Working Through COVID-19 Together
Lessons from the generals: Decisive action amid the chaos of crisis
Yuval Atsmon, Mckinsey & Company, May, 18, 2020
Similar to warlike condition, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in lockdowns in many communities, taking away our freedom of movement and assembly. Military commanders are accustomed to operating under a fog of uncertainty and great time pressure. In a time of crisis, there is a premium on bold leadership and decisive action and the military-command structure – the management system used by armed forces during major conflicts – is a framework explicitly set to handle issues that represent extreme danger. The current pandemic, with its unique scale, complexity and severity, requires a unique playbook and new operating models. We are heading for an economic shock bigger than any since World War II – and business leaders can respond by learning what some of the great military generals have done in the past.
To read more go to McKinsey & Company
How CEOs Can Lead Selflessly Through a Crisis
Stefanie Johnson, Harvard Business Review, May 14, 2020
In times of crisis, our leaders are viewed as more charismatic and effective in what they do. This is probably why US Presidents are almost universally re-elected in times of war. Research shows that ‘leader self-sacrifice’, such as reducing one’s own salary or giving up benefits, can lead to employees feeling more positive toward their leaders and more committed to their organizations during crises. More recently, we have seen CEOs step up to support their employees during this pandemic by pledging not to lay off employees. For example, Patagonia’s CEO Yvon Chouinard has announced that the company will continue to pay all employees even though all of its stores are closed. So, what can leaders do in this time to support their employees? HBR explain what the three effective measures are.
To read more go to HBR
The Role of the Board Chair During a Crisis
Adam Schmitt, Gilbert Probst & Michael Tushman, MIT Sloan Management Review, April 28, 2020
Complementary roles, strategic alignment, and chemistry between the chair and CEO are crucial to the long-term survival of a company during a crisis. When a crisis like COVID-19 hits and the organization’s CEO transforms into Chief Crisis Officer, the chairperson may be unsure how to strike the right work balance. It is crucial that the board monitors the crisis response of senior executives, but it also risks creating response delays and bottlenecks. The chairperson’s objective to preserve future strategic options for growth might be difficult when the organization’s short-term survival is on the line. Frictions can also arise if the chairperson and CEO have conflicting views on crisis response measures. MIT Sloan Review state: “…the interactions between the chairperson and the CEO to establish decision rules, guidelines, expectations, agendas, and communication strategies are an essential and often underestimated success factor for leading organizations through a crisis.” MIT explore how chairpersons interpret their role during a crisis.
To read more go to MIT Sloan Management Review
Shift Your Organization from Panic to Purpose
Scott Goodson, Ali Demos & Charles Dhanaraj, Harvard Business Review, April 27, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has brough stock markets crumbling down, business revenues are falling, and there is great anxiety on what is around the corner. It is easy for brands to slide into panic. In times of crisis and adversity, employees, clients, and customers are looking to leaders for reassurance, inspiration, and courage to guide them through the storm. When business as usual is impossible, ask: “What might business possible, business next, business better look like? What might business with purpose accomplish?” The challenge is to now steer your colleagues from panic to purpose. HBR outline what this may look like.
To read more go to HBR
Executives and Boards, Avoid These Missteps in a Crisis
Heidi Gardner & Randall Peterson, Harvard Business Review, April 24, 2020
The size and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is only just fully sinking in, with organisations of all types feeling the pressure to not just survive the crisis but to also plan for the new future. Harvard Business Review pose the following questions for organisations to consider: “How do they share the economic pain among stakeholders? How should they revamp their supply chains in order to make them more resilient? How do they avoid the mistakes they made in the last financial crisis?” Due to the current threat facing organisations, business leaders and board directors are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxieties that is fueled by the threats of survival of their companies, and the health of their families. At a time when leaders need to be adaptive, executive teams and boards could fall victim to “threat rigidity” – which translates to the freezing of innovation and resorting to actions that have worked in the past rather than the future. HBR’s recent research and consulting work has led to them to come up with ways executives and boards can avoid three main traps during a crisis.
To read what the three main traps are go to HBR
Is coronavirus reshaping volunteering?
