Companies should learn lessons from the pandemic

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COMPANY owners need to assess what they have learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and consider how the changes they have made might be of long term benefit to their operations and employees.

That was the advice imparted by leading business author and academic Professor Margaret Heffernan when she addressed a Shannon Chamber webinar on the topic ‘Leading through Uncertainty’.

“This pandemic has taught companies to think about preparedness as well as planning, to nurture relationships and to have a higher degree of trust,” Prof Heffernan stated.

“Cash may be king in a crisis as it buys time but this pandemic has taught us that relationships are crucial. If people care about each other, they can and will perform miracles. People have self-managed throughout the pandemic, become more agile, and daily online scrums have become the norm.

“Companies that have made little change during the crisis and are stuck in a business as usual mode show a lack of adaptability and will suffer more than those who have come through the crisis to a new place, accepting that uncertainty in not going away.

“They are using the core assets of their company in a new way and to ensure that they don’t revert to old habits, they will need to have good conversations with their workforces to identify what was good and bad in the pandemic. They will need to capture the good stuff and make it a permanent sense within their organisations.

“Capture the moments of clarity in the crisis and give people a sense of commitment,” she advised.

Questioned about embedding resilience into a company, Prof Heffernan responded: “Business leaders need to tell the truth at all times, be fair and don’t offer certainty if it can’t be delivered. Be honest and treat people like adults. It’s not always possible to make the perfect decision; leaders sometimes have to make sub-optimal decisions and being able to explain the principles as to how the decision was made is an important at the decision itself.”

Outlining the difference between risk and uncertainty, she stated: “Risk can be quantified whereas uncertainty cannot. It’s a given that uncertainties, such as pandemics, occur that affect society and by default business. Companies therefore need to think about preparedness alongside their normal planning mode and use the huge amount of knowledge trapped with their companies to experiment.

“There is a lot of good strategic thinking in organisations and this should be captured to experiment and be prepared for the unknowability of future challenges that lie ahead, such as future pandemics, which are inevitable,” Prof Heffernan warned.

The webinar was one of a series being organised by Shannon Chamber. Full details at www.shannonchamber.ie/events-training