 20 million jobs around the world could be replaced by robots by 2030. Mckinsey’s more alarming study predicts that 800 million jobs will be disrupted over the same timeframe. Regardless, Coronavirus is speeding up the trend towards automation.
41% of bosses surveyed globally are investing in accelerating automation as they prepare for a post-coronavirus world. The challenge for society is how to encourage the innovation and economic growth that the robots promise while making sure they don't cause new divides in society. The lag between technology adoption and new job creation will be highly disruptive. The impact for business is not only how automation changes the way people work, but also their ability to afford what’s being sold. Robots, after all, do not buy stuff, and angry people may choose to boycott companies that place automation before people.
The Force six: inequality and extreme poverty
Half of frontline care workers are paid less than living wage, and studies show that low-paid workers are more likely to die from Covid-19 than higher earners: “Who cares about the workers’ health, while the rich run away,” says Domenico Marra who works at a factory in Milan. “But then poor people, who need to bring bread home, go out and take risks.” Coronavirus is entrenching a devastating wave of economic inequality, one of the gravest forces of our era.
The global economy will contract 3% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund, a deeper downturn than that seen in the 2008–09 financial crisis. That’s likely to push unemployment up across the board with the World Bank predicting coronavirus is forcing 40-60 million people into extreme poverty. The pandemic will cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998.
Rising coronavirus driven economic inequality and poverty could have consequences for years to come.
Force seven: recession, conspiracy, populism and The Angry People
Force seven is the merging of these four powerful sub-forces: recession, conspiracy, populism and The Angry People
From the “plandemic video” to conspiracy theories about 5G links to coronavirus — nearly a third of people polled in recent survey believe that the virus was manufactured on purpose — to the real threat of a deep recession; with 20% of the UK economy lost in the month of April. The charts make the Great Recession of 2008-09 look like a blip. Then with the resilience of British business on the floor, there is the worriesom possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
Right-wing activists using sophisticated production capabilities, are trying to stoke the populist fire by stirring up hatred against politicians and the democratic system. Pandemic populism is on the rise across the world, a new study warns.
With violent riots flaring up in the US and globally, this force’s impact is visible. George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of American police who pinned him to the ground with a knee in the back of his neck for over eight minutes, is a catalyst for the rage lying dormant within the angry people. This has become more than a tragic death, it’s the unravelling of the social contract between governments, businesses and the people.
The politics of the pandemic and economic turmoil are now more variable than the virus. In the long run, populism and the angry people could also be a far more dangerous and disruptive force than coronavirus itself.
On the flip side this pressure could also propel the kind of new thinking required for a radical redesign of a more equitable global economic system.
Reimagine how business should be in the next normal
Even before coronavirus, people could see that we are living in revolutionary times. Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing. Intelligent robots. Artificial Intelligence. Nano-technologies. Self-driving cars. Genetic editing. All these new developments offer evidence of transformative change happening at exponential speed.
The World Economic Forum calls this new revolution the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
We think they could have been more creative in their naming of a new revolution, for this revolution will be a new Age of Exploration. Not since the Age of Discovery have so many new frontiers opened in the areas of science, health, education, engineering, communications, energy, finance and even space travel.
Don't comfort yourself with black swans
Business leaders shouldn't comfort themselves by thinking that coronavirus was a black swan — a black swan describes an unlikely event that has a major impact.
Rather, coronavirus was a visible but highly ignored black elephant — a black elephant is a large visible problem, yet no one wants to address it.
These forces are the black elephants in the room, which most leaders prefer not to address. A lesson we should learn from coronavirus is that disruption can and does come from anywhere at fast and overwhelming speeds.
The advantage of planning and preparing now is to be forearmed when your competitors are not.
Begin by reimagining how business should be in the next normal
Leading through the next normal
The coronavirus crisis created the new normal – a world of physical distancing, self-isolation and working from home. This normal is rapidly receding and being replaced by the next normal — remerging to live with the virus and contend with seven other forces of disruptive change. The next normal is far more than a pandemic crisis; it’s also an imminent restructure of global social and economic order.
What leaders need now is not a predefined strategy and roadmap, but rather the behaviours and mindsets that will help them stay watertight while looking ahead to explore these uncharted oceans.
Here’s how leaders can begin to navigate through the next normal.
Take care of your people
During prolonged disruption, the job of leadership is to protect your most vulnerable and important assets. Your employees’ efforts and customers’ loyalty will see your organisation through these remarkable times.
Naturally, any leadership team must consider the impact of disruption on revenue and costs. However, our direction goes back to people; they’re the ultimate source of revenue and competitive advantage.
AS Watson – the world's largest health and beauty retailer, with over 130,000 employees and 14,000 stores across Asia and Europe – wants to create a future where people feel loved and at the centre of all they do. When coronavirus hit China, the executive team recognised the massive impact the virus would have on its people. They tuned towards disruptive change and placed people — customers and employees — at the centre of their covid-19 strategy. By the time the pandemic reached Europe, AS Watson was ahead of the curve and acted quickly. The day Italy went into lockdown, a video briefing with business leaders from all European operations was held. A shared operational toolkit, including employees’ work arrangements, protective measures, communications, ecommerce and supply chain adjustment, was rolled out.