Maggie Coggan, Pro Bono Australia, April 21, 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak has left a large workforce gap for many volunteer charities, but some say the pandemic can be an opportunity for the industry to recreate itself. Corporate volunteer programs are grinding to a halt as businesses begin working from home, and older people self-isolate for their own safety. According to research from Curtin University Professor Kirsten Holmes, she says the coronavirus pandemic has not stopped people from volunteering, but they are just doing it in different ways. “People are wanting to help, and are wanting to do something, and so we’re seeing some new needs emerge and new ways of doing that,” Holmes told Pro Bono News. Holmes said that more official organisations like Volunteering WA are tapping into remote tech solutions: “Volunteering WA has set up an emergency volunteer site where people can register to be sent a text when an essential worker needs their shopping bought, or check in on vulnerable people in their neighborhood who don’t have family around.” The pandemic is now forcing change, with many organisations now starting to understand the value of virtual volunteering. “It’s got to be a few clicks online. You’ve got to get people when they’re most interested and excited, they’re putting their hand out,” Holmes said.
To read more go to Pro Bono News
When and How Should Leaders Retool for a Post-Coronavirus World?
James Allen, Bain & Company, April 20, 2020
Bain & Co’s weekly discussions with CEOs shows most leaders are shifting their focus from “protection mode” (ensuring safety and business continuity) toward “recovery” (planning to restart the business). But the best CEOs are now considering how to retool their companies for a new world that will be characterized by increased polarization, and local market disruptions. To make their companies more adaptable in the future, CEOS are asking two questions: “When should I have the retooling discussion? And how do I start retooling, especially during lockdown?”
To read the full story go to Bain & Company
Finding the Right Words in a Crisis
Carmine Gallo, Harvard Business Review, April 17, 2020
Throughout human history, both political and business leaders have relied on words to spark their followers into action. Today, many economists and CEOs swear that words are the most important tool in a world where “command and control” leaders have given way to power by persuasion. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has mastered the skill. In a time of crisis, his words capture the attention and trust of his audience. HBR list a few best practices that business leaders can apply to their speeches during times of uncertainty.
To read the best practices for speeches go to Harvard Business Review
Companies Behaving Badly
David Leonhardt, The New York Times, April 17, 2020
The New York Times columnist, David Leonhardt writes about American companies acting responsibly and irresponsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what to do about it. Leonhardt mentions how PetSmart has now re-opened dog grooming salons, Holland America is now planning to force some crew members to remain on board ships without passengers, and Marriot International has begun “furloughing” most of its American workers. Leonhardt claims that “attention” is a remedy for companies that are behaving poorly amid the coronavirus pandemic. If the company’s employees, journalists, and customers call attention to poor corporate behavior that endangers people, there is a chance the company will stop. “Corporations are always concerned about new information that could harm their reputation with customers, but the pandemic has intensified their sensitivity,” writes Judd Legum, a lawyer and journalist at the Popular Information.
To read the full story go to The New York Times
A Leader’s guide: Communicating with teams, stakeholders, and communities during COVID-19
Ana Mendy, Mary Lass Stewart, and Kate VanAkin, McKinsey & Company, April 2020
How organisations communicate about COVID-19’s speed and scale can create clarity, build resilience and encourage change. The coronavirus pandemic has created much uncertainty, stress and anxiety, and an aspect of tunnel vision where people focus only on what’s in front of them, instead of looking to the future. Behavioral science shows that during times of crisis – when information is unavailable or inconsistent – there is an increased human desire for transparency, guidance, and making sense of what has happened. During such times, a leader’s words and actions can keep people safe: “but as this crisis leaps from life-and-death direction on public health and workplace safety to existential matters of business continuity, job loss, and radically different ways of working, an end point may not be apparent,” the authors comment. The COVID-19 crisis presents leaders with many complicated challenges and no easy answers. Executives have never been under such intense spotlight. It would be easy for leader to plunge into the whirlpool of social media misinformation, and copy what others are doing but it is also true that crises can produce great leaders. McKinsey list five things that “superior” crisis communicators tend to do well.
To read the five points go to McKinsey & Company
Build Your Team’s Resilience – From Home
David Sluss & Edward Powley, Harvard Business Review, April 14, 2020
The current coronavirus crisis requires teams to be resilient, and for leaders to create the conditions that makes this possible. Harvard Business Review has conducted multiple studies with U.S. Navy recruits that show how this can be done, even if team members are working remotely. The key is to focus on two things: people and perspective.
To read more go to HBR
Managing Crises in the Short and Long Term
HBR IdeaCast, April 14, 2020
Eric McNulty, the associate director of Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative studies how managers successfully navigate a crises. In this podcast, he identifies the common traps that leaders fall into and shares how the best managers excel by thinking longer-term and trusting their teams.
