By Sean Pyott, MD of thryve
The pandemic is having a radical impact on leaders, though few state it better than this Harvard Business School article:
“Before COVID-19, CEOs and other executives in high-growth companies were focused on fostering innovation, driving revenue, and gaining market share. Today, many of those same leaders must make rapid decisions about controlling costs and maintaining liquidity. They may encounter unforeseen roadblocks — supply chain issues, team shortages, and operational challenges — that drastically alter the scope of their roles and priorities. All the while, they and their teams are navigating health and safety concerns, working remotely, and supporting their families through the pandemic.”
Leaders have their hands full, yet still have to change how they accomplish things. HBR lays out four traits that every leader should try to adopt. I will reflect how modern technology can help achieve them. Under the current circumstances, the right technologies are definitely helping realise priorities.
Trait 1: Decide with speed over precision
Analysis paralysis is a challenge for companies in good times. During COVID-19, decisions are more about survival than prosperity, so leaders will want to settle on informed decisions – but also not delay on making them. Defining priorities, trade-offs and key decision-makers are important. In this context, visibility is vital both for accurate decisions as well as exploring different choices.
Technology can help by providing that granular context. For example, you might be worried about customer churn and need a strategy to keep loyal customers with you. You can use AI in a platform such as Salesforce to analyse customer data and predict churn, come up with counter-actions, and monitor progress through ad-hoc reports and dashboards.
Trait 2: Adapt boldly
What worked previously won’t necessarily deliver the same results now. The pandemic is a reminder that we operate in a fluctuating world and should adjust accordingly. Or, as the maxim goes, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting different results. Only, in this case, we might want the same results. But to do so, we need to try radically different things. We have to adapt boldly.
We will need to make hard choices, such as what projects to halt and what to accelerate. It’s essential to have information from the frontline of your operations as well as across your value chain. Collaboration tools and sharing critical risk information, capabilities that we deploy through applications such as Riskonnect, form the core of this response. These aggregate business data to create a cohesive story you use to decide on bold actions that make sense for your context.
Trait 3: Reliably deliver
People today want assurance and reliability. When faced with rough seas, they are intuitively drawn to safe harbours and calm coves. Being able to provide such assurance is arguably a greater competitive edge than anything else today, and that impression is built through reliable delivery. Plans are easy, but execution is hard, and leaders must know if their companies are delivering. Various priorities and performance indicators can build that picture of success or failure.
But doing so can be time-intensive. Even the most hands-on CEO today can’t get to everything anymore. This is why integrated project management and capturing indicators are crucial to measuring successful delivery. Technology has a fundamental role here, but even more so is the calibre of your technology partners. Can they understand your business and strategy? Can they align technologies to meet those requirements? Or will you suffer from a system that refuses to follow the business?
Trait 4: Engage for impact
All of the above rely on two things: a single view of the company’s information – its risks, opportunities, activities and resources – and engaging with every part of the business. Leaders must engage with their people in meaningful ways, which is a big ask when everyone works remotely.
The CRM market, in particular, has been pursuing better communications and information-sharing in organisations, with Salesforce leading the charge. These services follow norms that sit closer to the organic engagements of social media and chat clients such as Whatsapp. The best ones also offer secure file sharing and content management, and they make these available across different devices, from PCs to phones. If you want to stay in touch, spread your message and gauge sentiment in an effective and organised way, the best modern communication platforms offer it. Chances are, if you use a cloud-based CRM such as Salesforce, you can already access those features.