Learning from the Covid-19 crisis: transforming towards successful change



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“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” (John F Kennedy). Indeed, the only constant ever unchanged in the world is Change, which is thus the only stable and solid foundation on which an organization can perform any construction.

Looking beyond the crisis

The current and unprecedented crisis, caused by Covid-19, has proven itself dangerous and destructive to humanhealth, and the economy, with disastrous social consequences. It forces all organizations not only resist and adapt but also and most importantly to reinvent themselves. Indeed, despite all the inconveniences, time should be devoted to a deep reflection on the construction of the future and the way to go about achieving it. This fundamental work should not only be seen as a direct response to the current crisis but should be accompanied by a clear vision whilst surrounded by a positive and constructive spirit. Thus, to succeed in the processof change, companies should engage in it as part of a thorough strategic initiative and a coherent and pragmatic global change program. Otherwise, words are put on documents and the company is engaged in a “tunnel”, generally referred to as “transformation”, which is in reality only a succession or juxtaposition of actions without coherence or complementarity and which could above all end up with huge financial losses.

The method of change is a strategic choice

To implement this change, as before the crisis but in other circumstances, the companies are faced with a crucial choice: to initiate a process of incremental evolution or to operate a disruptive transformation. This is obviously not a dilemma, but a strategic choice as long as both paths lead to a previously thought-outand designed objective, only the time frames, the dynamics, and the steps of implementation as well as the allocated means differ.

Disruptive transformation is the shortest path

The shortest, and often the quickest, path to successful change is disruptive transformation, if it is the result of a medium/long-term vision led by organizations having clear goals and strong ambitions. It requires more investment but can ultimately be less expensive with better payback1 and ROI2. The strategy is to launch an innovative project, motivating for the teams and agile enough to adapt to the continuous change, and possibly adjust the target while remaining focused on the final goal.

The incremental evolution could be tempting for companies that are cautious or suspicious of the unknown. This is a reassuring approach, where projects are moving forward step by step, at a rather slow pace, lowering expenses as much as possible. But if not adopted as a global framework for change, it can be used as a selective and opportunistic choice, allowing to benefit from any discovery or innovation along the way, which could be useful to the project.
L’évolution incrémentale pourrait tenter des entreprises prudentes ou méfiantes quant à l’inconnu. C’est une démarche rassurante, où les projets avancent pas à pas, à un rythme plutôt lent mobilisant le moins de dépenses possible. Mais s’il n’est pas adopté comme un cadre global d’un changement, il peut être un choix ciblé, opportuniste, permettant de bénéficier de toute découverte ou nouveautés en cours de route, qui pourraient être utiles au projet.

Connecting the dots

Companies have been engaged in “transformation” processes for many years, mainly under pressure or thanks to the phenomenal rise of Digital, but also from climate constraint and social transformations. The current crisis alone brings the world together. It strongly challenges human intelligence pushing us to prove that we are able to reinvent ourselves individually and collectively and build a better future with enthusiasm and confidence.

« You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future”. Steve Jobs.

  1. Payback: the period of time required for a project to generate cash flows to recoup the initial investment ↩︎
  2. ROI: Return on Investment  ↩︎

Article published in French on: Think Tank CEPS « Centre d’Etude et de Prospective Stratégique website » in December 2020 

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