To listen to the podcast go to HBR
10 Questions to Guide Boards Through the Pandemic
Dambisa Moyo, Harvard Business Review, April 13, 2020
The 2020 global pandemic presents a moment for corporate boards to step up like no other. Based on Dambisa Moyo’s decade-long experience serving on the boards of large, complex, global corporation, he has put together 10 questions to help guide boards at this time.
To read the 10 questions go to HBR
What Good Leadership Looks Like During This Pandemic
Michaela J. Kerrissey & Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business Review, April 13, 2020
The sheer speed and scope of the COVID-19 crisis poses an extraordinary challenge for today’s corporate and government leaders. In times of crisis, it’s easy to understand why so many have missed the opportunity to enact decisive action and honest communication to their stakeholders. Although, other leaders have done just the opposite. Take Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) took the then-surprising step back on March 11 to suspend the rest of the season – Silver’s decision was one of the earliest high-profile response to the virus outside China. Adam Silver’s decisive action set off a chain of events that almost certainly altered the course of the virus. When looking at government responses, Jacinda Ardern’s response to the pandemic back on March 21 was also bold and engendered public support. On March 21, Ardern delivered an eight-minute televised statement to the nation where she announced a four-level COVID-19 alert system. This system established clear guidelines for how governments would respond to the crisis. What Ardern and Silver got right back in March reveals a great deal about what good leadership looks like during this pandemic. Building on the cases of Silver and Ardern, Harvard Business Review distill four lessons for leaders in a novel crisis.
To read more about these cases and the four lessons go to HBR
What Employees Need to Hear From Leaders in Times of Crisis
Amy Leschke-Kahle, MIT Sloan Management Review, April 09, 2020
Employees need to hear from their organisation and team leaders to stay informed and focused during times of crisis. Business and HR leaders need to place a strong importance on the things that can help employees stay informed and updated. What can employees receive from their leaders?
To read what leaders can do
go to MIT Sloan Management Review
To Build an Agile Team, Commit to Organizational Stability
Elaine Pulakos & Robert B Kaiser, Harvard Business Review, April 7, 2020
Practitioners are often told that to cope with sudden and dramatic change, the companies they work for need to be agile and resilient. The current coronavirus pandemic has proven this to be true but new research suggests that to achieve legitimate agility and resilience, companies must first have to commit themselves to stability. Organisational stability provides employees with a sense of confidence, security, and optimism during times of disruption. Harvard Business Review have devised seven evidence-based practices that leaders can use to build a stable foundation during the current COVID-19 crisis.
To read more go to HBR now
Covid-19 Creates a Moment of Truth for Corporate Culture
Marc Berman & Tracy Thurkow, Bain & Company, April 7, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has created a moment for leaders to ask themselves, are our choices and actions right now reflecting our culture, and purpose and values that define us? An organisation’s culture determines what it says and does. Culture is guided by purpose and values and for many companies, this will be put to the test by a crisis such as COVID-19. Bain & Co’s research shows that strong cultures exhibit collaboration, agility, integrity, people-centricity, innovation, accountability and ambition. Companies are 3.7 times more likely to be business performance leaders if they have strong internal culture and inspire their employees. Bain & Co outline the three steps that leaders can take to ensure the organisation they work for acts in ways that are in keeping with its culture.
To read more the three steps go to Bain & Company
Coronavirus Is Putting Corporate Social Responsibility to the Test
Mark Kramer, Harvard Business Review, April 1, 2020
For millions of Americans, the new compensation package announced by the US Government will be too little too late, with payments expected to take three weeks to reach laid-off employees and small businesses. For much of America, this is a crisis that requires immediate action that only companies can take. Investors and bankers will pressure corporate leaders to conserve cash and reduce losses, but neither of these stakeholders will go hungry during this crisis. Harvard Business Review list things that companies can do to help their employees, small suppliers, health care providers, and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To read more about what companies can do
go to HBR
Demonstrating corporate purpose in the time of coronavirus
Bill Schaninger, Bruce Simpson, Han Zhang & Chris Zhu, McKinsey & Company, March 2020
Companies will have to define what they do in response to COVID-19 or they run the risk of being defined by it. As millions retreat into isolation, corporate leaders are confronted by a magnitude of issues caused by the coronavirus crisis. It also demands of them a moment to think: “What defines their company’s purpose – its core reason for being and its impact on the world?” In a crisis, many CEOs expect to focus on the bottom-line of their business, feeling constrained to make defensive moves. But in this crisis, stakeholders’ needs are already so critical that there is an opportunity for the business to make an indelible mark.
