Planning for the Return to Steady State

Planning for the Return to Steady State

“For some organizations, near-term survival is the only agenda item. Others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and things return to normal. The question is, ‘What will normal look like?’ While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years.”

Imagine my surprise when reading these words in a McKinsey article entitled Beyond Coronavirus: The Path To The Next Normal only to find that they were written 11 years ago, amid the last global financial crisis, by one of their former managing partners, Ian Davis.

This is the reality that we are dealing with. As we manage our day to day operations under what is unprecedented circumstances, we are also simultaneously planning for the return to steady state operations…while being uncertain as to what “steady state” means. This is as significant a challenge as most of us have faced in our careers. Yet we are obligated to do this–and do it well as our staff, clients, funders and donors are counting on us.

We have approached this crisis in three phases:

Phase I – Immediate Response, Prevention and Containment. This is the phase where we developed our Command Center and Hotline, protocols for sanitizing and social distancing, started frequent and consistent communication to staff, and systematically worked with company leaders to conduct in depth liquidity scenarios. This was a period of shock and to some extent survival. Because we had a strong Business Continuity Plan in place and a robust technological infrastructure, we were able to respond rapidly and effectively.

Phase II – Stabilization. During this phase, after thorough analysis, we closed or downsized programs based on state and funder guidelines and our own liquidity scenarios. We launched telehealth and educational services in order to serve clients via our secure video and online learning platforms. We trained staff on how to be effective working remotely and ensured that staff, who were deemed essential and continued to work, were safe. We sought to secure all potential government and foundation funding and engaged our generous donor community in order to mitigate losses and fund the unfunded services we are providing to clients.

Phase III – Preparing for the New Normal. This is the phase where much of our attention is focused. We are carefully analyzing some of the practices we instituted during Phase II to determine those that should continue—a form of re-imaging how the organization will provide services. Accompanying this process is a rigorous risk management effort—being absolutely certain that the way we deliver services (via telehealth) is above reproach and completely audit proof. We are discussing how to manage program start up, assuming that this may come in waves based on the nature of the service. We are evaluating new services we can launch based on our mission and anticipated need. We are also working closely with our supply chain to ensure that when we are ready—they are ready. Being strategic and planful during this phase is critical if organizations are to regain their footing after the wave of profound disruption, especially if there is the predicted second surge of cases at some point in the fall.

It is never too soon to initiate an in-depth planning process for re-opening services and our gradual return to steady state.

How are you approaching the planning? I would love to hear from you.

Preparing for the New Normal

Preparing for the New Normal

There are many discussions occurring around the world about how the COVID-19 crisis will change business and supply chains moving forward. Many people around the world are thinking about possible scenarios and it appears the majority is convinced that there will be a “new normal.” 

I don’t have a crystal ball, nor can I predict the future, but I too feel confident that we are not going back to what we knew as normal.

So, what does that mean? What does our “new” normal look like. A recent article by Forbes points to at least part of the future where the author suggests that there will be a combination of two concepts: “design everywhere, produce everywhere” with “deliver personalized products fast, in a sustainable and affordable way for the mass market.”

McKinsey also has some interesting perspectives. “For some organizations, near-term survival is the only agenda item. Others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and things return to normal…While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years. Through it all, technological innovation will continue, and the value of increasing human knowledge will remain undiminished.”

I have tried to apply some of this thinking to the nonprofit human service environment.

I believe that we are going to leverage our experiences and learning from this crisis to establish more efficient ways to provide human services. The integration of online learning and telehealth will drive an entirely new model of service delivery in some of our core programs: workforce development, clinical services and adult learning activities. This may result in reduction of travel by our clients and an increased ease of access to services for many. It may expedite achievement of contractual requirements.

I believe we are going to leverage technological platforms as a vehicle for staff connection—replacing many of our meetings with video conferencing. This has many upsides including increased productivity and reduced travel.

Right now, I am communicating with staff much more frequently.  It is my intent to maintain this frequency of communications.  Staff have expressed appreciation for the connection with company leadership resulting from these e-mail messages and videos—the sense that they are not in this alone.  There is great value in ensuring a culture where there is a strong sense that leaders and staff are “in this together” whatever this is. 

We have been focused on how to ensure that remote work is effective and productive and tried to support our over 1000 employees working at home around the world. This has resulted in a renewed approach to outcome-based supervision, new strategies for motivation, new ways to promote team learning. This will continue.

There is more learning to come, more innovation, more insights and from that…more hope. 

As always, I welcome your thoughts.