Coronavirus as an accelerant for business transformation

November 2020

Any upswing is generally known to start in the mind. Right now, at what is hopefully the lowest point of the corona crisis, charismatic executives and strong management teams can make a difference. They can take the helm and show their employees, who have been affected by negative headlines, a fresh perspective. It is not enough to refer in macroeconomic terms to a V, W, U or L-shaped corona recession, because the business world will look different than a year ago when we reach the end of the tunnel.

The corona crisis is not only speeding up digital transformation or use of virtual meetings from our home office. Structural adjustments are also being made at a rapid pace. Companies that can adapt quickly are gaining, while those that simply drift along are disappearing. Size is not a factor in success here – what is needed is flexibility.

In microeconomic terms, most companies are facing a K-shaped recovery. After significant revenue losses, it is now up to them whether they will grow or decline. Members of boards of directors and executive boards are in the driving seat. Companies that focus solely on restructuring measures are likely to lose, while those that have the strength to address business opportunities will gain.

We have seen time and again how new members of boards of directors and executive boards can provide business-critical impetus with their out-of-the-box thinking, particularly during the first two years. But at a time of fundamental change, it is negligent to leave business success up to chance through new blood. Instead, it is necessary to put in place diverse management teams who continuously scrutinise their business model and make business transformation into a core competence.

Given the complexity of the diverse changes in consumer needs and the supply chain as a whole, an experienced chairman and a smart CEO are no longer enough. A hierarchical mindset of “mine, yours, above and below me” is out, and “silo mentality” is taboo. Instead, it is important to function in teams and make use of the swarm intelligence of a company. Managed correctly, this not only yields the best decisions but also creates buy-in for the business transformation.

Speedboats oust freighters – diverse, flexible teams are now needed at the helm.

The job profiles for members of boards of directors and executive boards are changing accordingly – something that was underway even before coronavirus, but is now even more pronounced. Integrative, enthusiastic individuals with drive are needed. The focus is on rapid penetration of business models rather than industry experience. Player-coaches, who define themselves by the complexity of the role and not by the number of direct reports, are in demand rather than “alphas”. This development in particular lays the foundation for greater gender diversity in top-level roles.

Some companies are really pulling out the stops during the crisis, developing new business models and accelerating the transformation process, to put themselves in pole position in the imminent upswing. Some positive examples include the following: 

  • An executive board formed interdisciplinary teams with members from all hierarchical levels to determine business opportunities. The aim of this was to take advantage of the crisis to attain market leadership.
  • An owner-run company opened a development centre in Germany, where it gathered the best minds in the troubled automotive industry to implement revolutionary advances with them.
  • A traditional industrial company, which was already in the red before the crisis, created a B2C portal with new products and was able – despite a sharp drop in sales – to significantly improve its results.
  • And in personal terms: In early November, Witena grew with the addition of two new partners, because as an Executive Search Boutique, we have been focusing on the core issues of business transformation and diversity and helping companies to achieve sustainable success with the right teams at the helm for years. This mindset and experience are currently in high demand.

The corona crisis will not only be remembered as a social and economic turning point. It is also an accelerant for changing power relations, for structural changes in individual industries and for the breakthrough of new business models. It is speeding up digital transformation and marks the beginning of the age of flexible thinking and flexible organisational structures. Diversity in top-level roles and in project teams is becoming a success factor.

Business transformation and diversity are core issues for us: as a versatile, dynamic Swiss Executive Search Boutique, with added leadership consultancy, we want to take our share of responsibility for the successful development of companies in the digital age. Witena can be your sparring partner and has the enthusiasm and skills to support you in the further development of your company.