What can we expect from 2021?

Welcome to the New Year.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write a ‘Rah Rah’, post like so many others I’ve seen online in the past week or so. It’s not that I’m feeling pessimistic, it’s just that after the calamity and chaos of last year, I think it would be insensitive not to acknowledge the fact that most of us are still in recovery, and, to be honest, a little uncertain about what comes next.

But, don’t lose faith. There is a way forward.

By Michael Mekhitarian

Say hello to the 'new normal'.

While it would have been nice to ‘turn the page’ on 2020, in the lead up to Christmas, just as things were looking really positive, and like Covid-19 might actually, eventually, become a thing of the past, the virus reminded us (again) that it’s not quite done yet.

And, while Covid-19 remains even the slightest bit active, because it is so contagious and moves so quickly, life remains pretty unpredictable. Part of this is because we’ve got leaders making decisions moment-by-moment, based on the information they have at hand, that serve the best interests of public health, but not necessarily the best interests of the overall economy. And that’s fair enough. It is what it is. And we’ve got to work with what we’ve got.

Adaptability is key

The negative impact of 2020’s extended lockdowns on the Victorian economy has been well documented.  If the experts are right, Anna Palaszczuk has cost Queensland’s tourism industry $250 million this year with her on/off border closures.

There’s also a rumour doing the rounds that the QLD State budget is looking pretty sick after the hefty payments made to Queensland police to monitor the border for weeks on end 24/7.

The fact is that while reactionary decision making remains part of the current Covid-19 solution, then we’re all still facing an unclear future that could change at any given moment.

Let’s face it, 2020 was exhausting. And none of us want to go through it again – tap dancing and tiptoeing, maneuvering around to adapt to an ever-changing business landscape.

Creating a 'nimble business'

But the good news is that there is a better way to cope with what lies ahead.

The first thing you must do is create a nimble business.

Working with many businesses over the past 12 months to adapt to Covid-19, we focused on a range of solutions, mostly geared towards internal re-engineering, concentrating on business structure, resourcing, internal cost-reduction programmes, digitisation, maximising profitability all with the intention of making these businesses stronger, more stable.

The added advantage of implementing these changes has made them more efficient, able to pivot quickly, if and when required. And this is where your business needs to be right now too.

Because the ability to be quick-but-sure-footed is definitely going to be required going forward. It’s fundamental for surviving disruption of this scale. Thinking otherwise is naive.

Planning in uncertain times

The other important consideration for businesses right now is planning.

In uncertain times the temptation might be to just ‘go with the flow’ but that’s not the answer – it can lead to total loss of control. Instead, you need to identify and invest in what you can control, in order to keep moving forward.

And creativity is required, simply because we don’t have a great deal of clarity about the future right now. Not just because of what’s occurring in New South Wales and Victoria, but because of what’s happening globally too.

The game is changing, and if you want to make sure you retain the right to play, then you need two things: a business that can adjust, and a flexible plan.

Developing a ‘flexible’ plan requires a three-step approach:

  • Firstly, means looking at what we know, what we don’t know, and mapping the uncertainty.
  • It also requires looking at a number of potential alternative futures and sketching out different scenarios.
  • It also requires identifying and developing risks and contingencies that can be put into place quickly and effectively, if required.

The key thing for businesses to understand right now, is the need to develop some ‘room to move’ within their businesses operations and also in their goal setting and planning.

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