Do what’s needed to strengthen trust and loyalty with your customers and employees. Take good care – people will remember who fought for them, and that loyalty will survive long after the disruption is over. Remember, there will be an after.
Explore the new & capitalise on the old
As we exit lockdown, leaders need to accept that the old ways are gone. However, it is not yet clear what the next normal will be. We’re seeing that this ambiguity results in attempts to retrofit current business into the post-lockdown world. This is folly – what got you here will not get you there. Rather, the leaders are exploring the new ways while capitalising from the old.
Capitalising is the process of leveraging existing processes and focuses on the now. It is familiar; it’s what leaders are trained to do. Teams execute plans using entrenched processes. They’re led by detailed roadmaps with clear goals, supported by business cases, with clear projections about expected outcomes.
This is still relevant in the post-lockdown world, but leaders must recognise that they cannot lead exploration in the same way that they manage their current business.
Exploration is the process of discovery. It requires a different mindset and behavioural approach. Teams venturing into the unknown discover there are no roadmaps or clear steps to follow. They must be agile, resilient and adaptable to a changing, ambiguous environment. Thriving in the post lockdown world will require exploration and testing, as well as learning, unlearning and relearning. A spirit of adventure will build sustainable growth, and this is what sets apart explorer organisations from their peers.
The ability to operate simultaneously in the two worlds of explore and capitalise will be a true test of leadership in this new age.
Some leaders will set up their equivalent to X – Google’s Moonshot factory, dedicated to creating radical new solutions for some of the world’s hardest problems.
Most companies are not Google and will develop the explore capability in-house. This could be an advantage. Explorations benefit from being close to operations, shifting consumer needs, and quickly tuning to problems that need solving. That is, if a culture of exploration has been coded into the organisation’s DNA.
The danger of in-house exploration is that the existing business mindset may hinder initiatives in favour of retaining the old normal. During the transition from one normal to the next, the old way of doing things must run alongside the new. Over time, this method forges an optimum model.
The leaders ensure that explore and capitalise exist in an environment that embraces ambiguity and healthy conflict. They do this by coding the explorer gene into the organisation’s DNA, focusing across three elements: what they do; how they do it; and, what they are capable of achieving.
Becoming an explorer organisation is not something that needs to evolve slowly. We’ve helped organisations to genetically engineer and supercharge the explorer’s gene in their DNA. This is advantageous because the sooner you start exploring the opportunities of this new age, the quicker you will thrive in the post-lockdown world.
Build back better
The coronavirus has brought financial, economic, and human turmoil, and it has also highlighted the importance of resilience amid uncertainty.
The UN Global Compact developed “build back better” as a disaster-recovery programme that gained currency in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The idea: when disruption strikes, use the opportunity to create a safer, better everything.
The notion of using disruption to build back better predates 2004. An iconic example is William Beveridge’s plan for a National Health Service, made during World War Two. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal is another excellent example of where building back better out of crisis has resulted in sustainable growth and societal benefits.
As we leave lockdown, we have an opportunity to use the pandemic to build a more equitable and fair society for everyone. But it’s not only for social reasons.
Build back better is also gaining remarkable results in business.
At the end of last year, CEOs from 181 mega-corporations, employing 15 million people, and more than $7 trillion in revenue – including the likes of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart, and Virginia Rometty, the chairperson of IBM – aligned their commitment to the Business Roundtable’s revised statement of purpose: to promote ‘an economy that serves all stakeholders’.
In 2018 Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, publicly declared their strategy to be among the “first of the true 21st-century companies, one that benefits all stakeholders.” The true test to this commitment has come quickly. As Covid-19 cratered its revenues, Mr Chesky has been forced to let go of 1,900 jobs. His dilemma was how to remain true to stakeholder-driven values and save the business. He chose a compassionate and responsible response. Airbnb gave those laid off 14 weeks of pay, an Airbnb laptop, equity stakes, job advice and healthcare insurance for a year. “It was important that we had a clear set of principles, guided by our core values, for how we would approach reductions in our workforce,” Chesky explained in a letter to staff.
There is also growing investor support. According to BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, with $7.4 trillion in assets under management, “we are seeing that regardless of industry, strong sustainability characteristics have been essential to helping companies weather crisis.”
According to Just Capital, the companies that prioritised social issues during the coronavirus crisis have significantly outperformed their peers.
Building back better is good for business too
Opportunities abound for businesses to join the movement and build back better. Peter Drucker said, “the biggest problems in the world are also the biggest business opportunities.” Why wouldn’t you focus on them?
Building back better in the post-lockdown world will not be easy. However, with empathy, caring and good judgement, business leaders can find a better way forward.
