A reason for optimism

May 15, 2020

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Wales :flag-wales:


Design & Strategy Director

Recently I had the pleasure of chatting to Ana Jakimovska, Malik Akhtar, Mark Stevens and Ivan Croxford.

The topic of the conversation was surprise surprise Covid-19. In particular though, what I was interested in learning was how the global pandemic is forcing organisations to change and adapt. Not just in terms of remote working, but more how this ‘crisis’ is changing the cultures and behaviours of organisations and what impact that has had on the way they do business both now and in the future.

I could go on for hours on this. In the spirit of TL;DR, for this piece, I have laid out my 4 key observations from these and many other discussions about how we can navigate this crisis and ensure we are ready for the opportunities that exist on the other side.

You can watch the entire conversation here

1. Capitalise on a common enemy & clear focus

One of the positives that this global pandemic has given us is a common enemy and a razor-sharp focus.

*“What it has done is put us in a mode of extreme focus and responsive to the change of context” * - Ana Jakimovska

What we have seen consistently here at Reason and across the board with clients is an unerring focus. Differing points of view around strategy, methodology and approach etc, are no longer the lengthy conversation or friction points they once were. Everyone is clear and focussed on overcoming the common enemy and achieving a single-minded goal or outcome - no matter the beliefs there is a unilateral desire to get the job done.

This has enabled businesses and teams to make the decisions at pace and with confidence. With that, we have seen brands achieve things that would have been thought impossible 3 months ago.

Now is the time to capitalise on this focus. Be cognizant of things enabling this focus, and try to implement them as a daily practice both now and in the future.

Make a list of the mountains your company has moved in the last few months. Write down the single-minded goal or outcome that needed to be achieved to do this, finally write down what individuals/teams had to do to achieve that goal or outcome.

Now, look at any initiatives that may have been paused or kicked back to ‘when things get normal again’ and think, what is the single-minded goal or outcome we need to achieve with this, what if we had to do this in 3 weeks, what would we need to do.

2. Over-communicate and respond to change of context

Along with focus, companies and teams are moving to a radically different communication model, opening up new communication lines and promoting transparency both internally and externally. At Reason we have implemented client response meetings every 2 days, we have rolled out company-wide standups 3 days a week, along with almost daily company and client updates via email/slack. Our clients have shifted from quarterly OKR cadence to monthly, with weekly check-ins, responsive squads have been set up to react in near real-time to changes in the market.

“We upped the communication to the organisation, in terms of what we are seeing happening in the industry and how we anticipate that impacting us - so that everyone understood what the latest is.” - Ana Jakimovska

This spike in feedback loops between leaders, employees and customers has enabled businesses from top to bottom to understand what is happening in the industry and how it impacts their business. As things change daily, teams are constantly re-aligning themselves to what they are hearing and seeing and are reacting to it.

“We are speaking to 135 partners daily” - Ivan Croxford

This level of transparency and communication may have previously felt uncomfortable, now is the time to build these communication lines into your operational structure and ensure you have a responsive, agile organisation for the long run.

List out all of the communication touchpoints your business or team is now having (you may be surprised how much there is), capture the purpose of each of these touchpoints in a sentence or two. Finally, give each of touchpoints a name.

Once you name something, it’s in the world, it’s real, people will talk about it, ask about it and remember it, it will become part of your norm.

3. Adopting the innovation principle

Most large, complex organisations are by their nature risk-averse, with policies, structures, reporting lines designed to maintain the status quo, avoiding negative impact or disruption to core business.

Coronavirus has thrown all of that out of the window, we are seeing a shift in mindset from one of ‘how can I minimise disruption of my customer experience’ to, what is the ‘biggest impact I can have on my customer experience’.

This is coupled with a shift in customer expectations from one of demanding excellence to one of understanding and craving brand engagement no matter the finesse or format. Now is the time to experiment, fast track initiatives and push things out that are not 100% ready.

“We have shifted our perspective from risk to opportunity of impact. On a number of consumer-facing experiences in our pipeline, we are shifting the context of what the scope of these are, from we don’t want to risk impacting the consumer experience to actually how can we maximise the impact of this.” - Mark Stevens

The companies that adopt this mindset, do it with integrity, do it with the customer in mind there is a great opportunity to drive up customer satisfaction, loyalty and deepen your relationship throughout this crisis

“Those businesses that are gonna be able to react to the change and do it quickly, do it with integrity and do it with the customer in mind are going to be at the front of the pack” __ - Mark Stevens__

4. Double down on values

In times of crises, it is often a belief system that gets you through. Our clients that have strong corporate values are the ones that are able to capitalise on the extreme focus and the seamless transition into the new mindset.

Your principles and purpose define the role that you want to play in your customer’s lives, that role does not disappear. This is the same for those organisations not impacted coronavirus, in a time of crisis you are able to decide what role you want to play in this, strong values drive this.

“We have almost a responsibility to play a leadership role in the response to this” - Malik Aktar

We are here for a reason, go back to values and live them wherever possible

“Urgency, courage and doubling down on value has been special cocktail for Levi’s” - Mark Stevens

Overwhelming optimism

What struck me the most was that with a panel from industries such as travel, retail and education; arguable the three hardest-hit industries in this crisis, I was still able to walk away with a real sense of optimism for the future.

This crisis has shown businesses how they need to react. Those businesses that are purpose-driven and continue to be courageous will change, adapt and innovate to come out of this crisis stronger than ever.

Look at what is working right now, embrace it and make it part of your ‘new norm’. Capitalize on the focus you have, continue to over-communicate, embrace an innovation mindset and double down on values.