Ready, set, go: Reinventing the organization for speed in the post-COVID-19 era

McKinsey, 2020-06-26

It’s one of those articles that you think will structure your thoughts but end up being really poor on content and very much rich on useless motivational cliches. Still, BS’ing is also a skill, you know… But there are still a few useful gems. Enjoy.

Not so Serious Lessons

  • BAU (Business as Usual) approaches stopped working. Need faster decision making, technology adoption, and, of course, accelerating innovation.

o   MK: While it sounds like B.S., innovation is simply “commercialization of invention”. As long as there’s a pipeline of seemingly new stuff, this counts as candidate for invention, at least to the Board.

  • What’s possible (anecdotal examples):

o   Redeploying talent: retrain instead of terminating.

o   Launching new business models: check the contents of the “to do later or never” pile.

o   Improving productivity. Forcing the horse to run faster while feeding it less.

o   Developing new products. A crisis is needed for product managers to start doing their jobs.

o   Shifting operations. Just a chance to pay less for less work.

Serious lessons

  • Decision speed has to accelerate. A lot.

o   MK: Lots of BS in the process, though. Telling a boxer to hit harder as the means to winning exposes a structural misunderstanding of the training. In the case of business – you can’t just run faster if you already ran fast.

  • Speed (see above) needs less decisions and more smart work:

o   Speed up and delegate decision making. Delegate everything non-strategic, have quarterly reviews instead of annual ones (we’ve had them since 2012 in Aviasales).

o   Step up execution excellence. Frontline employees are better suited to confront the trouble and make appropriate decisions. Execution excellence is a discipline empowering innovation.

o   Cultivate extraordinary partnerships. If your key partner doesn’t have resources to build something you need – it’s not a bad idea to financially support it. Integrating systems requires deep trust, including understanding each other’s modus operandi.

o   Flatten the structure. Less people to make a decision à the decision gets made faster. (MK: clearly this was written for GM and its likes)

o   Unleash nimble, empowered teams. Can’t say anything more than a buynch of clichés.

o   Make hybrid work, work. I.e. office + remote. Indeed, companies must be able to accommodate for this.

  • Reshape talent

o   Field Tomorrow’s Leaders Today. Crisis is a good time to find out who have stamina and can move while others stall. Can be not T-1 (as prescribed), but T-2-3 and even T-4 (in large organizations). People who stand out during the crisis often are not the ones that you would expect in normal conditions.

o   Learn how to Learn. Sorry, this is too cliché.

o   Rethink the Role of CEOs and Leaders. New CEO job: energizing, empowering and “unblocking” their leadership teams. Visionaries, not commanders. Unbelievably cliché.