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    Coronavirus may be the new normal – and requires appropriate leadership

    We are currently living in unprecedented circumstances, and it is currently impossible for anyone to predict the duration of the crisis or the depth of its economic impacts.

    Since the future is uncertain, the best we can do is to adapt to the here and now. This does not mean falling into apathy, however, as we need to take action to tackle and lead the new situation as the status quo in which we now live. This is the only way we can identify and seize the opportunities provided by the changing markets, maintain our competitiveness, build confidence and alleviate uncertainty among our staff, customers and interest groups.

    Trust and community spirit are key

    Adapting to the new normal requires getting the acute impacts of the crisis under control as quickly as possible. As such, many companies have taken measures to secure their funding and service production and ensure the well-being of their employees and customers. It is also important to foster communality and trust, which are critically important in a crisis.

    In order to build communality and a spirit of pulling together, clear shared goals and open approachable communications about the management’s intentions are key. In these extraordinary times, managers should avoid reading forced greetings directly from a sheet of paper and instead focus on presenting themselves as human beings to other human beings. As an example, video greetings from the CEO are a good way to shed light on your thinking and the means to build the path forward together.

    Moreover, the efforts to build community spirit should not be restricted within the company organisation, since exceptional circumstances also test the reliability of suppliers and partners. In addition to ensuring reliable deliveries, companies must focus on communications aimed at customers. Regular contact and updates on the situation alleviate and dispel concerns and keep communication channels open. This interaction will generate the information needed to identify customers’ changed needs and goals, which will then enable the development of new kinds of product and service portfolios.

    Demands and values are changing

    The coronavirus epidemic will cause changes in all areas of society. Identifying, understanding and leveraging these changes sufficiently early on will provide companies with an unprecedented opportunity to develop their operations and create something entirely new.

    For example, the process of digitalisation has already begun to accelerate in some markets altered by the coronavirus crisis. The demand for online grocery shopping has exploded, and schools have taken a digital leap that would normally have taken decades. Despite the fact that the changes were sparked by the crisis, many of the good practices will persist once it is over.

    One method for understanding the changes taking place in the behaviours of businesses, customers and employees is scenario-based analysis. Companies can use it to identify the demands created by the new situation and develop the appropriate products and services to meet them. At the same time, companies must consider how the crisis will change people’s values and impact everything from decision-making to behaviours.

    Even now, it is clearly evident that “soft values” have entered the discourse around many topics such as emissions and delivery chains. The corona situation has led to a reduction in smog levels, which lends credence to the notion that we can still correct our course with regard to the climate. In terms of logistics, delivery reliability and quality may rise to the fore, supplanting cost efficiency as the predominant factor. The ability to notice these types of changes slightly before the actual market needs emerge will provide excellent opportunities to gain a competitive edge.

    The exit will come as a surprise

    If businesses manage to adapt to the crisis and shape their operations to suit the new normal and the changes in customer needs, many may find themselves surprised when the emergency is finally over.

    Since the prevalent crisis is highly unstable by its very nature, companies must constantly reflect on their operations and adjust them accordingly. Sooner or later, companies will notice a drop in corrective measures, indicating that the changed circumstances have become the new normal based on which the entire world will move forward. What this means is that the businesses that can adapt to the new normal as quickly as possible, anticipate opportunities and seize them will be the ones to come out on top.

    How to take advantage of the opportunities created by the exceptional circumstances:

    1. Monitor the situation and build an understanding of what is going on in your operating environment.
    2. Prepare a scenario-based analysis on changes in customer needs, the market and your own operations.
    3. Strengthen trust and cooperation with your customers and staff.



    Henry Nieminen

    Henry Nieminen