Lessons from the military for COVID-time leadership
McKinsey & Co
Dealing with COVID-19 is not like waging war. The enemy is a virus, not armed combatants, and countries around the world are in the struggle together.
Yet certain analogies apply. This article offers six lessons that have proved valuable in the military context and that adapt well to other kinds of organisations.
- Account for the human factors: morale, unit cohesion, mental health, and family stability affect performance. The stress of a sudden crisis will exacerbate pre-existing personnel issues, as well as create new ones.
- Plan, plan some more, and watch for escalating problems: general (and later president) Dwight Eisenhower said “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”.
- Use the principles of ‘mission command’ to achieve ultimate empowerment: at its core, mission command is about empowering officers to seek action in line with the intention behind the order and not the order itself when it cannot be executed. That requires flexible structures, well-defined intent, and trust.
- Communicate succinctly and create a single source of information: make it a priority to establish a common operating picture (COP). A COP ensures that all members of the team have situational awareness, aids collaborative planning, and helps units come together to execute plans.
- Hurry carefully: good leaders work continually to maintain situational awareness. Through experience and character, they learn when they need to intervene. Then they act and move on. Having a plan-ahead team that works through such issues reduces the number of surprises.
- Do not expect or demand perfection: good enough is usually good enough, and going with a less-bad plan is often much better than waiting for a chance at perfection.
A post-crisis agenda for technology-based companies
This article provides four post-crisis scenarios to help with planning and suggests six key action areas to focus on:
- Strategic direction setting: check the viability of your business model, evaluate the dynamics of the underlying markets and the necessity for quantitative and qualitative adaptions to your strategy.
- Portfolio decisions: review your R&D investments to evaluate the most critical projects and capabilities to maintain in difficult times.
- Protectionism and national security: identify potential dual-use technologies and plan for the impact of restrictions on product sales and technology transfers.
- Funding for innovation: in protectionist scenarios, large sources of government funding may open up. Be prepared to tap into these, get acquainted with the necessary processes and look for potential partners.
- Operational transformation and risk assessment beyond cost: assess your innovation and manufacturing footprint as well as your supply chain to assess the impact of potential trade and other innovation barriers.
- M&A: new winners that have the agility to adopt and preserve their financial strength through the crisis have an opportunity to consolidate their industries and strengthen their technology position through M&A.
US based CFOs expect return to pre-crisis operating levels by mid-2021
A majority of US based CFOs expect their companies will not reach pre-pandemic operating levels until early 2021 or later, while many foresee significant changes in how their businesses will function, according to a Deloitte survey of 156 CFOs.
Overall, 60% of CFOs do not expect to return to a pre-crisis level of operations in 2020. Instead, 21% expect to reach this milestone in the first quarter of 2021, with 39% saying they could reach that milestone in the second quarter or later.
See the full results here.
The three behavioural trends that will reshape the post-COVID world
Harvard Business Review
Three factors will influence consumer behaviour:
- Work from home: a survey of CFOs noted that they planned to shift 20% of their employees to remote work to save costs. This massive migration to work from home will by concentrated among high-income workers in high-income geographies.
- Dinner for one: there will be continued growth of single-person households.
- Don’t be dense: density is no longer desirable to consumers. Scale, which was previously a massive competitive asset, is increasingly a large liability. Drive-throughs and delivery models will grow.