“McKinsey’s analysis supports the view of others that the Delta variant has effectively moved overall herd immunity out of reach in most countries for the time being”. (McKinsey Briefing note #69 August 25, 2021).
During the period of the COVID 19 pandemic, advice to business leaders has demonstrated how fraught it can be to predict the future. McKinsey’s highlights that the timing of normalisation is uncertain. It is patently not possible to predict the recovery or its timing. How then should business be approached, if the future is uncertain?
Initially the world understood that it was facing a public health danger. This very quickly became a pandemic that made supply chains vulnerable. A big shock came when country borders and cities were shut. Tourism, leisure, entertainment and aviation industries, among others, were totally decimated. Vaccination became the hope for a return to normality. Vaccine developers and scientists responded and worked with an unprecedented sense of urgency to create and deliver vaccines. In a matter of months, COVID 19 had moved from a short term health danger to a global catastrophe. Annual and multi-year business plans lost their relevance. I was now apparent that the world was literally changing by the moment.
Some countries started vaccinating their populations and were optimistic about normalising their economies. The Delta variant of the COVID 19 virus has, as McKinsey observes, upended these plans for reopening economies as it created a fresh wave of infections globally. Offices remain unoccupied for longer than was anticipated and hybrid working patterns are being refined. The future of working, shopping, meeting and social dining is being redefined. There is no consensus on whether this current state is going to be permanent or transitional.
Australia, for example, confronted COVID 19 aggressively by quickly and consistently shutting down cities to contain outbreaks of the virus and quickly opened them as was appropriate. The approach has been somewhat effective. Notwithstanding this relative effectiveness, the Prime Minister has stated that the strategy is unsustainable and the country should consider different strategies. Business leaders should be confronting the issue in a similar manner.
The lesson is that we are not just dealing with a pandemic. We are, rather, facing a period of extreme uncertainty. National and business leaders should focus differently.
Planning that is dependent on predictable outcomes is clearly not appropriate in the current situation. The reality is that some businesses have thrived amid the disruption. E-commerce has boomed and the digital enablement services industry has seen spectacular growth. These sectors, like everyone else, could not have predicted COVID 19 and the havoc that it would cause. What seems to be common in these sectors is a disruptive orientation. This enables them to see the future differently.
Business literature has shown that a successful business finds no reason to disrupt itself. The more successful and dominant it is, the more likely it will tend to rely on outmuscling any potential disruptors. In times of relative stability, established businesses are easily able to outmuscle disruptors. In disruptive times businesses thrive only if they embrace disruption.
Successful disruption is driven by innovation. It succeeds when the businesses has adopted innovation as an integral part of the business model. Such a business model requires bold leadership, diversity of thinking, tolerance of maverick employees and a high risk appetite. Leaders in such a business are not discouraged when they are not able to predict the future but are energised by a belief that the future will be different and have an intention to be part of such future.
As coaches to business leaders we support them to develop a winning relationship with uncertainty and build businesses that are ready for disruptions. This is not about predicting disruptions. It is about having a disruptor mind-set and embracing disruption. Are the leaders in your business building teams with diverse thinking and do mavericks have a voice in your business?
The Delta variance is showing that predicting the future in the COVID 19 pandemic environment is not useful for planning. We should accept that goalposts in the game of business are never permanently fixed. In order to thrive we need to embrace the dynamic nature of the business environment.
Contact us to help you and your team to develop and embrace your disruptor mind-set.