The scale and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic has shocked the world. Disease infection has vaulted to the top of the list of global risks we face, and virtual has suddenly become the default modality for much of how we live and work. As a result, issues of safety, privacy and ethics are becoming more prominent and there has never been a higher premium on resilience, confidence and trust.

Organizations are particularly challenged by the current global disruption for four reasons:

  1. Previous disruptions have predominantly been limited to specific regions, industries or business groups, whereas the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every industry, organization and person globally.
  2. No one knows when the current disruption will be over and the circumstances we can expect. Previously, the intent has been to return to normal as soon as possible, but we can’t predict a future state following this disruption.
  3. There is consensus that we are headed to a different normality post-crisis. This will not just be an economic dip; everything has been and will be disrupted.
  4. Every action an organization takes is amplified. The risk of reputational damage from poor decisions is greater than ever before, however there is also a unique opportunity for organizations that respond well to build the confidence and trust of employees, partners, and customers.

To survive and thrive beyond the current global disruption, organizations must focus on five priorities:

  • Cost Containment and Optimization: Immediately reduce operational costs, move to a scalable cost model and free up capital to accelerate growth opportunities.

  • Talent Agility: Empower your employees to respond to external changes efficiently and nimbly, while evolving to an optimal balance of staff, third parties and automation.
  • The Resilient Core: Protect the core operations of your business and build a resilient and scalable operation that is flexible for thefuture.
  • Customer Care and Operations: Continue to be able to support the changing needs of your customers and create the capability to support new channels to market over time.

  • Products and Services: Rapidly respond to changes that affect your product portfolio to minimize disruptions and anticipate howproducts and services will evolve in the near and longer term.


Organizations will typically move through three phases and potentially recycle as they recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic:

    Protect customers, workforce, operations and the supply chain.
    Ensure business continuity by enabling employees to work and clients to access goods and services, while maintaining core operations.
    Manage through an economic slowdown as a lighter-weight, more agile business.
    Reconfigure the product portfolio and the rapid creation of a scalable operating model to support changing market and employee needs.
    Position to re-emerge strongly and gain share in the recovery.
    Reinvent the business model to address existing and new opportunities with a stronger, more resilient version of the enterprise.

Most organizations will spend approximately three to six months in the RESPOND phase and 12 to 18 months in the RESET phase. However, parts of the three phases will take place in parallel and organizations may be at different levels of maturity across the five key priorities.

For example, after the first six weeks of survival mode, approximately 70% of the organization’s focus will be centered on short-term planning and 30% towards achieving mid-term objectives that will help it RESET. As the organization then moves through the RESET phase, the portfolio balance will shift to a focus on creating new revenue streams.

Throughout all three phases it must be noticed that leadership approaches necessarily will shift:

  • The RESPOND phase requires a command-and- control style of leadership, where a small core group of C-suite/senior executives quickly determines what is required to survive and then cascades decisions and actions to the organization. There is no time for extensive debate or broad consensus building during this phase.
  • In the RESET phase, responsibility for optimizing functions is largely delegated to middle management. Strategic answers result from a very controlled measure-and-iterate approach focused on next-best-version outcomes, rather than visionary ideas.
  • Moving into the RENEW phase, business model innovation needs to be mobilized through experiments actively sponsored by the C-suite. Decentralized agile innovation is key to ideating how different markets and capabilities could be developed to drive a market advantage.


Even as we continue to deal with the ramifications of this global crisis, we must prepare for what comes next. We will regularly face disruptions – societal, industrial, technological.

We need to expect this and be prepared. That is why your organization and people must be in a constant state of readiness to RESPOND, RESET and RENEW. To rethink your business, you need to quickly identify strategic bets to make your operations more resilient and your products and services more desirable to customers.

You’ll need to activate the full capabilities of your organization – both digital and human – to unlock operational efficiencies and create new revenue streams in response to changing market dynamics.

A clear vision and the agility to rapidly test, learn and adapt throughout this global disruption will separate the winners from the losers.