The unprecedented speed and impact of change experienced by leaders during 2020 have highlighted the need for global insights, agility, fast-action and collaboration for sustainable success.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Next Step gathered perspectives (via surveys and interviews) from global business leaders across agriculture, consumer, education, energy, finance, health, industrial, media, travel, transportation industries regarding the impact of the pandemic on their business and the approaches they are taking to move forward.

The results demonstrate open, passionate, brave trailblazers’ commitment to identifying, collaborating and creating new opportunities.

Through reflection, collaboration and commitment, future-ready leaders are building on their experience during the COVID19 crisis to:

  1. Transform services products and business model to address radically different customer needs and behaviors in the ‘new normal’
  2. Leverage the rapidly accelerated technology implementation and operational changes required by their teams to maintain business during the COVID 19 crisis
  3. Build on the agility and speed at which employees adapted, collaborated and worked productively in non-ideal conditions in order to create new services, structures and opportunities
  4. Accelerate innovation initiatives due to reduced friction between innovation and ‘business as usual’
  5. Commit to continue flexible work-from-home culture to enhance employees’ work/life integration and serve global customers in new (and better) ways
  6. Implement new organizational structure removing layers to allow employees to make decisions faster
  7. Collaborate with other stakeholders in the value chain to identify and develop new business opportunities to address changing consumer requirements
  8. Redefine measures of success – moving to value-based metrics instead of traditional KPIs based solely on financial results
  9. Empower employees to be creative, take risks and explore new opportunities for business growth – through recognition and rewards
  10. Communicate and collaborate more frequently and openly with team members, customers, partners and competitors to co-create new services and value in the future.

While interviewees empathize with those who have had health, family and financial loss due to the crisis, many see this as an opportunity for change, new growth and transformation to more sustainable future growth for their business.

Challenges Confronting Future-Ready Leaders due to COVID-19

Business disruption through the COVID19 crisis has led to challenges for all organizations. Leaders reported addressing and are investing in tools to overcome the following issues:

  1. Business, as usual, has been disrupted – economically, politically and competitively requiring us to restructure all aspects of the business – without guidelines
  2. Planned growth rate and ability to meet financial expectations have changed dramatically due to different customer expectations and economic uncertainty
  3. Empowering and supporting managers to lead effectively through uncertainty as to the previous ‘rule books’ and best practices no longer apply
  4. Gaining confidence to make the right decisions in a rapidly changing environment
  5. Motivating and engaging employees to continue delivering productively while working remotely
  6. Redesigning the organizational structure to maximize agility and empower employees for future success without clarity of long-term requirements
  7. Identifying and focusing on the best new opportunities and making the right decisions to maximize our position in the post-COVID future
  8. Measurements of success ie KPIs, growth goal and financial incentives are no longer viable – we now need to measure return on innovation and value creation in new ways.
  9. Changing customer behaviors and regulations require us to reinvent our business: offering, value proposition and service delivery model to address future needs
  10. Isolation through working from home, lack of meetings with customers and limited interaction with global partners has led to siloed thinking. We must seek new ways to gain outside perspective to avoid missed opportunities.

Uncertainty and disruption naturally lead to fear. Forward-thinking leaders are reaching out to customers, partners, employees and peers. By sharing insights, supporting one another and collaborating to address challenges together, explore new opportunities and hold one another accountable, they are shifting from fear to action.