12 May 2020


Now that the initial shock of the crisis is passing, the world is looking to find the best way to get back to work, and understand what that even means post-COVID.

A recent Gartner article neatly breaks down how it sees companies best responding to the challenge that COVID-19 has presented us.

source: Gartner

React & Respond:

The first phase requires companies to show clear leadership, and communicate with staff, customers, investors, and other stakeholders, to address the immediate challenges and changes, while being empathetic to their situation.  Needless to say, front-line employees will respond to different messaging than a company’s investor community.

Vendors may have issues with production or their supply chain, meaning that essential products, services or parts may not be available.  Customers may be delayed in paying invoices.  Employees may be fearing for their livelihood.

Ensuring that every group is acknowledged and that you are taking their interests into account will go a long way to retaining their trust, and reducing inbound (from outside of senior management) communications at a time when company leaders need to be strategising.


Redirect to New Realities:

This phase starts as people acclimate to the new restrictions and work practices.  “In this phase, customer demand falls as companies seek to control cash and expenses in the face of continued public health closures and crisis.” [Gartner]

After the initial shock to the business, the new conditions can be understood in a more meaningful way, and outcomes can start to be better controlled.


Rebound to the Future:

Market anxiety continues to dissipate and demand starts to increase.

In a recent Webinar, Gartner personnel stressed the importance of “bouncing forward” rather than bouncing back, and this speaks to a key component of the recovery process.  Companies need to aggressively look for where the opportunities are in light of the new status quo.  This can take many forms, from improving internal communication (a whole lot of people now know how to video call who didn’t before), to identifying new partnership and market opportunities.  

Net demand from legacy sectors or clients, for existing products or services may have decreased, however with the whole of the business world reshuffling in one way or another, new industries may now be targeted, new efficiencies may be uncovered, and new products will inevitably need to be developed.

Articulating the opportunity for growth in this new reality is an essential part of sustaining the output that companies require to effectively adapt and respond.  Framing change as a strength, rather than a compromise, will help propel change forward, and moreover, being empathetic to the fact that change is uncomfortable at best, and terrifying at worst, will help workforces feel that they are being treated as people, and not merely part of a strategy.


Accelerate to the Future:

In this phase, companies should be looking to scale their new products and services, maximise new efficiencies, and aim to get out ahead of their competitors.  The market returns to previous levels, but the companies that have responded decisively stand to increase revenue and market share beyond pre-crisis levels.

It is crucial to understand that being prepared for the next crisis, in whatever form it may take, needs to be part of this recovery process.  The speed at which a company can effectively respond will define its long term success after any setback.  As such the ability to rapidly adapt to new conditions can give companies significant advantages in the market, and outperform companies who may be more established and better funded.

In summary, businesses who can adapt to market conditions effectively are likely to advance effectively, and with people driving the success of any great organisation, leadership teams need to focus on.

For a great video by the MIT Centre for Transport and Logistics about how supply-chains are affected, and how companies can best respond, go here.  

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Oliver Osborne is a seasoned management professional with over 18 years in leadership roles, across 10 countries, and 3 continents, and has rich experience running companies from a director and investor level.