One of the unexpected results of a difficult year was that the pandemic shattered many beliefs about how to run an organization.
Since the onset of COVID-19, Australia’s public and private sectors have made unprecedented changes in record time.
Going through the crisis, many companies quickly went into “minimum survival” mode, making radical changes to the way they operate.
The sometimes surprising result: many experienced significant jumps in productivity, reaping gains in speed and efficiency that they now hope to lock in.
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In the case of the public sector, when the pandemic hit, the federal government acted quickly and within days of the start of the lockdown.
Australian GPs were given a Medicare reimbursement number for telehealth consultations, boosting volumes by 43% to nearly one in six adult Australians between April and early May.
In the private sector, a leading Australian grocery store doubled its online ordering capacity in a month thanks to the rapid redeployment of employees and a combination of new offerings, such as an “essentials” box, pop-up delivery hubs and new last-mile running partnerships.
In another case, an Australian telecommunications organization was able to return to normal customer service levels less than three weeks after losing a significant portion of its overseas contact center due to COVID-19 restrictions, leveraging and by quickly mobilizing its retail store teams.
Underlying these spectacular results are very different ways of working based on a simpler mode of operation.
Borders and silos have been removed. The new technology was adopted quickly. The pace of decisions has accelerated.
One CEO had a bold and empowering message: “We adopted new technology overnight, not the usual years it takes. How can we tell ourselves again that we can’t be faster when we have proven that we can? »
Leaders spend more time in direct contact with teams, while teams of high-caliber talent can be assembled quickly to tackle the most important issues and seize big opportunities.
These COVID-19 successes challenge many common assumptions about how to run a large organization.
For example, the idea that most large organizations operate at near-full efficiency has been dispelled by the fact that many companies have been churning out months of work, relying on far fewer people.
The common belief that IT processes and changes are the bottleneck of change is challenged by the fact that single-purpose companies have adopted new technology overnight and launched products within days.
And the implicit certainty that co-location is essential to employee productivity is now in doubt by many of us who have experienced first-hand that remote working could actually increase performance.
Companies can begin their tactical adjustments by clarifying sustainable hybrid remote working practices.
For example, many companies realized that the activities of their office staff would support a much higher level of remote working than previously thought.
Companies may also want to formalize new decision-making pathways that have proven effective during the crisis.
If the best team has been effective in making many more decisions during COVID-19, shouldn’t they continue to do so in the future?
As the saying goes, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.
We find that companies aiming for a full reset follow a common pattern: Think, Decide, and Scale.
Thinking is crucial because many changes related to COVID-19 have been fueled by adrenaline rather than careful planning. They may not be durable without adjustment.
The leadership team must explicitly decide what changes to the old operating model will serve as the foundation for the new normal.
Finally, large-scale deployment is usually triggered by a deep transformation in one domain (a pilot) followed quickly by an enterprise-wide transformation.
As organizations examine the lessons of a turbulent year, it’s worth considering that during COVID-19, many organizations have seen an increase in customer satisfaction and employee productivity.
In a McKinsey survey, for example, the number of employees who felt more productive while working from home increased by 45% from April to May 2020.
Companies that manage to maintain their COVID-19 pace in a sustainable way will overtake competitors that do not.
How much of the new performance should Australian companies retain before the pendulum swings back to pre-COVID normality? The time to decide is now.