Recently, I sat presenting in a luxe boardroom to some of the richest tycoons in Hong Kong. The hotel chain was owned by one of the attendees and featured modern art and the kind of rich, textured wallpaper that makes you feel like you are in a cocoon of wealth and legacy that should surely weather the economic storms we’ve been seeing around the world.
In that meeting, I decided to broach an idea that, as a management consultant, would have gotten me fired.
Efficiency is dead.
Resilience, even redundancy, is the new game in town.
Just a year ago, this is something no one would pay any attention to. That day, there were nods of agreements.
Many of these CEOs and family businesses had started out generations ago in manufacturing. They had capitalized on globalization by expanding across Asia and the globe. Technology and innovation exponentially grew their productivity and reach. These companies had fine-tuned operations to handle all manner of typical situations to run like money printing machines. But in the midst of accelerating change and global trade chaos, their razor thin margins had collapsed as they have for many companies around the world.
For example, a company sourcing textiles in China for a large retail outfit saw 30% tariffs change their business overnight. A hospitality company is facing 10% occupancy in their hotels with positive sentiment towards travel of any kind plummeting and the promise of virtual business connectivity soaring.
Gone are the days of strategic plans for ‘typical situations.’
Suddenly, the benefits of ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing or even hiring are giving way to the requirements of ‘just-in-case’ to ensure business continuity. Efficiency is giving way to a need for resiliency. Organizational momentum that can flex and change in a crisis is unstoppable and therefore far more efficient that something that breaks and lays idle as everyone wonders what to do.
This requires a company that can monitor the signals on the horizon and build capabilities to act quickly. Communications and documentation underpin the ability for the organization to pivot and adapt from a known baseline.
Many companies found out quickly where their gaps were. Either their systems weren’t flexible enough to be accessed from home or they’ve had to pivot to the cloud. Communications relied on people being in the office and even policies for things like board meetings turned out to be outdated with voting required to be in person. The best companies rapidly spotted and rectified these gaps to maintain momentum, while also pivoting their businesses offerings.
For example, Remo.com, which started out as a work from home solution, quickly expanded to events as conferences looked to go online to save their sponsorship and delegate revenue. The best of these pivots looked outward to recognize what their customers pain points are in the moment and collaborating to find solutions.
Pandemics and protests aside, the cult of efficiency has been waning for years as organizations grapple with a world changing faster than we can tabulate.
Moreover, sustainable momentum has become an even greater prize than fast growth that taxes limited resources or fades faster than a Snapchat video.
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