To read McKinsey’s principles that can guide executives to build a powerful corporate purpose during a crisis click the link
Applying past leadership lessons to the coronavirus pandemic
McKinsey & Company, March 2020
The career of a manager can rise and fall on their ability to rally their teams, project confidence, take decisive action, and communicate effectively during a crisis. McKinsey spoke to three senior advisors about their stories and experiences of leadership in moments of disruption and upheaval. Hugo Bague was group executive of organizational resources at Rio Tinto during the Ebola crisis in 2015-16; Jeff Cava was chief human-resources officer at Nike during two major economic crises, and at Wendy’s in 2003 during the SARS outbreak; and Manley Hopkinson, served as an officer in the Royal Navy during the first Gulf War. The three senior advisors answer questions on delegating responsibility, collaboration, leadership messaging, and managing stakeholder relationships during a global crisis.
To read the conversation go to McKinsey & Company
Managing the Flow of Ideas in a Pandemic
Alex Pentland, MIT Sloan, March 25, 2020
Most organizations are hierarchical or centralized, with all roads leading to the senior leaders at the top. During a pandemic such as COVID-19, standard organizational structures are a disaster in the making because senior people will be the hardest hit if they contract the virus. We’ve learned about the value of social distancing in reducing the spread of infection but given that ideas and decision-making flow primarily to and from the central (senior) people, the act of preventing the spread of coronavirus can pose risks to the essential work of an organisation. So how do you minimize the spread of illness while maintaining the flow of ideas necessary in a high-performance organization? MIT Sloan Management Review mention the options that exist: ‘maximize idea flow’; ‘lower the social cost’; ‘reward the flow’; ‘bolster connection’ and; ‘minimize direct contact’.
To read the options go to MIT Sloan Management Review
Are You Leading Through the Crisis … or Managing the Response?
Eric J. McNulty & Leonard Marcus, Harvard Business Review, March 25, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, it is useful to distinguish what ‘was’, ‘is’, and ‘will be’ during a crisis. The actions that executives and their decision-making teams make now, in the midst of the crisis, will significantly determine the fate of their organisation. Crises are filled with complexity and change; addressing the need of the present requires executives and crisis managers to lead and operate effectively. Leaders must also focus on what is likely to come next, and allocating resources to meet this. For nearly two decades, HBR have researched and observed public and private sector executives in high-stakes, high-pressure situations. They’ve learned that crises are most often over-managed and under-led. The most effective leaders energise organisations and inspire communities. The four leadership traps are explored in this article.
To read more about the four leadership traps go to Harvard Business Review
Coronavirus Emails From Companies May Not Be Calming to Customers
Chris Kornelis, The Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2020
Large and small businesses have been sending emails to reassure customers during the coronavirus pandemic of improved cleaning and social-distancing measures being used in their businesses. While some emails are warranted such as store closures, Soo Kim, assistant professor of marketing at Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, said: “People don’t like to keep being reminded of information they don’t want to face.” Other commentators argue that by staying quiet during a global health outbreak, it presents its own risks as consumers now expect brands to take positions on political and social issues. For businesses today, finding the right balance is crucial. When Levis Strauss & Co. decided to close its stores, it sent a short email: “No one wants to get a bunch of emails from brands and stores saying what they are doing,” said Levi’s Chief Marketing Officer Jen Sey.
To view the full story go to The Wall Street Journal
How to Make Your Teams Strong in a Crisis
Phil Kleweno & Pete Gerend, Bain & Company, March 20, 2020
A well-functioning crisis management team is critical in ensuring the survival of the business through the coronavirus pandemic, and then thriving after it. In the past, executive teams have traditionally focused on planning and reviewing operations at a comprehensive level but now the best leadership groups also focus on the development of strategy, culture and talent. Bain & Company’s research found high-performing executive teams do four things consistently: “trust and empower, share common goals, make decisions in service of the common good; and foster a sense of belonging.” When C-suite leaders rate their teams highly across these four specific areas, their companies will outperform their competitors in: “revenue and profit growth as well as total shareholder return.” While COVID-19 is testing the current business model, there is reason to believe in and continue focusing on these principles.
