June 21, 2021


News for Agilists

Why Leadership Should Be Agile – The Pandemic Isn’t Over Yet

Our ability to adapt and survive in wildly different environments is the primary reason for our success as a species. In fact, adaptability in the face of change is our defining characteristic. It’s what makes us distinctly human. 

However, as we roll out a global vaccination program at an unprecedented scale, much of the discussion has been more rigid than ever, skewing heavily to a post-pandemic conversation and what an en-masse return to office would look like. It’s understandable to be excited about a return to normalcy after a year of quarantine, but leadership should recognize the possibility of another variable as they plan their strategies – COVID variants. 

Success relies on expecting the unexpected 

Discussions about new strains of COVID have been in the wings for a while, but it’s remained somewhat out of focus. Research on new strains is concerningly limited at the moment, and a post-pandemic world isn’t guaranteed just yet. With recent news about the South African variant breaking through the Pfizer vaccine in Israel, along with other reports about how the UK variant may be up to 70% more infectious, we need to remain flexible rather than exclusively imagining what a COVID-free world looks like. 

Unprepared leadership worldwide arguably dropped the ball at the beginning of the pandemic last year, and many suffered for it. It’s important to learn from our mistakes and ensure our leadership is staying agile in the face of developing variants. If something sets us back a step this time, the world can and needs to be prepared to take two steps forward. 

Private and public leadership are both critical 

Government response is key to shaping public preparedness and attitude towards new variants. We’ve seen some breakdowns and transparency about the topic through avenues like White House press briefings, but current attitudes still seem too much like a ‘wait-and-see’ mentality. 

The resilience of these new variants, as Dr. Fauci points out, is a ‘wake up call’ to the reality of the situation. As the virus mutates and adapts, our leadership needs to be prepared to stay two steps ahead of it and adjust as needed. Whether it’s reformulating and redistributing new versions of vaccines, or deploying new research to better see how the virus is mutating, leaders need to step up lest we return to where we were a year ago. Our shortcomings on this front have already been noted – but it’s better to start later than never. The world can’t afford to have a lack of adaptability in leadership be the cause of another wave of the pandemic. 

We should be encouraging a more proactive approach rather than reactive measures to prevent us from regressing back to stage one. The UK’s set a great example for this kind of mindset. Concerned about the potentially increased transmissibility of new variants, they’ve focused on getting everyone at least one dose of the vaccine as soon as possible, a successful program that’s seen over half of their population vaccinated – an impressive feat that’s well above the curve. 

This proactive mentality should also extend to the private sector. Although companies have become very excited at the prospect of a vaccinated workforce, a return to the office, and a well-performing market, we need to remain agile in the face of uncertainties and account for possibilities proactively in our strategies. If last year taught us anything about leadership, we need to remain prepared and ready to deal with the unexpected. 

So what does staying agile mean?

For those unfamiliar with the concept, staying agile simply means being adaptable in shifting conditions. For businesses, that usually refers to a company’s ability to identify and adapt to new challenges by implementing changes quickly and efficiently. Being able to shift resources, employees, and strategies is the key to success. 

Business leaders looking to stay ahead of the curve should keep a close eye on new developments and communicate regularly with employees and stakeholders about what the next steps will be. Furthermore, consider what you’ll need to plan for if the unexpected happens and return-to-work strategies become delayed. Long-term remote work problems like employee burnout, productivity issues, and similar challenges will need to be addressed. 

Don’t rely solely on a quick return-to-work strategy to relieve any issues you may be facing as an organization. For many companies, they’ve found the solutions to those issues by adopting and investing in a variety of technologies, helping them work securely and collaboratively through innovative work management platforms. 

Be agile and prosper

Whether you’re deep in the midst of planning your organization’s future work strategy for 2021 or just starting, make sure to take the unexpected into account and stay agile. Now more than ever, during one of the most uncertain periods of time in modern history, we need to rely on that defining human capacity to adapt. It’s the key to coming out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient than we were ever before.

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