COVID-19: Could It Be Our Greatest Opportunity?

by Gavriel Schneider

We have all been disrupted by Covid 19 and the way we do business has changed forever. Now it’s up to us, as to whether we are able to produce some positive outcomes from these challenging times or not. Regardless, of the challenges we have all faced (at different extremes) we have within ourselves, the ability to thrive, no matter what the future holds. But (and it’s a big but), if we continue to do the same thing over and over again whilst expecting a different result, we are almost guaranteed to be disrupted ourselves. COVID has created a unique opportunity to level the playing fields somewhat, in that we have all been disrupted and made uncomfortable to one degree or another – and as uncomfortable as it has been, (and will likely still continue to be for some time), this is often where the best opportunities lie.

So where do we start? In order to drive positive outcomes, it’s important to understand where we are currently. Experts have stated that we are now entering the 5th Industrial Revolution, which focuses on leveraging Human Capital (our people, the potential and resource that we as people arrive with and develop), combined and supported by all the benefits that our technological advancements bring. In terms of the human capital, we are starting to see signs of the need to prioritise and put the human element at the centre of our organisations. We see it coming through in Royal commission findings (especially around areas such as risk culture), we see it in Bushfire commissions, looking at community engagement and response; and we see it in a myriad of other examples – not least of which is COVID, where the Human Element has been elevated even beyond global economic well-being.

What makes things so different now is the increasingly co-dependant and integrated link between technology, systems and human capital, and their need to work together at a pace that has never been demanded or required before. Regrettably, many Australian organisations are still built on business structures and models that were designed for the previous era(s) – most of which rely heavily on red-tape and outdated/cumbersome systems and procedures. Because of this, these organisations are struggling to adapt and keep up in such a disrupted business landscape.

This is primarily as a result of our comparatively highly regulated and compliance centric approach to business, where for the most part, Australian businesses and government bureaucracies have not been looking around and forward, and have instead been dominated by risk aversion, over- regulation and an outdated position. This has not only made things difficult from a strategic and operational perspective in this brave new world, but has also made us non-competitive in areas such as manufacturing – and we see the consequences of this with off-shoring. To add insult to injury, aspects such as reactive, hyper-conservative, blame-based or compliance-focused cultures have made adaption even more difficult, especially in larger organisations.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Many business leaders actually feel these frustrations every day but find it difficult to articulate, and even harder to action. As it has been described to me by many a senior executive: We know we need to do things differently, to drive a more strategic, agile and adaptable approach but how do we do it?

Outdated governance models, such as the Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) approach, no longer work effectively in a world that requires agility, adaption and innovation to be built into our systems and people.

So in order to thrive in a world where uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are now the norm, we find the golden key embodied in a new approach – the Presilience 1 Approach. We need to move past the perceptual barriers and outdated compliance-based, reactive approaches, to a new way (which doesn’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water), which merges the best of the old with the best of the new. In essence, Presilience is an approach that focuses on integrating three key aspects to create enhanced productivity. These are;

  • Enhanced Decision-making / Robust Risk Culture
  • High Performance (including high productivity)
  • Effective Leadership

It is Important to note however, that Presilience® is not about “out with the old, in with the new”. It’s not about ignoring aspects such as compliance (which would clearly be disastrous). Rather, it’s about accepting that there is a maturity journey we should all be on. To better explain this we like to focus on what we call the Presilience Maturity model. The model highlights three states of operation or approaches that we need to look at for our businesses to evolve and grow:

  • Compliance – this is the basic minimum we need to operate in any given sector if an organisation is compliance focused only it will be highly vulnerable to rapid changes and be very slow to adapt
  • Resilience – the next step up is a focus on resilience where it is accepted that things could go wrong, but we are prepared for this with the aim of trying to return to business as usual as quickly as possible. The resilience mindset is a great step forward from that of compliance but is still defensive and negatively biased by nature.
  • Presilience – The optimal state is that of Presilience. This is where we incorporate the best aspects of compliance and resilience but Presilience focuses not only on the opportunities to bounce back more effectively when things go wrong, but also constantly on positioning ourselves and our businesses to adapt, innovate and improve wherever possible

Essentially, the Presilience Approach works on a building blocks method that focuses first on the individual, then at the team level and finally at the organisational level. Only by taking this kind of approach – one which focuses on the individual as a part of the whole – will we gain a genuine societal benefit – one resultant from more resilient and productive businesses.

The goal should be to embed these behavioural characteristics in ourselves and everyone who works with us and strive to have them inbuilt into our systems and processes. We must look at the systems in play in our organisations and ensure that our governance structures are practical, well thought out and do not become roadblocks to innovation and adaptability. It is possible (and in fact necessary), to be both compliant and adaptive at the same time, but while it’s not easy in an over- regulated environment, it is possible.

The single biggest opportunity for Australian business to grasp is that of Presilience. As business leaders, let’s use the disruption of COVID to build Presilience in ourselves, our organisations and ultimately our society, so that we are better off for this experience!

Presilience® is a registered trademark of the Risk 2 Solution Group