To read more about the research go to Bain & Company
Here’s how social media can combat the coronavirus ‘infodemic’
Joan Donovan, MIT Technology Review, March 17, 2020
Social media is becoming the most important tool for families, friends and coworkers, as society grapples with the massive and growing coronavirus pandemic which is causing countries to shut down. As the world becomes more isolated, social media and the internet will play an even more crucial role in the quest for information related to the virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) worries that in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it will also be fighting an infodemic, which is defined as “an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidelines when they need it.” Without clear strategies to prevent the spread of bad information, a lot can go wrong. While assessing the impact of misinformation is difficult, social media companies have learned that doing nothing is harmful to society. The first way to tackle the infodemic is to sort, rank and prioritize true and reliable information. The second is to enable government emergency alert systems across social media platforms, to ensure critical information is prioritized. This is the only way to keep rumors from dominating the headlines.
For the full story go to MIT Technology Review
Communication Is More Important Now Than Ever Before: 9 Ways To Reassure And Re-Engage Your Team
Tracy Brower, Forbes, March 16, 2020
The situation being faced due to coronavirus and COVID-19 is causing uncertainty and is changing rapidly which is placing more importance on the way a business leader communicates. As a leader, how should you communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to have the right communication strategy. Forbes provides nine tips for business leaders to consider.
To view the full story go to Forbes
8 Questions Employers Should Ask About Coronavirus
Jeff Levin-Scherz & Deana Allen, Harvard Business Review, March 15, 2020
The coronavirus outbreak is a wake-up call for companies to carefully review their internal policies, and procedures that protect employees, customers, and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harvard Business Review lists eight questions that companies should ask themselves as they deal with this crisis.
To view the eight questions that companies should ask go to HBR now
Crisis communication researcher shares five key principles that officials should use in coronavirus
Matthew Seeger, The Conversation, March 7, 2020
Crises are time-sensitive events that require quick decisions and actions to contain the issue, and telling people what to do during a crisis is critical to limiting and containing the harm it is causing. Matthew Seeger was part of the group of academics that helped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) develop their crisis and emergency risk communication materials for public health outbreaks. The CDC program and other effective crisis communication principles, are explained in the article.
To read more about effective crisis communication principles go to The Conversation
COVID 19: Confidently navigate through the coronavirus crisis
PwC, March 2020
Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) brings together a list of responses to improve the situation that has been affected by COVID-19. The list includes: creating a dedicated crisis team, verifying the facts, internal and external collaboration, and produce an inclusive stakeholder communications strategy.
For the full story go to PwC
The CIO’s moment: Leadership through the first wave of the coronavirus crisis
McKinsey Digital, March 2020
Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are playing a crucial role during the coronavirus outbreak as they grapple with the economic and social implications. McKinsey Digital spoke with more than 100 CIOs at global companies about what the function should focus their energies on in the next 60 to 90 days.
To view the ten actions CIOs should focus on go to McKinsey Digital
Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges
McKinsey & Company, March 2020
McKinsey & Company provides five leadership practices that can be used by executives to help respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic.
To view the five leadership practices go to McKinsey & Company
Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis
Martin Reeves, Nikolaus Lang and Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, Harvard Business Review, February 27, 2020
Harvard Business Review details 12 lessons that is based on analysis and evaluation which can be used to respond to unfolding events, and communicating, and extracting and applying learnings to future crises.
For the full list go to the Harvard Business Review
With the COVID-19 coronavirus threatening to become a pandemic, HKS Senior Lecturer Juliette Kayyem says globalization has changed the nature of the crises we face — and that crisis managers need to respond.
Juliette Kayyem, Harvard Kennedy School, February 25, 2020
Harvard Kennedy School Senior Lecturer Juliette Kayyem – who played a crucial role in managing the US’ response to the H1N1 virus (swine flu) pandemic in 2009, speaks to PolicyCast about how crisis managers can respond to the global coronavirus pandemic. “The nature of the crises we’re facing on a global scale is that they are very hard to limit,” she says. Kayyem goes on to tell PolicyCast that there is already a well-established playbook for responding to a local, regional and global crisis but planning ahead for a “black swan” event is often complicated. In preparing for a world embattling a pandemic, Kayyem says measuring success sometimes means being happy that things could have been worse.
To listen to the podcast now go to Harvard Kennedy School