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Agility During the COVID-19 Crisis


COVID-19 is one of the biggest VUCCA moments in recent times. Intrinsic agility* is being demonstrated across all levels in our country to ensure that risks are managed effectively and to tap into the additional benefits of an agility mindset and behaviours.

*Intrinsic – something that is inbuilt and comes of naturally in given circumstances in terms of mindset and behaviours.

*Agility – the focus to move with speed and flexibility towards the value focused goal despite any challenges whilst managing risks and tapping into opportunities along the way on a foundation of desired mindset and behaviours.

Some examples and intrinsic agility insights are as follows:

Example 1:

The SA government’s decision for a 21-day lockdown, in consultation with medical and economy experts (even before the first death was reported), proactively prioritised the South African people safety over everything else in view of the looming high risks.

The President painted a clear picture of the current state and highlighted the desired outcome and value of the lockdown. It was also acknowledged that the lockdown solution may not be perfect and would have teething problems, but timely implementation of prioritised risk management measures was key. After only a couple of days, it was clear that the government was listening to feedback to consider further improvements.

This example demonstrates:

  • Leadership – holding people together in a crisis with focus on a common purpose and vision whilst demonstrating empathy and transparency that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’, but that we need to work together and fight this pandemic.
  • Effective timely decision making, which is not meant to be perfect, but ‘good enough’ based on expert insights, data and trends across the world to manage the immediate risks to SA. It is acknowledged that the decision would inconvenience people, but is necessary from a ‘greater good’ perspective whilst keeping the options open to evolve the lockdown state within risk managed limits in future as per the data insights.
  • Right prioritisation supported by a step-by-step incremental and iterative approach to ensure timely risk management measures supported by an inspect and adapt approach and data driven measures.
  • That there is no silver bullet and hence we need to evaluate options to make informed decisions. There is also no one person or body who knows it all and, considering the need of the hour is to move with speed, the need for collective wisdom, diverse thinking synergy to observe the crisis and measures through different lens for informed decision making is key.

Example 2: The risks to the economy is being managed through unique collaborations between private and public sector as people are working towards a common vision and purpose to combine resources in putting the needs of SA first by finding ways to limit the economic, social and health impact of COVID-19 on the country. Companies and business associations are coming together to ensure collaboration with government, and to use the available business resources and capacity to support public sector initiatives. The South African Reserve Bank has cut the repo rate and proactively provided additional liquidity to the financial system. This will provide relief to consumers and businesses.

This example demonstrates the right set of behaviours by political and business leaders to put self-interests aside to collaborate for the greater good of SA. It also puts the focus on making the people safety decision more risk managed as the lockdown would otherwise impact people livelihoods very adversely.

Example 3: As businesses and corporates are faced with ‘first of its kind’ challenges, mitigating the risks with speed is crucial for survival and known approaches may not be suitable for challenges at hand. The decisions that have needed to be made were not easy decisions and some are continuing to inspect and adapt their initial responses. A people-inclusive approach and collective wisdom, innovative thinking and supporting risk managed experimentation is deemed key for survival. Hence hypothesis-based (MVP) approaches are being implemented with a continuous focus on retrospection, learning and adapting to evolve a model that works.

Beyond SA, there are many other examples demonstrated throughout the world. Some common themes include:

  • Private and Public sectors across countries are joining hands to innovate on the mass production of COVID testing kits, face masks, ventilators, and sanitisers to meet the growing demand at affordable prices and progress on COVID vaccination – an example of collaboration and collective wisdom with commitment towards the bigger purpose.
  • Many people have focused on personal and professional development through online resources to find them better placed for the different world that will emerge post COVID-19. Many companies are focusing on the opportunities of remote ways of working beyond just the immediate risk management related to social distancing. Some examples – relooking at the real estate assets usage, access and usage of global talent as a norm and so on – demonstrate a focus on finding opportunities in VUCCA beyond just embracing and surviving.

These intrinsic agility examples demonstrate competencies required to embrace, survive and find ways to thrive in the VUCCA world. We need to acknowledge and celebrate such instances of intrinsic agility, which provides guidelines for future reference and learnings. Furthermore, we need to find opportunities of intrinsic agility synergy beyond individuals and groups to harness the benefits of scale and manage risks of unintentional conflict and opportunity loss.

Connect with the MAC-agile team to see how you can harness intrinsic agility in your organisation across different roles for maximum synergy with required speed for competitive advantage

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