Operational Learnings from a Memorable Year

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When the pandemic hit North America in early 2020, no one could anticipate the extent of its impacts. Within a couple of months, the significant disruptions led to a myriad of changes businesses adopted to keep their operations going.

With 2020 ending in a couple of weeks, there are learnings which we could reflect on.

  • People’s health and safety are top priorities – employees who need to work on-site would not show up when they feel the risk is not worth taking
  • People are needed even when there is a high level of automation – decisions related to adjustments and adaptation are made by people
  • Empathy matters more during stressful times – home schooling and caring of elderly relatives throw a wrench into the daily routine, employers need to understand the productivity impact and develop supportive guidelines
  • Remote working requires a different management style – output-oriented measures provide a better gauge of performance than the level of effort
  • Being adaptive is a key survival capability – if it takes too long to make adjustments, customers move on to alternatives quickly
  • Digitization of operation is a priority – customers expect it
  • Experiment to see what works best for your operation – open-mindedness creates more opportunities
  • Putting all the eggs in one basket is not a good idea – from supplier to job roles and responsibilities
  • Honest communication builds trust, always – good and bad news, be frank and forthcoming
  • Regular communication across teams, especially when working remotely, is not a given – create a regimen to ensure there is knowledge sharing and collaboration
  • Listen more attentive to your customers – have channel agents report on feedback and evolving needs so that you can adapt your operations to serve customers the way they want it
  • Leverage your excess capacity – build new skills or capabilities that would advance your business
  • Build a stronger network – work with suppliers to help each other and weather the storm together
  • Build cadence for fast decision making – it is necessary to distribute leadership responsibilities do that decisions are expedient for rapid execution
  • A positive attitude carries the day – employees want assurance that there are options and leaders have a clear direction for moving forward

The process of getting everyone vaccinated would take months, there would be ongoing flux of uncertainties. With the learnings, you would be able to maneuver more effectively in the New Year.

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