The COVID Paradox
Anna Penfold, Jon Wortmann
The Indian Management article, “The COVID Paradox,” is co-written by Russell Reynolds Associates consultant
Anna Penfold and explains how the pandemic has created ample opportunities to overhaul organizational culture. The article is excerpted below.
The pain and loss of this era in human history cannot be overstated. No individual or organisation wants the disruption the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought to every country and many businesses. Every leader, when faced with unexpected change, has a culture opportunity. Culture, in general, is the beliefs, values, and behaviours that are observable in a group. When organisational life is normal, patterns often continue because they existed before. When crisis happens, however, what was once intractable becomes open. Cultural norms can be analysed and adjusted. Leaders who did not have time or appetite for change demand new ways of thinking and working.
The context for culture opportunities in these COVID times revolve around three distinct reality shifts: virtual communication, radically different work patterns, and uncertainty. The first opportunity every business can take advantage of is technological integration. If you wanted to do something virtual or web-based before, your culture will be more or entirely welcoming of the new systems.
The second opportunity is to create an effective hybrid culture. What used to be assumed face or office time can now be shifted in part or wholly to virtual work. In no way is face-to-face work gone. In fact, we now realise how important it is. It is simply not the only way to build connections and make decisions.
Purposeful reflection, for individuals and teams, is the third opportunity to deepen the lives and work of every employee during COVID. We used to have built-in reflection and think time during travel, on a commute, and in between meetings. Without realising it, learning happened. With less travel and movement, cultures have to encourage people, even demand people purposefully schedule reflection time.
Every one of these opportunities was already happening in the old world. Now, the barriers are down. The needs of today are different. But the chance to make changes will not last. Humans love tradition and it has value. What has even more impact are the intentional connections you build and the way you attend to your culture as it is vulnerable. The trust you build from the efforts can become the new cultural norm.
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