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Building resilience in the times of CORONA

March, 2020

As we approach the end of March, we stand at the cusp of an important milestone. TSB completes 6 years as a leading mid-sized strategy consulting firm. And what a journey it has been, right from our inception back in 2014, to where we stand now, looking ahead at many more milestones and achievements within touching distance.

But before we get into more of that, it would be prudent to talk a bit about the global macroeconomy and the uncertain externalities that we are all confronted with. With the COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) plaguing and shutting down most of the world, to a systemic crash in oil prices, the already fragile banking system getting caught on the wrong foot, yet again, and the general slowdown in the economy prompting rate cuts by the central bank, life hasn’t looked more uncertain for the world at large, reminding people of the crash from a decade back, and also in some circles, drawing parallels to the Great Depression and the era of hyper-inflation. Surely, the consequences of each of these developments, either by themselves, or together in conjunction with other major world events, in the increasingly integrated global economy of today, could be more catastrophic in terms of outreach than many of these events from the years gone by.

But at TSB, we firmly believe in the adage that every challenge presents a new opportunity. And this is something we are extremely fixated on. Already, we have overseen some brilliant strategic initiatives for some of our clients, helping them deal with the uncertain climate in the best possible way.

  • Continuity Planning: These include rolling out contingency management measures in the form of business continuity planning to ensure that work continues as seamlessly as possible, while not compromising on stakeholder safety and wellbeing. More and more work from home policies are being implemented by our clients in the subcontinent and in the middle east, and each policy is subtly and sometimes, overtly, different from the other, to meet organizational objectives. Where data security and confidentiality are paramount, adoption of leading contingency management solutions is the preferred way to go. A split work force is considered in other areas, where some amount of ‘face-time’ is needed. In regions where, owing to labour laws, everyone needs to have the right to opt for a work from home approach, radically revising existing business plans and operational metrics becomes key.
    TSB is taking this approach one level further by creating solutions that are ‘proactive’ rather than ‘reactive’ in this regard. Let’s face it, this isn’t the last crisis of this scale that we would be exposed to in our lifetimes, and we simply can’t head into every situation without a contingency plan in place. To know more about what we’re doing in this space, do reach out to us, and we would be happy to elaborate in more detail.

  • Sustainable Growth: At a recent meeting with one of our oldest and most prominent European clients, the issue of white elephants came up. Massive organizations and structures built on the rather flimsy premise of temporal economies, with no real sustainable vision for the company going forward. This is a classic problem faced by companies, and in some cases, industries around the world. Does Kodak as we knew them a decade ago, ring a bell? Adapting to changing times and staying nimble and agile, remains the key to sustainable growth. The myth that companies are too big to fail, is exactly that. Behemoths, unable to be as agile as young upstarts, are constantly being leapfrogged, and in some cases, subject to oblivion. And this trend is unlikely to buck anytime soon.

    But there is another aspect to sustainability, something that not many even recognize or acknowledge, let alone, do anything about. And that is marrying the dual objectives of conserving our increasingly fragile ecosystems economic growth and maximizing shareholder goodwill and wealth. Climate change is real, as are pandemics, as area plethora of issues that are often the furthest things on our minds, and this cannot continue being the case any longer. This is the only way to sustainable growth, and at TSB, we have taken an early cognizance of this, and every recommendation we make to every client of ours all over the world, has a heavy sustainability underpinning.

Adjusting to these testing times

Nobody has been rendered completely oblivious or immune to the Coronavirus pandemic, and all the chaos it has unleashed and continues to do so, the world over.

While there’s no doubt that in the long run this will make us all more resilient and we would all be better off for this. Our preparedness for times like these would undoubtedly increase manifold, and future endemic shocks like this would be dealt with more proactively and with a strong contingency plan. At the risk of sounding cliched, Afterall what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, doesn’t it?

While all that may be true, the reality is that we are currently grappling with a kind of crisis not seen in a very long time, and with no imminent end in sight, it looks like winter’s come early, a long, cold, dreary winter. Most countries are in various stages of lockdowns, shutting down airports, restricting incoming flights, and doing all they can to restrict and ban all non-essential travel. An epidemic that started in China has reached the shores of far-off South America, pretty much engulfing every continent en-route.

Schools have closed, flights have been cancelled, offices are struggling to stay afloat, tourist attractions are either shut or reflect ghost towns, hotels are dealing with hitherto unknown occupancy rates tending to zero, airports , cafes, bars, everything looks a far cry from the bustling places they’ve known to be. Sporting events and indeed, most public events and festivals have been cancelled. While this isn’t a first, this definitely exposed holes in the system that ideally should have been plugged long before the pandemic reached such astronomical proportions.