Actions to take post-lockdown
Put people, planet and prosperity at the centre of your strategy:
If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to put these 3Ps at the centre of your strategy.
There has been growing support from investors, employees and customers that the purpose of business is to contribute an economy that benefits all stakeholders.
Coronavirus will entrench governments’ and peoples’ demands for a more holistic way of doing business.
Those businesses who don’t, will be wrong footed and left to answer why.
Listen to your people
What are your leaders thinking and seeing? How does this compare with others in the organisation? Are there disconnects between current strategy and market shifts?
This exploration can be done via a series of confidential telephone, face-to-face interviews and questionnaires. Feeding back findings makes people feel heard, helps to understand the perceptions of others and fosters further conversation.
Giving your people a voice during turbulent times is a powerful investment. It provides great insights and pays dividends when momentum and buy-in is required.
Conduct workshops with your senior team:
Determine the magnitude of the disruptive impact from each force.
Share insights on mega-trends
Give your senior team a wake-up call.
Run ideation and exploration sessions.
Establish frameworks for action.
Manage for resilience not risk:
Expect the unexpected, but rather than managing for risk, build for resilience.
The annual risk profile for a pandemic (pre-coronavirus) would have been close to zero - Impact, high; probability very low = no attention. This is what happened with coronavirus.
Most of what we term black elephants, highly visible, high impact problems are being ignored because they do not fit management risk profiles. Rather leaders must build resilience into their system: From the people they hire, products they create, the supply chains and the distribution systems they rely on should be built for resilience and not managed for risk.
Become an explorer leader and organisation:
There are no roadmaps in the post-lockdown world. What got you here will not get you there. Leaders are explorers tuned towards change and seizing opportunity. Coding your organisational DNA with the explorer gene is a crucial requirement for success in this new age of exploration.
Exploration necessitates venturing into the unknown. Most leaders hold back and avoid risk: it’s safer to be a follower. But the greatest risk during times of crisis is not turbulence – it’s thinking and acting with yesterday’s logic. Studies also show that companies which navigate the downturns deftly while venturing out to discover new growth opportunities reap the rewards.
Bring strategy and purpose to life:
The great explorer companies like Tesla/SpaceX embark on quests to bring strategy to life. They do this by inspiring people with reaching the quest’s meaningful destination. For SpaceX, the quest is to go to Mars. When Tesla began, it was to create an electric sports car that would beat a Ferrari. Today, their quest is to develop a car battery that can run for 1 million miles.
Teams need to be energised, empowered and aligned. Quests are powerful leadership tools for achieving this. As a CEO recently said: “There would be people from different units and functions, all defending their turf. We’d spend hours in meetings and nothing was agreed. Now, all that’s disappeared —and things didn’t fall apart. It was a revelation—and a common one. Instead, the company pulled together to deal with the quest of overcoming COVID-19-related problems. Operating to a defined quest led to a sense of urgency. People set aside issues and moved quickly to solve problems, relying on expertise rather than rank. The quest in this case – surviving the coronavirus crisis – was a clear unifying destination to be reached.
Set up exploration command centres and hubs:
To manage explorations and stay alert to changes establish exploration centres. These small, dedicated and empowered teams help with leading through the explore and capitalise worlds. These teams report directly to the CEO and senior team on disruption developments and exploration ventures. Hubs are centres of critical excellence such as: supply chains, people and talent development, new products and customer relationships.
The important task is developing and illuminating potential future scenarios by asking questions such as: Which customer and employee attitudes and behaviours are shifting? How do we put our people first? Where are revenues most vulnerable to declines? How do we prepare now for the next crisis? Where do we play the offensive and what areas do we defend? What new ventures are worth exploring? The focus is on identify signals and new patterns ahead of the curve, enabling the leadership team to develop appropriate offensive and defensive strategies.
Build back better:
This translates into how leaders use their business’s core capabilities to build back better.
At the heart of purpose, values and strategy is the unwavering commitment to use business as a force for good. Start by exploring the big problems in the world where you can have a meaningful impact. Align mission, strategy and products to address these problems. Recognise that the most successful companies are not the best at being innovative; rather, they are better at finding meaningful problems to solve.
How can TTC help?
Businesses around the world have rapidly responded and adapted to coronavirus. The journey has only just begun. The 2020's will be decade of disruption but with the right mindset it can be turned into a decade of action.
Leaders who are hoping and waiting for things to go back to normal, are in for a big shock. We are living in a period between two ages. The Ancient Greeks called these periods kairos. During kairos it is the leaders who are tuned to change that seize opportunity to shape and create the future. .
The enlightened leaders will accept that the future isn’t what it used to be and that what got them here, will not get them there.
Confidence has taken a hammering, but people and business are showing themselves to be resilient. The organisations that put their people first; embark on bold meaningful quests exploring the new world will deftly deal with disruption and build back better.
We can help you:
Develop scenarios and identify trends impacting your business
Bring your purpose and strategy to life
Build exploration and innovation into your organisational culture
Build high-performance teams
Develop that strategies to be a force for good