COVID-19 – THE LESSONS SO FARMuhammad Shahid
About seven weeks have passed since we left our offices to work from home. During this time the government gave exemptions to certain essential and export oriented industries to operate and only as of this week, we are starting to see a general softening of the lockdown across the country. Yet, what lies ahead promises even greater uncertainty. The truth is that no one knows what the new normal will be.
A greater effort is required on our part to practice caution and avoid rushing to recreate the pre-COVID era, which is history now. All future business plans, such as sales forecasts, planned capital expenditures, BMR, hiring, new business initiatives etc. will include the pandemic as a new socioeconomic reality and these will remain fluid until we have a better grip of what the post-COVID world looks like. As the leading wire and cable manufacturers in Pakistan, we are aware of this and are re-formulating our approach to factor in COVID and its impact.
We are now mid-way through the holy month of Ramzan, which amongst other things is a month of introspection. Therefore, I felt it may be worth sharing some business related and personal lessons I have learned from the pandemic until now:
1. Nimble organizations that are willing to adapt will flourish. GE, GM, IBM, Disney, Microsoft and Apple were all founded during crises. Other great organizations that have either anticipated or adapted quickly to change have shown tremendous success. At times like this, it is imperative that change is proactive and well communicated internally. The usual pace of change just won’t do and so long as the right direction is identified, companies that pivot around new realities will thrive.
2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Clear and regular lines of communication within the organization and across major stakeholders must be reinforced and the frequency of communication increased. This is a time of great uncertainty and as described above, rapid organizational change. If employees and stakeholders are not kept abreast through communication with the changes underway, it will result in confusion and a pull in different directions. As a CEO, I find myself tightly connected with my team, as we adapt to new ways of communicating effectively virtually. Similarly, we send out regular updates internally and all department heads are accessible and closely connected with their respective areas.
3. Avoid going in to freeze mode. It can be detrimental for employee morale and will most certainly affect productivity in a crisis. Instead, identify your growth engines, keep costs tight and be frugal. Learn to leverage from resources inside and outside the company to find options of growth.
4. Reimagine workplaces. As an ISO 45001 company, we have long adhered to best practices in the areas of Health, Safety and Environment. In fact, we were amongst the first few companies in Pakistan to adopt a work from home protocol well before the lockdown and had instituted social distancing measures and screening systems ahead of the release of official government SOPs. This is because the safety of our people is of paramount importance to Pakistan Cables. COVID-19 taught us how critically implementing simpler preventive measures leads to influencing positive behaviors among employees. Remote working helped employees stay focused without constantly worrying about being exposed to potential health risks. Besides following the mandatory guidelines issued by the Government of Sindh, our Crisis Management Team implemented robust safety measures that are monitored on a daily basis.
5. Equipping businesses with the right technology infrastructure is not optional anymore. The pandemic has proved that technology enabled communication has become the cornerstone of business interaction. Virtual meetings, remote trainings, selling online, work from home – technology has enabled businesses to continue to remain functional during the crisis. Although this was amongst many businesses top priorities in the pre-COVID era, identifying the right technologies and adapting to them as we move forward has become even more crucial now
1. Staying safe and healthy is a social contract with your own self. Let’s not take health and safety for granted ever again. Physical and mental health supersedes everything else. Today we are physically distant but remain socially connected. Being confined to our homes, has resulted in allowing ourselves some time to meditate, look inward, re-root and reprioritize as we strengthen ourselves to live with uncertainty calmly.
2. Celebrate the simpler joys of life MORE! Forced lockdowns led us to spend more time with our families. For someone like me who leads an extremely fast paced life, it took a while to adjust but very soon I was picking up old hobbies, reading books again, connecting with old friends, taking my dogs for a walk and doing things I hadn’t done in years. The quality time I have spent with my family has been a breath of fresh air.
3. Less is more. The quality of our interactions has improved. The daily chores whether around the house or work related have eased in to our schedules without being rushed. With less distractions, our ability to focus sharpens as we learn to work with the ‘one day at a time’ policy.
4. Have faith. Once you set a plan in motion, you have to trust the process to run its course. There will always be factors beyond your control. Our job is to ensure that we do our best every day and have firm faith in the greater plan which God has in place for us.
Like all of us, I too, pray that the world comes out of the pandemic more mindful and considerate, grateful and committed to deliver on goals focused on the betterment of people and our planet.
While we work through these challenging times, we must set a vision that allows us to tell future generations about how the pandemic was countered and how mankind was able to take steps for the better. Let us take a moment to reflect on the kind of change we want to bring for a safer, peaceful and prosperous world altogether by surviving this turbulence!
May you and your loved ones have a safe, healthy and a blessed Ramzan – Ameen.