News

Setting your company up for success in 2021

COVID-19 forced businesses to rethink multiple facets of their operations, and in some cases to recast them repeatedly, in response to the disease’s shifting geography, Whac-a-mole switches in rules and regulations, and huge changes in customer behavior and the way we work. Last year, we wrote about several of these trends, and the need for leaders to use design thinking to create the customer and employee experiences that would sustain their company through the pandemic.

Today, as vaccines are rolled out around the world (granted, at various degrees of speed and scale), people can start to imagine finding some stability. For the leaders who have been in response mode, it’s time to stop winging it and make a flight plan. Here are four actions companies can take to help improve customer experience, operations, and profitability for 2021 and beyond.

Stop improvising and start experimenting — to learn what to keep

Read more

Supporting employees working from home

In mid-December, a light appeared at the end of a long, dark tunnel when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorizations for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. A month later, that light wavered as the death toll in the U.S. reached 400,000 — having reached 300,000 just five weeks earlier — and the outgoing director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the worst of the pandemic was yet to come. As Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Even as millions of people are getting vaccinated, many employees won’t be returning to the workplace for months to come. Instead, they will continue to work from home with all the distractions, stresses, and fears that they have experienced over the past year. This is not an insignificant problem: 25 percent of respondents to a PwC Workforce Pulse Survey conducted between January

Read more

Why the first five minutes of a meeting shape its outcome

Meetings that just happen by default waste precious time, invite poor decisions, add to exhaustion, and fray relationships. Given these risks, I proposed in a previous article that successful meetings are intentionally designed. The basic idea is that to support people and move critical objectives forward, leaders need to ask themselves four questions: Why are you meeting? Who needs to be there? What conversation needs to happen? And how can you create the conditions that will enable that conversation? In my experience, leaders are often able to answer the first three questions with just a little extra effort. But they usually come up empty when it comes to the last one.

The trouble starts before the attendees show up (or log on). Many people arrive at meetings prepared to be disengaged. Whether it is a recurring team call, a project team update, or a longer strategy retreat, participants often lack

Read more

The future of sports fandom

The way most people consume professional sports hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. It’s still chiefly a live, one-way, linear broadcast to some kind of screen. Turn on a game, make some nachos, and watch what comes at you.

But just wait until you can go as an avatar to a Chicago Bears game. You might even get a virtual Buona Italian beef sandwich and feel like you’re at Soldier Field without freezing your face off.

We’re entering a new era in which we’ll unhook sports from its TV traditions and integrate it into more parts of our lives. It’s a change that would’ve come over time but has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic. Shortened seasons, canceled games, weird playoff formats, and empty stadiums have motivated professional sports and their fans to experiment. And some of it is going to stick.

What’s to come? I asked two people who

Read more

Will the C-suite empty out in 2021?

Given the world-turned-upside-down year we just closed out, it is probably wise to steer clear of making predictions. But it can be hard to resist the temptation in January to submit to this traditional exercise of forecasting the future.

We all know that the pandemic has changed the world of work for the long term, but one aspect of that change that may be underappreciated right now is the number of senior executives who are likely to balk at the idea of going back to the office full time. Once most people have gotten the vaccine, and companies decide that they want their leaders back at headquarters, there is likely to be a test of wills. I’ve heard countless stories from executives this past year who have reconnected with their spouses and kids and are healthier because they have more control over their schedule to build in consistent exercise. Flexible

Read more

Practicing strategy in an uncertain world

Kristian Ebbesen Fjelde and his team knew that the executive committee meeting scheduled in mid-2019 to discuss the future strategy of their company was more important than most. Equinor had changed its name in May 2018 from Statoil to signify that it wanted to become a more diversified energy company and take a leading role in the long-term goal of transitioning out of fossil fuels. Equinor was Norway’s biggest energy producer, and its leaders understood that the structural shifts in the market necessitated a radical shift in the business that would require more than a simple rebranding. Instead of putting together a presentation, Fjelde decided to run a “strategic beliefs” card game. His team circulated 16 statements, each describing what might become a core belief of the company. They covered everything from the direction of commodity prices to the impacts of climate change. The executives were asked to reveal one

Read more