Move Forward, Don't Return to Normal

person planning at a whiteboard

Many factors that have been affecting the state of business lately have been largely out of our control – geopolitical environment, economic turmoil, unemployment rates, decreasing revenue, changing business circumstances, and many more. However, what can be controlled is how – and how fast— businesses react to these rapidly changing circumstances and pivot to meet changing consumer and employee needs.

Most businesses have come to realize that what worked yesterday to meet customer needs and operate the business will likely not work today and in the future. The world was turned upside down almost overnight and doesn’t look to right-side itself anytime soon. This has posed many challenges but has also allowed many organizations to transform their business, reinvent themselves and re-engineer processes to make themselves better going forward. As we step into the post-coronavirus future, business leaders must find a balance between what worked before and what needs to happen to succeed in the next normal.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation—we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor Frankl, Psychologist

If there is one takeaway from the circumstance we are in, is that we do not want to “return to normal”, but we want to move forward as improved organizations, and the time to change is now. Continuous improvement and slowly-implemented strategies will no longer work. It is time for rapid innovation and re-engineering to emerge stronger after the pandemic subsides.

Below are several factors that should be addressed before businesses return to full capacity and risk reverting to old ways.

Understand the Voice of the Employee

  • What fears and anxieties might exist as employees come back to work (or remain remote)? Do you know them all?
  • What fears can be addressed and mitigated by the employer?
  • How are employees prepared for the changes to come?
  • What change management strategies do you have in place?
  • Give employees the tools they need to succeed – lean into emotional intelligence, be sensitive and accommodating to changing needs

Understand the Voice of the Consumer and Address Their New Needs

  • What do you do? Who do you serve? How can you serve them better? How can you deliver value to them? What experiences can you create to serve them better?
  • How have your audience’s needs changed? What challenges are they facing? What do your customers really care about now?
  • If it has not been done already, retailers should double down on digital and direct shopping
  • Don’t necessarily start from scratch, but take what’s true and special about your business and continually adapt it to what’s going on around it to stay relevant.

Streamline Business Processes Now, While Operating at a Reduced Capacity

With diminished rates of revenue growth and a downturn in the economy, businesses should use this downtime to re-evaluate their business processes, strategies and operating models

  • Ensure you have visibility into the health of your processes, activities and workforce (such as efficiency, SLAs, utilization, and more)
  • Know whether your company processes, applications and infrastructure can continually support remote operations. If not, how can these processes and tools be put into place?
  • Find new ways to optimize costs and be more operationally efficient. What fixed costs can be eliminated? What processes can be optimized for more efficient operations? How can new technology automate currently manual processes (i.e. supply chain sourcing, inventory management, workflow and shift management)?
  • Adopt new practices and train the team fresh when they start back up again. Employees may need to learn a new way of doing their job, which may take time
  • Improve infrastructure on data and analytics – utilize live data to make informed and strategic decisions  
  • Process Re-engineering and innovation vs. continuous improvement
  • For retailers, train all employees on new technology that supports in-store and remote customer service. Train on new health and safety protocols such as sanitization processes.

Create a Culture of Agility and Resilience

This pandemic has taught everyone that being static and rigid will not suffice, and can be a serious detriment when operating in the rapidly changing environment we are currently in. Identifying WHAT to do is only step one – the key is understanding HOW to execute quickly enough. Agile is a muscle that needs to be practiced and worked on continuously, even after the immediate challenges of the pandemic subsides.

  • Agile companies depend less on top-down decision making. They are accountable and can pivot quickly. Communication should be frequent and transparent across the entire organization, not just from top-down leadership
  • During the first stages of the crisis, companies who moved quickly succeeded. To thrive in the next stages, they will have to keep up the pace
  • Lock in practices that speed up decision making. Pandemics require quick action – keep these practices and that hunger for speed in place when things settle down
  • Optionality vs. optimality (i.e. having many options available to you at any given time, enabling a quick decision to be made vs. creating a “Perfect” and fragile system)
  • Normalize failure – Fail often and recover quick
  • Emphasize the value of accountability, visibility, and discipline. Processes and pertinent information should be visible to employees so they can make decisions quickly. Employees from junior roles to leadership need to be accountable for their responsibilities and actions. (more on Speed of Trust)
  • Build cross-functional teams (more below)
  • Use boldness and creativity to pivot and capture growth

Rethink Org Charts

  • Flatter hierarchy = less top-down leadership and quicker decision making
  • Need for new roles (i.e. Chief Risk Officer, Mental Health/Wellness Officer etc.)
  • You may have lost employees due to layoffs – will you bring them back? Can you operate at a lower capacity/ workforce? Which job roles need to be re-thought or reconfigured?
  • Transition from silos to networks – increase cross-functional communication. Think of your organization as an ecosystem (all parts fit together) vs. separate units to enable better cohesiveness across business functions (suppliers, partners, vendors)
  • Reallocate resources and talent where skills and energy is needed

Be intentional in the actions you take now and in the near future. As a leader or employer, your employees will be looking to you to take decisive action to protect their safety, job security and the future of the company. Now is the time to improve, innovate and reinvent to emerge stronger.


The Poirier Group employs a team of process re-engineering, operational improvement and business strategy experts, who are equipped to help you optimize costs, rethink business processes and strategies while ensuring business continuity and sustainable results along the way. Contact us to learn more about how you can re-engineer and innovate  your business today.