Today’s world is a more chaotic place to live and thrive than ever before. Organisations are not insulated as unprecedented nature of challenge create enormous shifts for businesses and industry at large. In recent years, businesses all over the world had to shift gears and lanes in response to fragile food security, energy security, inflation, lockdowns, etc. all came at once. Input costs kept rising across industries, and several other things simultaneously strained world trade and economy. In short it is called VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. These developments continue to impact all sectors and operations. The entropy in this VUCA world seems irreversible. Due to rapidly changing environments and unprecedented times, businesses need to be prepared for the ever-changing new normal to tackle challenges of a VUCA world.
As military strategists say, plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. In the corporate world, business continuity plans became indispensable in uncertain times. Organisations which created plans that encompassed all scenarios and prepared a response programme, were much better positioned to tackle challenges than their peers obsessed with vanilla targets. Holistic business continuity plans empowered organisations to ensure that their ease of doing business is minimally disrupted by acts of god, or force majeure.
Planning cycles have significantly shortened, from five years to three years, then to eighteen months and now three months. Simultaneously, organisations are making their plan-B,C,D more holistic by mapping scenarios with an "If Loop." If Plans A and B don't work, you go on to Plan C, and if C doesn't work, how quickly can you move on to Plans D and E?
But, how is it feasible to be always planning ahead?
It is about empathy, definition, ideation, and finally prototyping. Think about the customer, the circumstance, and the employee while being empathetic. Specify what needs to be done after the empathy has worn off. Prototype your ideas, then incorporate them into a "If Loop.
For better results, reiterate the process.
While globalisation has been a boon, it also poses challenges due to the heightened inter-dependency between countries. Owing to this it is crucial for organisations to have business continuity plans to enable lessen the blow to operations. As part of the action plan businesses need to look at the following:
Digital Transformation: Organisations need to be nimble footed and need to embrace digital transformation, be poised to tackle challenges and strike balance between business and technology. All of this involves taking a bit of a risk as it involves prediction; what the future is going to look like, what kind of technologies will sustain, etc. and preparing oneself based on that. A very common yet strong example is the increasing trend of working from home. Since the technology existed even before the pandemic, many organisations had the resources for remote working and some type of provision for it in their business continuity plans. However, a lot of organisations in a wide range of industries continue to reject the idea and cling to a fairly traditional way of thinking.
People: Employees need to be aligned with the vision and mission of the organisation. The employees need to work on mission mode towards achieving the larger business objectives.
Since businesses ultimately involve people, their behaviour and well-being is essential. Someone rightly said, “People don't do what you expect, but they do what you inspect, if you do it with respect”. Therefore, planning must involve bringing the best out of people. Added to that, it’s important for leaders to be close to the market and keep tabs of trends as thousands of careers depend on them. Lastly, constantly adapting to the environment is a tested method of surviving in the VUCA world.
Consumer Activism: Today's consumer is highly opinionated and subscribes to purpose driven organisations/brands. Organisations are not only selling products/services but are rather brands that have an identity and stand for certain values. It is important for businesses to understand this and move ahead with flexible strategies that involve them strongly advocating for their purpose apart from providing services.
Businesses that choose to constantly evolve, stay ahead of the curve, have a strong vision, take risks, prepare well, and come up with innovative ideas are here to stay. The key characteristics to build a resilient business in the complex environment are adaptive performance mindset of leaders and degree of agility. A lot more focus needs to be given to resilience and business continuity planning making it easier for businesses to soften the blow, and be poised for an accelerated growth.
Views are personal. The author is Managing Director, IPM India Wholesale Trading Private Limited, a country affiliate of Philip Morris International Inc.
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