What your team can learn about pivoting in the time of coronavirus from these 3 companies

The pandemic has emerged as a black swan that has thrown firms into disarray. But, for every struggling organization, there is a firm that pivoted with grace and grit – automobile companies are making ventilators, distilleries are making hand sanitizers, and fashion designers are making face masks.

Jason Wingard, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Human Capital Management at the School of Professional Studies at Columbia University, points out several such organizations and highlights key traits that they all share: utilizing existing resources and skills, creating in-demand products or services, and finding resourceful ways to serve populations in need. Of course, he also points out the most important trait of all – the ability to embrace speed and flexibility.

So how can organizations and teams pivot towards agility, and in the process, resonate with their clients and the world at large? These three companies have some ideas.

Act like a flat organization – Refinitiv

Even an organization or a team that is hierarchical in structure can practice being flatter. At Refinitiv, CEO David Craig and the senior leadership recognized this. In a short span of two days, they met virtually to develop value-creation guidelines for employees on how to assist customers as they navigated the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis. By empowering their employees to make decisions, they were acting flatter and moving forward with agility. The same lessons apply within a team as well. Empower your team with guidelines to serve your customers swiftly and you’ll find it easier to be responsive and resonate with clients.

Collaborate with the right partners – General Motors and Ventec Life Systems

The pandemic might have put some organizations on the backfoot, but resourceful thinking and the right collaborations can put even the most vulnerable firms back in the game. GM’s partnership with Ventec Life Systems to manufacture ventilators ensured that it would continue to generate revenue and keep employees at work. Other examples include United Airlines’ partnership with Clorox to ensure stringent hygiene measures and revive consumer confidence in airline passenger safety. As a team leader or a manager, put this lesson into practice by finding ways to leverage the knowledge and experience of other internal and external teams to remove operational roadblocks or better address consumer needs.

Reflect and adapt – Panera Bread

Leading work-life expert Tracy Brower highlights the need for an agile mindset during the pandemic, encouraging teams to pause and reflect on their activities to adapt to the changing market conditions. For instance, as restaurant chains sustained the negative impact of the pandemic, Panera Bread decided to launch Panera Grocery to help people order staples like milk and produce. This not only improved its bottom line, but also eased the load on grocery stores which have been struggling with long queues and empty shelves. The lesson here: encourage your team to sometimes pause. Instead of rushing at a problem head-on and trying to solve it using a traditional route, take time to think and find a non-conventional way to adapt.

Of course, in these uncertain times, what is of ‘relevance’ today will be put under the spotlight tomorrow. That’s why firms and teams can’t afford to wait out any of the peaks and troughs in the business landscape anymore — those who constantly tweak the game plan as the world evolves are the only ones who will stay relevant.

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