Weathering Coronavirus Disruptions with Planning and Technology
There is no doubt that we are living through a bizarre and unpredictable time in human history. Economic uncertainty due to quarantines and cancellations is wreaking havoc on the stock market and forcing businesses and governments to pursue new protective measures.
At a time of such unpredictability, the idea of planning for the future may seem like a fool’s errand. Indeed, predicting exactly where the market may be in six months is never a straightforward task. But if there was ever a time to improve organizational capacity to plan and react to emerging threats and opportunities, it would appear to be now.
The organizations that manage to best weather the current chaos will be those with the ability to take action quickly and adapt to changing working conditions. The technology now exists to enable organizational communication and quick responses. We’ve shared how these tools can help companies communicate change and adapt quickly, but this is possible only if companies adopt procedures to do so.
In a recent McKinsey report on the implications of COVID-19 for businesses, the authors lay out several sets of immediate action for companies to take responding to coronavirus. Creating the type of response they recommend requires coordination and planning but also the kind of flexibility that requires adequate technology. We’ll break down their several response actions and discuss the role technology can play.
1. Protect your employees
Obviously, the safety and security of employees and their families must be your organization’s top priority. Leaders should closely follow guidelines from global and local health authorities (WHO, CDC, British health, Australian). Organizations should take steps to support affected employees and clarify sick leave policies to allow employees to stay home if potentially infected.
Communicating updates with employees means set procedures for sharing frequent and specific information. Companies that use email or Slack to communicate will want to ensure employees check these systems outside of business hours. Companies using Align can utilize the ‘company announcements’ feature, which sends an email notification as well as an update in the application. It is important to keep contact information for every employee updated and accessible to all those in the company.
With the vast majority of applications (including Align) now operating on the cloud, remote work has already become largely routine. Many collaboration and video conferencing platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Google Hangouts) are extending free or expanded offerings to companies affected.
Video conferencing still has its hiccups and issues however and managing meetings in a central place can still be effective. Align’s Huddle feature allows employee updates to be stored in a single place. Even if an employee has connectivity issues with Zoom or is in a loud environment, the rest of the team can read their update directly from Align. With the chaos of surprise remote work, the importance of a central record, even with video conferencing enabled, remains critical.
2. Set Up a Cross-Functional Response team
McKinsey recommends 5 workstreams in the areas of:
- Financial Stress-Testing and contingency planning
- Supply chain
- Marketing and Sales
- Other relevant constituencies
Smaller companies may not have resources to populate all these different streams but will still want to work out action plans for these areas.
For each of these workstreams, McKinsey recommends a “rolling 48-hour and 1-week goals”, “a simple but well managed operating cadence”, one-page plans, and dashboards of progress. While there are multiple ways to manage this, Align’s Team functionality allows easy creation of recurring meetings (Huddles) to set an operating cadence. When huddles are done right, they ensure effective aligning of efforts and avoids “meetings for the sake of meetings” that McKinsey warns against in a situation of this severity.
Align’s Teams also allows for the creation of separate One-page plans for each workstream as well as the tagging of specific priorities and goals to allow easy filtering and monitoring of progress for each workstream. Tasks and goals may easily be monitored and central dashboards allow leaders to quickly assess progress and respond accordingly. While companies may try to utilize Google Docs to manage these efforts, having a central system that guides and facilitates the efforts of given work-streams, rolling them all into one, has meaningful advantages. The performance improvements typically seen when implementing Align for planning and goal management have outsized impact during times of critical action.
3. Financial Stress-Testing and Contingency Plan
Uncertain economic conditions may put cash flow at risk as customers, suppliers, and employees react to the changing situation. McKinsey recommends identifying all variables that may affect revenue and cost and understanding each one’s effect on cash flow, P&L, and balance sheet by modeling possible scenarios. From there, triggers and remediating actions may be identified to ensure a plan is in place to respond adequately to changing conditions.
The monitoring of these key variables requires real-time monitoring and may be aided by the use of dashboarding tools. If these variables are scattered across different systems, having the ability to keep them all in one place may be highly advantageous. Align allows for team-specific critical number dashboards that may help teams and their leaders identify when input-variables cross action thresholds and to respond according to plan.
4. Understand impact on supply chain, marketing, and sales
Evaluating risk exposure means assessing your exposure to affected areas in the supply chain and target market. Rationing parts and optimizing alternatives may help mitigate supply chain interruptions. Inventory planning and discounts can help ease sales disruptions. However, disruptions of this severity may lead some businesses to reevaluate their underlying business assumptions. While focus and cost-saving measures may be helpful in the short term, diversification of offerings may be necessary to weather disruptions over time. Reassessing your company’s one-page plan and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) may be necessary. Adapting to changing conditions will require strategic flexibility and the ability to revise set plans as needed.
5. Demonstrate your Purpose
Supporting epidemic relief efforts wherever possible may tie into many company’s overall mission and purpose. Supporting employees and communities impacted by the disease, even when it may not financial sense, will not only win goodwill but is also the right thing to do. While there are some ways to support epidemic efforts now, there will likely be more opportunities to do so in the coming weeks and months.
Technology alone is no substitute for well-written, adaptable plans when it comes to preparing to weather the current global tumult. Together they can work together to enable your response to threats as they come up. Team one-page plans, real-time dashboards, goal-tracking, and effective regular communication cadences all help your company align response efforts.
If the past month is any indication, the virus will continue to disrupt regular business operations into the second quarter. While the precise risks are unknown, the lasting impact of this disruption on the adoption of remote work within organizations is a likely outcome. The organizations that emerge the strongest will be those who utilize great planning with technology that powers execution and improved communication.
To learn more about how planning and technology can help your company adapt to changing conditions, talk to an advisor today.