Since the COVID-19 crisis struck in March, countless companies have taken reactive steps to fight off major losses, such as establishing remote work arrangements, securing supply chains, reducing employee workload, cutting costs, and applying for government support.
After a few months of hectic activity, and as the economy begins to reopen, some organizations finally have time to think about capturing new opportunities. But where to start?
“Green shoots” of opportunities are available to those organizations agile enough to adjust their infrastructure, their products and services, or their route to market.
Response 1: Existing Products, Incremental Change
One proactive business response to COVID-19 is to offer the same (or similar) products and services through an online channel. This may occur through the digitization of physical products, curbside pickup and virtual delivery solution.
When Nike was forced to shut more than 5,000 stores across China, Nike’s digital business approached triple-digit growth levels. Nike now has a crisis road map to follow as it anticipates a second wave in the fall of 2020.
Response 2: New Products, Substantive Change
COVID-19 is slowing the demand for many products and services. Even as the economy begins to reopen, factories run under capacity; restaurants, bars, and hotels sit empty; service providers go unused.
While the need for some products and services has fallen, demand for others is high and even growing. Some organizations are taking advantage of this shift by producing different products or offering new types of services.
GM and Ford have modified some production lines to manufacture medical devices like ventilators. Hotel chains such as Best Western and Hilton have pivoted, offering their rooms to hospital staff and COVID-19 patients.
Response 3: Existing Products, Substantive change
Suddenly struggling to meet the demand for their products and services, some companies need to quickly adjust their infrastructure to increase production and / or delivery capacity.
Finding new infrastructure is easier said than done and often requires collaboration with external partners, but a number of organizations worldwide are taking steps to bridge such gaps.
Walmart has hired 150,000 temporary employees in the United States to meet increased demand. The application process for temporary employees has shrunk from two weeks to a single day, and the company continues to reach out to the hospitality and restaurant sectors to hire people facing layoffs.
From Reactive to Proactive
Out of short-term necessity, organizational responsiveness to COVID-19 has been largely reactive. As organizations move from a reactive to a proactive approach to dealing with COVID-19, they should ask themselves the following three questions:
First, can we offer a version of our products and/or services through an online channel? Going online is your low-hanging fruit in the current environment.
Second, can we use our existing infrastructure to produce products and/or offer services that are in demand? Many organizations have allocated infrastructure to produce goods and services to support the fight against COVID-19, but some strategic companies are thinking beyond the crisis to future changes in consumer needs.
Third, how can we rapidly increase our capacity to produce and distribute products and/or services? This question is most relevant for organizations that are struggling to keep up with heightened demand.
Responding strategically to the current crisis requires a high degree of creativity, an openness to challenging assumptions, and a willingness to look beyond the obvious in addressing the threats — and embracing the new “green shoots” of opportunity — created by COVID-19.