Agility Update July 2020

Agility Update July 2020


Agility Update July 2020

Welcome to a new financial year. Although compressed, accelerated change amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic continues and this new normal is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for astute leaders. In support, Agility Update July presents ideas, action plans and data sets for strategy development to emerge stronger post-crisis. As usual, our articles draw on multiple sources to offer a precis of the most relevant for busy leaders.

Planning for a Post-Crisis World

MIT Sloan Management Review is exhorting leaders to look beyond short-term impacts in the current business environment and to take some risks in a very challenging environment. In a recent survey of global executives, MIT found junior-level leaders were much more concerned about capability loss and insufficient capability development for future success than senior executives. While MIT could not reach definitive conclusions, it believes the gap between the perceptions at the different levels of the organisation is in itself something that leaders need to understand and attend to.

Another action MIT believes leaders should do is to establish separate post-crisis planning teams to ask questions like:

  • What is likely to change permanently as a result of the crisis?
  • What existing trends is the crisis likely to slow or accelerate?
  • Do these sorts of changes create opportunities and/or threats post-crisis that can be capitalised on if we rapidly and effectively pursue the right actions?
  • If so, what needs to happen to lay the groundwork to do this?
  • What timescales do (and should) designers consider?

The implication is that the COVID-19 crisis is likely to generate opportunities to acquire competitors and suppliers, as well as top talent, at a fraction of the price of only months ago. Indeed, Strategy+Business believes buyers will be in the driver’s seat as M&A activity leads the way to reshape entire industries.

Read also BCG’s COVID-19 Facts, scenarios, and actions for leaders. As this document is continually updated, Google ‘BCG-COVID-19-BCG Perspectives’ to locate the latest version. Also useful is the World Economic Forum refresher on McKinsey & Company’s “three horizons” framework. First introduced in the late 1990s, the three horizons framework is based on the idea that businesses that sustain growth over time manage initiatives across three strategic “horizons”.

Revamping Work

The unviability of many business models was laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic. Places of work – offices, factories, shops – and travel to and from work are a simple example. An IBM survey found that 54% of the 25,000 U.S. adults polled in April would like to be able to primarily work from home, and 75% would like the option to do it occasionally. Once businesses can reopen, 40% of people responded that they feel strongly their employer should offer opt-in remote work options. A similar survey of 1200 Australians conducted by HR platform EmploymentHero found 84% of those who have had to work from home enjoyed it, and 92% would like to continue to do so regularly. This change has profound impacts beyond commercial property, transportation, urban, workspace and home design. Effective management and productivity of remote working require soft skills – such as adaptability, time management and ability to work well on teams – that 69% of CEOs surveyed in 2019 believed their organisations lacked.

In addition to prioritising reskilling employees around the new core capabilities, leaders may want to consider going upstream in the design process. As a Design Behaviour for Sustainability report argues, while “end-use behaviour can determine what happens in a situation, design behaviour often determines the situation itself”. An expert panel of behavioural scientists, engineers, and architects collaborated virtually over a year to deliver a set of 20 key questions about behavioural design for sustainability. The top 5 are:

Timescales of 100 years versus 15 years significantly impact sustainability-relevant decisions.

  1. How can designers engage with communities and users?
  2. Unpacking who qualifies as a user and the stakeholders that need to be included aid in designing solutions that are more proactive, preventive and responsive.
  3. How can this community of scientists’ influence policy?
  4. Outdated public polices and laws may raise legal questions or be outright impediments to solutions.
  5. How can researchers and practitioners work together?
  6. How can evaluation balance perfection and relevance?

VCs in Tomorrow’s World

The pandemic has been a double-edged sword for VCs and startups. While it has certainly cut a swathe through the industry ­– Chinese VC deals have contracted between 50 and 57 percentage points – it has concurrently radically opened up the competitive landscape to those in medtech, digital infrastructure, and others who can weather the storm.

Against this extremely fluid backdrop, startup generator and early-stage VC Antler asked 12 Australian angel investors what they were thinking about right now in relation to investing in startups amid the COVID-19 outbreak. And FastCompany posed similar questions to VCs at Sequoia, Insight, Forerunner, 500 Startups, and more. Meanwhile through a legal lens, Australian international law firm Allens warns of the impacts from major changes to Australia's foreign investment approval (FIRB) regime on opportunities for offshore investment; and declining valuations on investor protection mechanics.

Read also the latest The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020 by innovation policy advisory and research firm Startup Genome.


EIM (Executive Interim Management) was founded to meet the need in client organisations for experienced leaders at short notice to facilitate and accelerate change. We are an independent global partnership backed by the experience of over 10,000 assignments worldwide.

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