The big question is, what are the essentials of a good recovery process?
Seize the opportunities in the crisis and deploy a bold approach
The Coronavirus is harming organizations just as it harms humans. Dealing with external crises causes breakdown within organizations, which then affects their customers. For the most part, the issues are abnormal in the sense that they require intervention to remedy the situation.
Crisis survivors experience an organized healing process, starting with a respect for the severity of the consequences facing them. They succeed because they make correctly sequenced changes to recover their balance. If they have not done so, or declared victory too soon, organizations risk a resurgence of the illness—more severe than the previous situation—to the point that they may not make it at all.
Speed and agility distinguish those who will thrive in chaos, from those who will lose. Those who thrive have used their time during a crisis to change and permanently streamline their operations.
Classic risks of dying during the recovery
It is a well-known phenomenon that we, as humans, tend to overlook the recovery phase. We fall into the trap of declaring victory too soon. It's similar to surviving a severe disease. You have been fighting it and have now become well again; you are still alive, but not back in shape yet. You must guard against falling back into the old habits, but rather use the opportunity to make changes in your life that will make you stronger than before your illness.
The same applies to organizations. Our experience from the 2008 financial crisis shows that many companies will suffer greatly in the aftermath because people are:
Bold and direct style will strengthen the immune system
In times like these, you must lead boldly and directly, leaving no doubt about the challenges the organization is facing. Communicate clearly and make no promises you can´t keep. The only right way is helping the organization to meet the monster and act accordingly.
We must think outside the box, making radical yet thoughtful decisions and quickly make needed changes in the organization. No one is immortal. When you have led the organization through the first phase of recovery, you must not declare victory too soon. This would result in the organization losing its sense of urgency, which will lead to a setback in recovery—with dire consequences.
Pressure calls for a structured approach
Intense pressure requires a very concrete plan with instant and transparent follow-up. The Chief Executive Officer and the executive team are under extreme pressure to deliver a tangible and robust recovery plan to improve the organization's chances for survival. Ideally, this plan will also reap the benefits of opportunities in the aftermath of the crisis.
Certainly the board, owners, employees, and all other stakeholders are filled with anxiety these days, which increases demands on management. Managing expectations using a sound plan and transparent implementation is crucial for mutual respect and trust—which ultimately will get the organization through the immense challenges ahead.
Your success as a leader depends on your ability to influence the organizational culture: get everyone on the same page, accepting responsibility for their role in the reconstruction.
The opportunities presented by a crisis are usually more significant than in normal circumstances. The COVID-19 crisis is no exception. However, it is not at all a given that companies will benefit from these inherent opportunities. Few organizations have prepared a "WHAT NOW?" plan to be pursued when the COVID-19 crisis has settled. Almost all survivors will just ride out the immediate crisis, put out fires as they are able, and look forward to the new normal. This is a waste of significant potential opportunity.