Mike Farrar, Ex-Chief Exec of the NHS confederation reflects what leaders might learn in a time of change…

It’s impossible to read anything nowadays without reference to the ‘new normal’ or the need for businesses, whether public or private, to learn from the recent COVID-19 crisis and transform the model of service. But for all the cajoling and the armchair punditry, will we really see a genuine revolution in business practice or are we more likely to be reflecting on old habits dying hard?

Although some businesses will have no choice but to change, the vast majority will face some very interesting options and we believe it will be the mindset adopted by a business’s leaders that will dictate how successful it is.

We have been studying early moves to restart or reset business activity as lockdown begins to ease, and the public and private sectors move away from crisis mode.

In summary we have identified three archetypal mindsets:

  1. The short term, viability focused mindset – ‘lets just see if we can get through this and try to recover business once it’s over’
  2. The medium term, opportunistic mindset – ‘there is an opportunity here; we might be able to change things and grow our current business once it’s over’
  3. The longer term, agility is key mindset – ‘we will never be caught out again once it’s over’

Of course, it’s entirely possible to adopt a strategy that embraces all three of these mindsets but in practice they represent a fundamentally different viewpoint… and are likely to bring with them different outcomes and, arguably, varying degrees of success.

In the viability mindset, the resilience is admirable but the assumption that consumers or service users will behave in the same way as they did before is questionable. Equally, the business will be likely to suffer from debt and lost revenues, which may create fragility for some time, thereby impacting on any scope for new investment. In our experience, few businesses are explicitly adopting this mindset but many have it when you scratch the surface, and these may be least likely to succeed in years ahead.

In the opportunistic mindset, there is more to be optimistic about. At the very least, there is recognition that the world has changed and this has the potential to allow existing products and services to be delivered in different and better ways. This might create greater productivity and efficiency which can help the business make up for lost revenues and begin to plan the next iteration of product options. If businesses genuinely adopt this mindset, we believe they are more likely to succeed in the future.

In the agility mindset, there is a powerful realisation that a static range of services delivered through a single approach might have been profitable in the past but can also make the business vulnerable if we experience another catastrophic event in the future. Therefore, the need to develop the agility to flex products and imagine new and varied ways of working, whilst building capability to change the delivery mode rapidly, as required, becomes the strategic ambition. It is these businesses that we believe are most likely to succeed.

But what does being agile mean in practice…?

Where we see success, agility is helping businesses focus – potentially simultaneously – on four key areas… with a need to find the sweet spot between them, whatever sector they operate in.

These four areas are:

  • health and care (including, in the short term, communicable disease management)
  • public health and protection
  • sustainability and energy use
  • staff mental and physical wellbeing (including the ability to recruit, retain, deploy and reward)

At Project Rome, we understand these areas due to our team’s high levels of leadership experience and expertise in these fields. This means we can work with companies to identify their underlying mindset and to develop the opportunism and agility most likely to help them to reset after lockdown and achieve the success to which they aspire.

We stand ready to help you… contact us on Hello@projectrome.co.uk

Harrogate Conference Centre now a Nightingale Hospital: They had no choice but to change