You cannot open a business section in a newspaper today without being greeted by a friendly business commentator who believes that "for those who are alert to it, a crisis is an opportunity". Yet, few people manage to think all the way through the business they've created - and change it in time to lay the foundation for future growth.
When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills. That is a frequently quoted Chinese saying that describes the difference between the reluctant and reactive leader and the forward-thinking, enterprising and risk-averse leader. However, it is also an incredibly difficult task to implement a transformation successfully - especially if you do not have the pillars in place and do not invest enough in making the vision of the future the new reality of tomorrow.
These coronavirus times may help to separate the sheep from the goats - e.g. entrepreneurial success story and furniture company: Møbelkompagniet, which almost doubled its sales during the crisis because they chose to undertake an aggressive advertising strategy. And there are plenty of stories about crisis-resistant companies that, with a digital DNA and remorseless customer focus, stay afloat or even blossom. Other companies though are struggling to stay alive. But with a focused effort on four themes, you can bring about a transformation and rise to new heights.
1. Focus on value
The future must be built on the basis of a broader understanding of value: value for customers, value for employees, value for shareholders, value for society and so on. Value must be created, defined and integrated across these groups. It should provide completely new perspectives on customer behaviour and needs in the aftermath of the corona crisis, on employees' working lives and virtual collaboration habits, shareholder focus and priorities, and community development.
2. Create even more ownership
The company's value proposition must be owned and embraced by all employees. The visionary and innovative leader who independently shapes the future is out of fashion. Direction and ambition are important ingredients that can often be created by strong and uncompromising leaders like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk - but real change does not happen without a deep-rooted realisation that change is inevitable.
3. Explosive learning
The road to the new will be full of mistakes and adjustments - it requires acceptance and coming to terms with a zero-fault culture. At the moment we are seeing companies holding back and hesitating. There is great uncertainty about whether the crisis is a "one-off" and whether, after a massive market decline in March, we are heading back on a V-shaped course or whether the deeper abyss is just ahead. Either way, the fundamental importance of learning the value of experimentation and testing should not be missed.
Closely linked to the importance of learning is the value of action. Less talk - more action. Do something - act and see what happens - and learn from the consequences. But make it structured and coordinated. The government has spoken of 'the hammer and the dance' as a description of the reaction to the spread of the coronavirus.
"Don't waste a good crisis," Churchill said - and that's the truth right now. It takes focus, commitment, learning, action and not least courage to build a company transformation. But that transformation will be necessary to ensure the survival and well-being of the company in the future - therefore transformation must take a close second place, behind coronavirus, in the list of 2020’s words of the year.
Stefan Knapp is a transformation expert at PA Consulting