The Digital CEO: Leading In the Post-Pandemic World
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The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis, the kinds of which had never been seen before. While crises in the past impacted the adjacencies of human life such as economy, housing and finance, this crisis has impacted the core of existence for the human race. This is an inflection point and life will never be the same again.
It is difficult to imagine how the post pandemic world will be shaped given the uncertainties around human survival and wellness. The paranoia created by the pandemic can take a long time to go away, impacting people’s propensity to spend, consume and invest in their future. People may become true proponents of ‘carpe diem’, living each day to the fullest, not knowing when the good times will end. But one thing is for certain, people have realized that in this day and age, even without interacting physically with the real world, people can still be productive and create value.
The post pandemic business world will be characterized by two paradigms. One is hyperconnectivity, being connected and visible to each other digitally, round the clock. The other is the creation of the work life continuum where people seamlessly move from juggling between the household and the office. These aspects will create a long lasting change in organizational behavior. Any leader who is able to understand and capitalize on these behaviors to empower their teams will be a true digital CEO.
Creating connection in a remote world
Full or part time remote work has become a reality for most organizations. When the crisis broke, for the first time we couldn’t create a war room and huddle together to plan our strategy. Brainstorming with our teams, bonding with customers over tea and bumping into friends at the airport will become rare. Business operations will become technology driven and touchless, with minimal manual intervention. We have to find new ways to remain connected. Simple things such as video calls over audio, scheduling chit-chats as there are not corridor conversations, investing time to stay digitally connected will be the only way to build and sustain relationships. These changes will also force us to be more disciplined with our communication and productivity, making sure things don’t slip through the gaps.
Reimagining high performance teams
With the social distancing comes the need to redefine how teams should function to continue delivering high performance. Clear division of work and accountability setting will be needed to ensure time and effort is not lost in coordination. CEOs will need to invert the pyramid of command and control, devolve more decision-making power. Empowering individuals and teams to make decisions and equipping them with the right digital tools will be the key. More and more we will see routine tasks being outsourced to technology. Teams’ focus on strategic value addition and creating synergistic gains will become important for growth of the organization.
Dealing with ever increasing uncertainty
During the initial lockdown, we constituted a task force to track the dynamic situation—containment zones, government regulations, safety of our teams, supplier and ecosystem partners as the situation was changing every hour. Making decisions with limited data has always been a priority for the CEO. Though now we have access to technology which can give real time data, we need to develop the agility to act with speed in the midst of chaos. Being a digital native start-up, we had visibility on our supply chain to navigate the regional challenges. Customers and Suppliers who were connected to our platform also witnessed the power of going digital. In the future, being digital and data driven will become a minimum requirement, how we use the data and act in accordance with our mission will create the differentiation.
Unlearning old assumptions and questioning status quo
Before this pandemic hit, if anyone would have said 1.3 Billion people will be locked in their homes, there will be the risk of an infectious disease and you will still be able to keep your supply chain running- we would not have believed them. But we did it, with just one week of shutdown, we were up and running, supplying PPEs and medical equipment to governments, hospitals and front line warriors due to our robust system powered by our technology first approach. In the time of crisis we have seen how the entire world was able to collaborate in the glitch-less movement of PPE and medical resources which teaches a lesson on boundary-less behavior when it comes to business and opens up a plethora of opportunities.
This pandemic will lead us to question our assumptions, re-evaluate our constraints and build for the future.
Cultivating a strong sense of purpose
As a leader these past few months, we have asked our teams to do incredibly hard things in an incredibly hard time. It would not have been possible if they didn’t have a sense of purpose, an understanding of how their work relates to the mission of the organization and how it meets the needs of our economy and society. Being able to deliver PPEs to frontline corona warriors, and providing online sales channels to MSMEs when their shops and markets closed, helped our team find strength through purpose. Going forward, driving excellence will not be possible without also cultivating a sense of purpose.