Agility: the cure to COVID-19's economic impact

13 July

When COVID-19 hit, a health crisis was quickly followed by an economic challenge. Within weeks, New Zealand was in lockdown and life as we knew it was flipped on its head. CBD’s became ghost towns and remote working became commonplace.

Before COVID-19, working from home was often linked to start-ups or tech companies, not large wheels of government or big business, and yet necessity meant everyone was in the same boat. Businesses and government agencies set up their technology to enable remote work, established new ways of working to support communication and collaboration, and they did this whilst supporting the changing needs of their customer.

For many, business as usual went out the door. Business models shifted, value propositions changed, and digitalisation was sped up with pace. Distilleries that made gin pivoted to make hand sanitiser while across town, café’s served customers at a distance with all manner of homemade invention.

Now as we are back in the office, we are faced with a new normal. Businesses across the board have become accustomed to working digitally, enabled by cloud services and communication tools. As we realise productivity gains from working from home, many Kiwi businesses are opting for more flexible office structures meaning our physical world of work will be different.

How we work, not just where we work, will also change. COVID-19 has brought to light the need for agility and resilience. But even before we were confronted with a global pandemic market conditions were driving the need for more adaptable organisations. This is perhaps no better highlighted by the fact that just over 10% of companies originally on the Fortune 500 list are still operating. The vast majority have been replaced - unable to adapt to shift with changing consumer demands, new technologies, and new market entrants.

To survive in this new world, businesses have to stay ahead of the game. Becoming more agile is not an easy feat. It requires experimentation and a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Like the innovative gin distilleries and cafés, agile businesses have the ability to perform in new situations by learning and adapting rapidly when confronted with unforeseen circumstances or crises. They recognise that in today’s volatile and extreme business environment, the pull of the past and outdated management practices is debilitating. Instead, their greatest competitive advantage is their ability to learn and pivot at the speed of change.

Bill Gates once said, "success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent". This was true before COVID and will be long after it leaves our shores.