Rest? you ask. The new normal will be about activity, you say. Actually, I believe some rest will be necessary. After the frenzy of activity since March to establish new work patterns and new home life patterns, many of us — especially those with young families — have been left totally exhausted. So some rest may be in order. However, the rest I am referring to in this posting is RE2ST3 (Resilience, Ecosystems, e-Wisdom, Societal responsibility, Telework, Transition, and Transformation).
I believe organizations that pay attention to these REST components will be poised for a successful entry into the new normal. I base my conclusion on a significant amount of reading and many conversations with people across sectors, as well as with community leaders. As I summarize the parameters of each of the RE2ST3 components, I will reference some relevant publications. While my key points are addressed under specific headings below, it is clear that many of these could have been discussed under more than one heading and that indeed the topics are interdependent and part of a systems response to creating the new normal.
Perhaps the single overarching change in the new normal is the need for all organizations to focus on resilience. Multiple definitions of organizational resilience have been put forward. For the sake of my discussion, I propose the following definition, which I based largely on a combination of thoughts from McKinsey on new operating models, Deloitte on the essence of resilient leadership PDF, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in defining community resilience:
Organizational resilience is acting on multiple fronts to (1) prepare for anticipated hazards and, (2) protect, anticipate, and enhance employees’ and customers’ engagement, supply chain and financial performance, organizational productivity, and community well-being. Organizational resilience is a way of being that builds agility into the organization’s DNA.
Clearly embedded within this definition is the concept of agility (already part of the Baldrige core values and concepts), a concept that has been very effectively adopted by the organizations that responded rapidly to recent changes in their external environment. A hidden lesson in the successful practices of agile organizations is that organizations in general have been too centralized, too bureaucratic, too slow, too internally focused, too inflexible, and too complicated.
The BSI states that organizational resilience comprises operational resilience, information resilience and supply chain resilience. To achieve such resilience, leaders must be able to respond quickly to both opportunities and threats (agility), adapt strategy to changing circumstance (including their core business models and products), and have robust governance with a culture of trust. And organizations must address other components of the RE2ST3 approach: adopt an ecosystem mindset, embrace data-rich thought processes, and equip their employees with ongoing learning of new skills. (See also McKinsey on reimagining organizations.)
Ecosystem refers to operating your organization as part of a larger whole that blends your key attributes with those of your partners, collaborators, customers, communities, and other relevant organizations, including your competitors when appropriate.
A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article by Mark Greeven and Howard Yu discusses the necessity of being able to move forward quickly. Businesses (and other organizations) can create advantages by leveraging ecosystem relationships to move and, especially, pivot quickly. Organizations that operate on a digital platform (see “e-Wisdom” below) have a natural advantage. Businesses that create an ecosystem with a set of interdependent businesses that can run autonomously have the opportunity to diversify revenue streams and business models, fulfill varying customer needs, and cross-sell clients and customers.
Ecosystem steps for organizations to consider as they enter the new normal include reconnecting with partners, maximizing learning through shared information, rethinking customer offerings in a larger context, accepting not-invented-here concepts and using them as idea generators, building non-traditional partnerships (e.g. with competitors or with private-sector/public-sector/government contributions). Ecosystems, by their nature, enable distributed risk management.
As we have learned through recent global events, rethinking traditional supply networks to be shorter, more efficient, and more flexible is very important. Flexibility includes operating with a just-in-case approach. Where possible, this includes localizing supply networks and conceiving a larger “ecosystem” relationship with critical suppliers by sharing strategies, learning networks, and digital platforms.
Successful ecosystems are built on establishing “trust systems.” They move from a transactional basis to a trust basis focused on mutual and shared value creation.
e-Wisdom is a term I am using for all aspects of a digitally and data enhanced economy. Use of data analytics, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (AI), the adoption of cloud operations, large dataset-enabled business and process modelling, and enhanced automation are accelerating at a rapid pace. While some of these tools may not impact your organization immediately or directly, they are most likely going to impact your competitive environment and new entrants that compete for your customer base, including digitally integrated ecosystems. Every business will be a technology business.
Accelerating end-to-end digitization, including use of all smart technologies (Industry 4.0) is one of five economic recovery operational trends envisioned by McKinsey and an extended network of digital solutions is seen by Deloitte as a priority. End-to-end digitization is expected to enhance productivity, sustainable resource use, agility, speed to market, and customization. Two additional trends (of the five McKinsey identified trends) involve digital tools for operational and financial transparency and opportunity identification, and the “next normal” of remote working through more use of digital communication and collaboration tools (see more on this in the “Telework” section).
In the consumer products domain, according to Nielsen data, March of 2020 saw a 60% surge in on-line consumer packaged goods purchases; 37% of that growth came from households that were new to on-line purchases or had significantly increased their use of on-line purchases. And 40% of new on-line shoppers were over the age of 55. While some of this purchasing will return to bricks-and-mortar stores, the landscape has certainly changed, and this will affect service providers and supply chains, as well.
