Issue - July/August 2021


Change Accelerated by COVID-19

By Hammad Shah, Managing Director, Solution Mobility

Since its first breakout in December 2019, COVID-19 has become an existential threat to our way of life. The way in which the virus has affected society has led to unthinkable loss of life, mass unemployment, increase in inequality and radical change in the way we work. While issues of health have risen to the top of social and political agendas, we have also seen the emergence of other problems such as food insecurity and the increased significance of problems arising from income and health care inequality.

The pandemic has caused a reevaluation of the nature of work for everyone from street vendors to movers to multinationals, leading to changes in how we do things and globally accelerating the change management process.

People at the Heart of Change

It is more important than ever to put people—employees, customers, and members of local and extended communities—at the heart of change programs. While changes can be made independently, changing how we cope with this pandemic requires collaboration. Those organizations that flourish will be characterized by their ability to use their social capital to create collaborations with government, communities, suppliers, customers, and competitors in unprecedented ways.

Trust to Change

Given our rapidly changing understanding of COVID-19, it is virtually impossible to effectively plan for change. Simply put, there is no one or right way of doing things. Everyone is opting for different models of change. This unpredictability, however, presents opportunities for us to respond to changing threats and opportunities. To accomplish the response, significant trust throughout the organization—from lower-level employees to senior leadership—is required. Our success will largely depend on harnessing the collective insight within the organization regarding customer needs, ways that moving processes might be changed, uncovering new marketing opportunities, and so on. This insight in turn relies on a willingness to share ideas and an outside-of-the-box way of doing things, which requires a “safe” environment in which individuals feel they will be taken seriously and do not fear the out-of-hand dismissal of their ideas. Similarly, engaging with external stakeholders—customers, suppliers, competitors, and government agencies—will also yield solutions to shared problems, but only if those involved trust each other.

Value Addition—a Sure Winner

With businesses closing right, left and center, one thing that can really keep them ticking is value addition, which automatically gives an organization a competitive advantage over all others. Value addition is an additional feature, product, or service that offers economic value to the customer. In the moving industry, a value addition can be anything from a free cleaning service to a free handyman, free storage and the like to attract the customer who is otherwise getting similar rates and service from everyone else. The things that will set you apart in these uncertain times will be the value additions, which will consequently help attract more business and keep everyone afloat. Trust that a value addition would always put you ahead in the race, and it is sure to make you a winner.

Flexi Time and Virtual Networks

With disruption from this pandemic—and future viruses—likely to continue, adjusting to this “new normal” is imperative. Flexi time has always been our favorite; even before the pandemic began, we have been following a flexi time schedule for all our office employees. There is no one special designated time for them from the very start. They are allowed to come and go anytime they like as long as they remain productive and provide results. While Flexi Time has helped us cope with the immediate fallout of the pandemic, a virtual network has kept us connected with our employees and stakeholders at all times and kept us ticking, albeit slowly.

Conclusion—Imagination and Good Will

Crisis provides impetus to revise how we do things. In particular, it vividly exposes those who are able to survive, even thrive, and the reasons for their success. Two things stand out from our recent experiences. Firstly, organizations that are successful are characterized by a people-centered approach that is founded on trust and creates an environment in which people are willing to share ideas and information, and rapidly adapt to new requirements. The opposite, self-reliance and retrenchment leading to a network of organizational or governmental fortresses, will be disastrous.

Secondly, most organizations will have to transform to take advantage of the new economic environment. This includes reimagining and shortening supply chains, taking advantage of what the locale has to offer, findings ways to help local communities improve their connectivity, and working with governments at all levels to improve their responsiveness. Taken together, these updated practices and processes represent manifold changes to “business as usual” and can be successfully implemented only in organizations with agile employees who are supported by creative leaders and responsive governments. With imagination and good will, all can do well; without it, there will be severe struggles ahead and a much longer and shallower economic rebound.