The death toll has crossed the 20,000 mark, and the numbers are only expected to increase. The UN estimates that over 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide due to the corona outbreak. This loss in jobs, coupled with loss in earnings could reach over USD 3 trillion by the end of the year, if a sustained coordinated effort by all countries and stakeholders is not undertaken. To say that a global recession is inevitable would be a massive understatement!

In the midst of all this, there are reports of a vaccine being tested and pushed to market with alarming urgency. While this might be a great thing, the haste with which it is being trialled, with reports of some testing stages and protocols not even being followed properly, leads to a scary thought of a half-baked product being pushed out, that does more harm than good. In any event, regulators would have to step in to prevent this eventuality from occurring, and governments and pharmaceutical companies would need to ensure than once such a vaccine does hit the market, it is available to every individual the world over who needs it.

While all this is unravelling on the world stage, here at TSB, we have seen our clients across borders, grappling with new BCP strategies, and making initiatives like work from home, work better. If you’re a company, the well-being of all your stakeholders – staff, clients, customers, et al, is extremely important. While most companies are moving to skeletal staffing or remote working arrangements, they come with their own fair share of problems. We have collated and simplified some action-oriented measures, immediate responses and regular hygiene factors that we believe will help stakeholders spanning across geographies and sectors:

  1. Ensure you comply with all local regulations – If your local government or employee union requires you to provide certain arrangements for your employees, make sure you conform. A client of ours grappled with the rather unusual situation of not being able to selectively provide remote work arrangement for their employees. The labour union insisted that all employees should be able to exercise their right to work remotely, and this, after a series of negotiations, led to a split work force on alternate days, which in its own way, made the workplace safer for everyone, and ensured that business continued with as minimal disruptions as possible.

  2. Subscribe to a cutting-edge Crises Management ERP system – Do this, if you haven’t already. These are essential for employees and companies to collaborate and keep essential operations running, minimizing and in most cases, eliminating the risks associated with privacy being compromised, etc. The importance of these systems cannot be understated.

  3. Ensure your employees have everything they need to work optimally - This included high speed internet, access to proprietary servers and databases, remote IT assistance, among other things.

  4. Set up on-going communication channels between teams and employees - This becomes even more important when teams are working remotely and across different geographies. Having remote punch-in and punch-out systems to map employee attendance and productivity, being ‘always connected’ through traditional channels like phone calls, or through internal firm messaging systems, changing timesheet templates to bring them more in line with changing work arrangements, utilizing the ever growing technologies and apps to help teams work more efficiently, among others, would be key to ensuring this.

  5. Keep your IT support relevant and in control – One pain point most companies have while dealing with remote work environments is IT. Let’s face it, we all struggle with IT idiosyncrasies all the time. In office, it is easier to call the IT helpdesk and have technician over in a few minutes to resolve simple issues. Working from home is a different ball game altogether. IT should be empowered to get into remote systems to sort out issues, as well as train the workforce to resolve simple issues on their own, and only reach out to an overstretched IT support team for pressing problems.

  6. Conduct remote trainings and knowledge transfer sessions – These are often the bedrock on which great organizations are built, and this should not be compromised in any way, due to change in work environments.

  7. Show compassion and understanding – last but not the least, understand the problems your employees might face while working from home. An employee would certainly not have the same conducive work environment as they would while working out of office, and this is something employers should understand and cut them some slack. There might be family (and in some cases, extended family) at home, there might be kids running around all over the house, and sometimes, houses might be small and lack basic office furniture. While it is challenging for you to coordinate working remotely, it is also a challenge for your employees. A little compassion and understanding would go a long way in making it happen. Also, don’t restrict your care and compassion for Tier 1 employees and managers, but take care of employees and staff at all levels – the blue collared workers are a major reason why your organizations function smoothly. And they are one of the worst hit in times of crisis. Don’t cut their salaries even if they can’t come to office, support them as much as you can and treat them the same way you would want your employer to treat you!

In this time of uncertainty and panic, we understand the need for professional advice.

With TSB's new initiative to provide support, professional advice and business consulting to our clients and friends across the world, we want to reach out to anyone and everyone - Start Ups, SMEs, Freelancers, MNCs, Employees/Individuals and Job Seekers – TSB experts are here for one and all!
Struggling with payroll? Stuck in crisis management? Want to utilise this time to streamline processes, lay the groundwork to test capabilities and build a sustainable model for the future? Dealing with mental health issues because of WFH? Want to revisit your company's business plan? WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!

- Business Continuity Planning
- Crisis Management
- Remote Working
- Operational resiliency
- Employee welfare
- Managing credit portfolio
- Defining strategies and their long-term implications
- Preparing your business model for an unpredictable future
- Stress Testing capabilities
And more..

Don't worry about billable hours, just pick up a cup of coffee, sit back and reach out to TSB!

  • Written By Abhinav Srivastava

Abhinav, a highly skilled management consultant, is one of TSB’s co-founders. He prefers to obsess over a BlackBerry in a world of iPhones.