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What COVID-19 teaches us about transformation

Like most people, I’m in lockdown, forced to work from home, and I can’t help but see the connections with transformation and everything the COVID-19 crisis can teach us about the conditions required. In our book, Dare to Transform Your Business: Seven Keys to Clarify Your Roadmap, my partner Manon Champagne and I lay out the seven keys that can clarify your roadmap for transformation. Let’s take a look at how those seven keys apply to the social transformation taking place as we navigate the current public health crisis. 

Motives

The reasons for transformation are legitimate, known, accepted and shared.  

Our governments could see was happening in China and Europe – the virus would spread just as fast here if we did nothing. Quebec reacted quickly, setting up an effective mode of communication that was both directive and reassuring.  They explained why social distancing was extremely important, and were able to get people to comply fairly quickly, without too much effort, because the message was legitimate, well-explained and accepted by a large majority of the population. 

Vision

There is a clear, shared vision about what the transformation will accomplish.

In the context of COVID-19, the vision is to curb the spread of the virus and minimize the economic impact so that we can return to a situation where we can go about our daily lives without fear of contagion as soon as possible.

This vision, combined with the rationale, injects meaning into the huge upheaval in our lives.

Key objectives

The vision is expressed in a few key objectives that provide specific guidelines.  

Even when we have a shared vision, we still need to know how to achieve it. With COVID-19, we have clear, shared objectives for achieving the vision, such as staying at home, avoiding gatherings, practicing social distancing when we have to go out, washing our hands often, and avoiding touching our faces. 

Ecosystem

Management and follow-up committees as well as mechanisms are in place to manage the transformation, prioritize and track strategic initiatives, as well as monitor and handle transformation issues.  

A whole host of ecosystems have been put in place at the government, city, hospital, corporate, emergency services and other levels to coordinate the efforts associated with this transformation (e.g.: crisis units, systems for handling testing and cases, teleworking measures). 

Priorities

"Priority initiatives" for achieving the key objectives have been defined. 

To achieve the objectives, individually and collectively, we all had to review our priorities: cancel events, postpone or cut back on projects and set new priorities to manage the crisis. For the governments, the priority was to first put in place measures to minimize the risk of transmission, then to help the population cope financially with the repercussions of those initial measures and finally, to help businesses survive.  We are already starting to see what the priorities for reviving the economy are, bearing in mind our key objectives so that we do so safely.

Engagement

The managers' and employees' level of commitment to the transformation and the plan is measured regularly, in order to adjust the change management practices as required. 

If the situation persists, it will become a challenge to keep the population committed to following the guidelines. Daily press briefings by government authorities or regular communications from an organization’s leaders to keep everyone informed of developments remain of primary importance to keep everyone engaged despite the challenges we face.  At the time of recovery, it will be important to maintain everyone's commitment to the vision of curbing the spread of the virus. We are not about to see any sudden lifting of the current measures and a return to our old habits and way of doing things.

Measures

The organization has adopted the means to sustain the change. The behaviours, practices and benefits expected from the transformation are being audited and measured until the changes are firmly rooted.

A range of metrics are now being used to track the situation: the number of tests available and administered, the number of cases, the number of deaths, interventions in situations where people are not complying with the directives.

This crisis will undoubtedly change the way we live and think. But how exactly? It is still difficult to say. One thing for sure: our ability to use collaborative platforms and work remotely has improved. 

Remember H1N1 in 2009? That crisis encouraged all of us to adopt a new behaviour: coughing into our elbows. How many flus and colds have been avoided since then as a result? Let’s now hope that once it is over, the COVID-19 crisis will also have had some positive outcomes for society and for each of us personally. What impact will it have on globalization? Could the buy-local movement potentially reverse the global trend of the last 30–40 years?

Marcel Auclair

Co-founder, Vice President and Strategic Consultant

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