Ostrich or Albatross? Fear or Flight? What are our options post COVID-19?

Ostrich or Albatross? Fear or Flight? What are our options post COVID-19?

Every crisis presents an opportunity, an opportunity to revisit, rethink and recommit to finding ways to protect, prepare and eventually emerge stronger.

Coming to this pandemic, while the business impact may be common to almost all organizations, the reactions and recovery will not be common. How an organization emerges from this crisis will differ widely. Just as how people with the same infection react and recover differently.

Going back to the 2007/08 global financial crisis, one of the key take-aways was that companies reacted in two distinct ways. I am taking the help of two wonderful birds, to make my point. (apologies, bird lovers!)

A) Ostrich Companies - they typically bury their head when frightened (myth) and remember they are big, but can’t fly!

Apply this to any company and how it reacts to a crisis. The 'Ostrich' companies, tend to go into a shell, effectively shutting the doors of opportunities. They don't make enough efforts to fly, scan for improvements, take a bird’s eye-view of the situation and prepare for flying away from the challenges! They get buried under the challenges! Be reminded, Ostriches do have wings, but have lost their ability to fly.

The key operating word in 'Ostrich' companies during or just out of a crisis, is CUTTING COSTS - by reducing headcount, R&D budgets, marketing spend and even spend on spare parts!

To summarize the thought process, it’s 'cutting costs at any cost'. This, of course, can deliver some pretty quick results, as you save some cash, right away!

B) On the other hand, permit me to introduce the grand bird, the Albatross. They have huge wings and know how to use them effectively. They flap them the least (read no 'waste') but can fly far and high. They scan the world below and most interestingly; they have a good sense of smell and pair for life! (they stick to one mate life long, yes!).

Albatross Companies - taking this analogy further, the 'Albatross Companies' fly! They don't bury their heads and wish the problem goes away! They fly high, but with minimal effort! They focus on cutting waste (Muda) and maximizing impact... call it productivity!

They get closer to their partners, they build long lasting relationships; with their own team members, customers, within the trade and suppliers. They don't ditch their partners at the earliest opportunity! The mantra for the Albatross Company is "CUT WASTE" get lighter to fly longer and higher!

The COVID-19 crisis is an equalizer, that has impacted or will impact every family in every country, industry and the supply chain, in some way or the other. The question is how many will go the Ostrich way and how many get inspired by the Albatross? The choice is in one’s own hands!

As a student and believer in the spirit of KAIZEN™ – which is the art and science of continual improvement achieved without adding any resources (yes, read this bit again!), this is the time to invest and build your KAIZEN™ improvement muscles! This is not the time to cut costs and weaken the organizational muscles! There is a great difference between cutting costs and cutting waste! This difference is rooted in the KAIZEN™ way of thinking and acting. I will go further to request you to reflect if investments in automation and high tech is the only way forward? How much of what you have already is being utilized to its maximum? Before you plunge to add/invest more, are all resources – human, equipment, inventory, space, utilities, I.T, etc, being used to their fullest potential? If not, do this first, before you add anymore!

Finally, coming to recovery and healing, it all depends on overall health! Those who are in better health, heal faster. Extending this thought to an organization — recovery and healing requires strong muscles to improve organizational health, this is critical. But the past behind, focus on the future. Permit me to remind you of the four key muscles that need to be nourished, built and strengthened, as you start moving forward:

Daily KAIZEN™ Muscle - the ability to change behavior and daily habits, by meeting daily, finding and solving problems daily and thus improving daily. When certain things are done daily, magic happens! Very important for recovery post COVID-19!

Breakthrough KAIZEN™ Muscle - this is the muscle that helps you find quick wins and also strategically important improvement initiatives. It not only helps you find what breakthrough improvements to drive, but this muscle also helps you achieve these breakthroughs!

Leaders KAIZEN™ Muscle - this muscle helps build the muscle of your leaders (all those who have a team to lead) — what should they measure? How often? What should their routines focus on?

Support KAIZEN™ Muscle - this muscle builds the ability to support, steer, nurture and grow the KAIZEN™ abilities and capabilities across the organization. It provides the support and governance required to promote a Continuous Improvement culture.

Do kindly note all the above muscles are to be built and aligned to achieve better business or organizational health! So, let's invest in building our KAIZEN™ muscles to fly high like an Albatross and not bury our heads in panic, confusion and stress! This too shall pass! It is said that when one door closes, many others open up. Make sure your hinges are well oiled.

Five Golden rules in disruptive times:

1. Respect the signals evaluate them for what they really are
2. Don’t crash the company
3. Increase responsiveness
4. Cherish all your stakeholders, your own people first
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Kaizen Institute’s Calling to Actions. Ask us how.

· Taking Care of MGT Team (Establishing Mission Control)
· Taking Care of Operating People (Creating Daily KAIZEN™ Practice)
· Managing Cash Flow
· Reconfiguring the Production Model
· Managing Cash Flow
· Securing Supply Chain, Hubs and Transportation
· Rethinking Health and Safety Standards
· Securing Smart Working and Digital Simplicity
· Securing Smart Working and Digital Simplicity

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