The COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic shock have motivated companies around the world to accelerate changes to how they serve customers and communities. But can leaders not only make their companies faster, but better for customers, employees, and society at large? In this McKinsey webinar, held on June 25, Mary Meaney, global coleader of McKinsey’s Organization practice, talked about what CEOs and CXOs can do to define what their companies should look like in the postpandemic period. Her ideas center on three big questions for leaders think through:
Who are you? A clear sense of corporate purpose was important before the COVID-19 crisis: 82 percent of employees surveyed by McKinsey says it is important to for companies to have a clear purpose (though only 42 percent said their organizations’ purpose drives impact). During the crisis, we have seen purpose become even more important. Employees, customers, suppliers, and communities are realizing that we are interconnected and responsible to each other in ways far beyond shareholder value—and they are watching the choices that companies make. Defining what you stand for as a company, and following through on that, can help companies weather the crisis.
How do you operate? Before the crisis, we knew that only 20 percent of organizations made fast, high-quality decisions—and 62 percent waste more than half of their decision-making time. Amid the crisis, leaders are learning that high-performing teams make not just faster but also better decisions. That is bringing them to ask a natural: if the people closer to events, the market, and frontline operations can make great decisions in crisis times, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so every day? Many leaders are combining that insight with the conviction that speed matters. Companies are adopting ways of working at speed, and doing so on a large scale, by implementing flatter, faster, nonhierarchical structures and approaches and accelerating their decision making.
How will you grow? While certain characteristics stand out as proven sources of organizational resilience, including a strong ecosystem of external partners and data-rich technology platforms, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted one in particular: the ability to learn quickly and adapt accordingly. The learning imperative puts new demands on leaders. It requires them to practice empathy and communicate openly. Leaders might make a point of recording what new behaviors and systems served their organization well during the crisis, and how they can hardwire those into the organization. They might also consider new ways of strengthening employees’ abilities to pursue lifelong learning, to direct themselves, and to cope with uncertainty and adjust to change.
For more on this topic, please watch the webinar recording, and read “Reimagining the postpandemic organization,” “Purpose: Shifting from why to how” and “Organizing for the Future: Why now?”.