How your newfound change resilience can benefit CX

21st Oct 2020


What distinguishes companies who thrived during the pandemic from those who merely survived?

Leaving aside external factors such as being in the airline business where your customers disappeared overnight, when two companies were facing the same crisis and opportunities, there were two distinguishing factors between the thrivers and the mere survivors. The thrivers were far more ready with their digital transformation and they demonstrated a significant compassion and a strong overall human approach to their customer engagement.

From the Four Seasons New York that opened its rooms to medical staff to Medtronic’s that made its respirator’s specs available to all manufacturers to the landlord in Brooklyn who cut the rent by 50% to acknowledge his tenants’ hardships, we’ve seen an outpour of humanity. This humanity, although somewhat typical during tragedies (e.g. hurricanes or earthquakes), has far exceeded the usual response of giving a donation and moving on. We’ve seen more support and long-lasting commitments. 

For those businesses that overnight had to deal with no public engagement, the ability to engage and deliver online was critical. Those who were set up with a digital alternative to their services were clearly the winners over those who were not. What do both digital transformation and human approach to business have in common? Why were certain companies more ready than others to deliver?

The answer is change resilience.

In the past several years, digital transformation has been touted as an important step in an organisation’s evolution. The writing was on the wall and the need to fuse digital and physical services was clear. Some companies decided to adopt it faster than others.

For the last two decades, the customer experience revolution brought with it a clear message around the need to engage emotionally with customers, understand their journey and design products, services and experiences with a strong humanity at its centre. Again, the message was there. Some organisations heeded the advice and were willing to adopt change faster than others. Those who adapted faster and more broadly, thrived while their less-willing competitors struggled and some even went bankrupt.

Resilience was not by chance

In 2018 I published my latest book Next Is Now! My core argument in the book was that the future of competitive advantage will not be products, services or technology. Rather, the change resilience of an organisation will determine its fate. Change resilience was defined as the scope and speed in which an organisation adapts to change. The faster you move and the broader you implement, the more competitively relevant you are. COVID-19 was a test on a massive scale to examine the change resilience of organisations. It proved, beyond a doubt, that those who treat change resilience as a core competence, are more likely to face the unknown and uncertainty with bravery, courage and actual creative, new solutions.

As change resilience is an organisational muscle, those who practiced it before COVID-19 are more likely to respond more effectively during COVID-19. Those who failed to practice it (and were delaying the inevitable change due to complacency and other excuses) find themselves without the power to respond to the uncertainty delivered by COVID-19. Living with uncertainty and the need to respond creatively to it is not unique to extreme events such as the pandemic. In fact, is an integral part of every organisations’ journey through life.

COVID-19 proved, beyond a doubt, that those who treat change resilience as a core competence, are more likely to face the unknown and uncertainty with bravery, courage and actual creative, new solutions.

Be it a new technological advancement that deems your product absolute or a desperate competitor that drops its prices significantly to obtain market share or a leader that was critical to your success and unfortunately left to your competitors. Any event that was unplanned brings with it the need to respond to change in a fast and unexpected way. That is where change resilience is so critical. Practice the muscle and the next unforeseen uncertainty will be easier to manage and may even be an opportunity to thrive. Ignore the muscle and you’re doing so at your own risk.

Leverage the lessons for stronger change resilience

Thriver or mere survivor, you ought to capture the lessons from COVID-19 and develop a stronger change resilience. The well-rehearsed Winston Churchill saying of not wasting a good crisis needs to be put into practice not just in terms of an immediate response but in terms of developing a stronger organisation moving forward. To counter with another saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” COVID-19 ought to turn your organisation into a stronger version of itself pre-COVID-19. 

This goes beyond some superficial acts such as allowing every employee to work from home moving forward, such as Twitter’s CEO’s decision. (I am not sure how effective it is or if it is suitable for everyone. The decision seems to have been made too fast to be fully examined.)

Creating a stronger, change resilient organisation requires a thorough reflection of your decisions and behaviours during COVID-19. Yes, you will discover that you made some mistakes and that is OK. It was unprecedented and you had no textbook. The reflection should examine decisions, actions, execution and behaviour and reflect on how they represent your vision and mission as an organisation. Were you true to your mission? Did you demonstrate humanity? Did you live up to your values?

Like most organisations, the answer is likely to be some and some. In some cases, you did, in others you missed the mark. That is where the reflection becomes more interesting. In analysing the hits and misses, you will be able to get to the core of the issue: how well your change resilience is understood and practiced in your organisation. It is from these conclusions and identification of the areas of weakness that you can develop a plan for amplifying your change resilience. This plan should include:

  • Sharing the key decisions made during COVID-19.
  • Explaining the hits and misses and how we lived up to our vision (including when we didn’t).
  • Developing a set of behaviours and decision guidelines for the future.
  • Practicing decision-making under uncertain conditions.
  • Documenting for the future the COVID-19 lessons and actions.

By turning the reflections and lessons into a concrete plan to develop change resilience, we will be able to emerge as a stronger organisation that was enhanced by its experience. Otherwise, the experience will be wasted, and we will resort to old behaviours and low change resilience. As a result, we will be less prepared for the next unprecedented uncertainty.

The new customer expectations

High digital engagement and the expectation for greater humanity and compassion will become the new standards post COVID-19.  Customers got used to them and are seeing them as table stakes. What used to be a differentiator, prior to COVID-19, has become an expectation. It has become the new normal for customers. If you were prepared with both compassion and digital tools, you need to elevate your game and identify a new differentiator. If you were one of the mere survivors, you have major catching up to do. Customers are not waiting for you and with greater savviness they will jump to your competitors faster than ever before. 

These new expectations are setting the stage for you to proactively explore changes and evolutions to your value proposition and the way you deliver it. It’s a new reality in which you ought to lead change faster than your customers expect. That is the ultimate outcome of change resilience. The ability to create change before it is expected. At its core, change resilience is about creating the “next,” not responding to it.

That is the reason why we can no longer treat change resilience as a tool in our toolbox that we take out only when we see change on the horizon. It has to be incorporated as part of our core competence. It is the new guiding light for the future. That is one lesson we can immediately take from COVID-19 and apply to every decision and behaviour in our organisation. Are our decisions driving the “next” or are they responding to it?

To thrive in the future, you need to drive the “next” before it will drive you.

Lior Arussy is a global business transformation and strategy execution authority. He published 8 books, the last is Next is Now! (2018) @LiorStrativity


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