In recent months, the Covid-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty and significant social unrest have combined to bring waves of change not seen in more than a century. To assess the potential fallout for public companies, Corporate Board Member Institute and RSM US convened a small group of board members to share their experiences helping their executive teams focus on appropriate courses of action. Some takeaways.
It’s rare, but every now and again, an event comes along that upends the environment in which we operate, laying waste to carefully calculated forecasts, injecting chaos into even the most seamless of supply chains and just generally derailing the proverbial best-laid plans. We’re now six months into such a crisis, and the upheaval ushered in by COVID-19 has yet to fade. Yet, already companies that scrambled to adapt and adjust initially are beginning to adopt a more strategic approach to the post-pandemic competitive landscape.
“Boards and leadership are starting to look at this as an opportunity,” Tom Kane, national director for organizational change management at RSM US, told directors participating in a Corporate Board Member Institute roundtable discussion on change management held in partnership with RSM. “Is it time to invest in a fundamental change to the organization, such as an ERP technology upgrade or a merger or acquisition? There’s an awful lot of change going on and, in some cases, that can be a strategy accelerator.”
That idea meshed with the experiences recounted by directors, several of whom reported that their companies are developing initiatives or fast-tracking programs already under way in response to the seismic shifts taking place. Mesa Laboratories, for example, managed to maintain production of its medical devices and keep employees safe by splitting its workforce into two shifts. But the company also had to ramp up its digital transformation efforts and rethink a sales model that entailed sending employees into hospitals. “We’re having to quickly develop ways to remotely calibrate our product because you can’t have salespeople in hospitals now,” said John Schmieder, a Mesa Laboratories board member. “And we’re playing catch up on our digital strategy—including a customer relationship management process—in case trade fairs never come back.”