Finally, as another example of the interdependency of the components of the RE2ST3 approach, digital platforms provide a competitive advantage in the operation of ecosystems. Shared data of all kinds and learning platforms are part of that benefit.
There is a great expectation that, as we rebuild our businesses and economy in the new normal, we will find a way to address key societal issues: social injustice, population-based discrimination, income and quality-of-life disparities, financial and healthcare challenges of the very young and very old, building trust in our businesses and public sector, unintended consequences of technology, and decreasing our environmental impact. In an April study reported by Accenture PDF (before the death of George Floyd), 82% of consumers feared for the health of others, while 64% feared for their own health; in addition 88% worried about the economy, while 64% worried about personal job security. As a society we are more cognizant of the world we want and more impatient for all our communities and all our businesses to take leadership roles in creating that world.
In the new normal, we are likely to see a new social contract expected by employees, customers, and communities. The recent events have heightened sensitivities to societal responsibilities broadly. There is a renewed interest in organizational social purpose and how organizations, especially businesses, behaved during the last few months. Employees, communities, partners, collaborators, and most significantly, customers will continue watching behaviors and are likely to have long memories.
In a recent Disruptor League article by Pete Foley, he points out that recent upheavals have “broken more habits and established behaviors than any global event since WWII.” There is now a unique opportunity to create experiences that will disproportionately and positively impact consumer and community behaviors for years to come. Foley also points out that there will be little tolerance for economic disparities between people. He cites the simple example of experiencing long delays or denials in requests for sporting event refunds while extremely wealthy team owners ask us for empathy and forbearance.
At the nexus of our societal unrest is a new need to build trust among citizens, communities, and institutions. We expect our societal needs to be addressed with equity. We want to be physically and economically safe. We want our personal information to be protected. We want transparency in operations, communications, and our justice system. And we will expect all organizations and institutions to develop and report on metrics that build that trust.
There appears to be general agreement that working from home over the last few months has had some very positive benefits, beyond avoiding virus transmission. Benefits have included higher-than-usual employee productivity; reduced pollution due to less commuting; and greater employee empowerment, with positive outcomes.
On the other hand, when working from home, employees report higher levels of stress and more difficulty achieving work-life balance. This provides a reason to further consider how to achieve true rest in the new normal. It will be important for organizations and their employees to set boundaries between work life and home life, or else employees will feel like they are “living at the office.”
Looking ahead, remote work offers benefits to organizations and employees and may lead to rethinking how, where, and when we work. Certainly, it will lead to the next generation of digital collaboration and communication tools. Remote work benefits workers with disabilities, making it easier for organizations to attract additional employees with needed skills. Enhanced digital tools and new ways of approaching jobs will likely lead to more geographically remote employees, as well. These employees will give employers more ability to hire employees with needed expertise and knowledge of local markets.
I believe the new normal will be achieved in two stages, initially a transition and then a transformation in how we work and live. There will not be a clear break from one stage to the next; however, I find it easier to think of two phases divided by a line that is somewhat arbitrary and, hopefully, somewhat logical.
In articles on adapting to a new normal, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Hubert Joly in HBR separately argue that countries and organizations will have to rethink the meaning of success. Gross domestic product and profitability will have to be replaced with new measures of material and social progress. Operational models will have to address social and spatial distancing while accomplishing work and sales. Organizations should focus on their greater purpose, as well as their mission: how are they making a difference in people’s and communities’ lives? Supply chains will have to be rethought so they can operate in an environment with the potential of minimal or no international exchange of goods.
Organizations will be challenged to maintain a clarity of operational focus that they have achieved over recent months. They have also achieved amazing (short-term) strategic focus. Now they need to achieve clarity for the longer term. How do they turn “crisis” into “crisis of opportunity”? Here are some questions to consider during the transition to a new normal:
Although the heading “Transformation” implies arriving at a new organizational state, I think its permanence is not a given. Part of transformation will be building an agile organization capable of being resilient in every sense of the definition given at the start of this article. After the last few months, no organization can say it can’t act faster than it did in the past.
I will break this section into two parts based on my analysis of the new normal: Imperatives and Considerations.
While it is too early to know the specific impact of the new normal on the 2021-2022 revision of the Baldrige Excellence Framework, it is clear that there will be an impact.
A final thought: the difference between RE2ST3 and ST3RE2SS is just the addition of two “S’’s. Might they stand for a Substandard (or Secretive) System? I think the key to strategic success and to employee engagement (and “rest”) is transparency, communication, and empowerment — now more than ever in the new normal.
The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.
This is an excellent article, Harry! Wonderful insight and reflections.
Thanks Harry! Great insights! Julia