Winning in the COVID-19 era of scientific living

Scientific this, scientific that, ‘scientific’ is now in vogue. COVID-19 has created the need to keep a social distance. It is a punch in

Scientific this, scientific that, ‘scientific’ is now in vogue. COVID-19 has created the need to keep a social distance. It is a punch in the gut to what makes us human – social interactions. People have therefore resorted to using technology to interact and deliver services.

The national elections of 2021 have now been baptized ‘scientific elections. Just because this time around candidates shall not be allowed to conduct mass rallies to the campaign. They must do so via digital channels – television, internet, mobile phones, and social media.  All Church activities are now “scientific” – you now have a ‘scientific’ wedding, ‘scientific’ baptism, ‘scientific’ mass, and ‘scientific’ holy communication. And of course, ‘scientific’ education. Everything now done or delivered via digital channels including social media, online and television live broadcasts are now being referred to as “scientific.”

The Church should not accept this general characterization.

Whether the Holy Mass is delivered via digital channels – on social media, television, or otherwise or physically with congregants in the Church, the blessings and intentions are the same. This is the foundation of our faith as stated in the Church Creed, I quote “… I believe in one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

Be it as it may, the coronavirus pandemic has allowed the enemies of religion to create an impression of change in the practices of our religion.

But what we believe in has not changed.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many Churches had implemented the use of social media, on-line preaching, and live mass broadcasting to deliver good news to the masses.  To further the call in Mark 16:15, “He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

Thanks to Coronavirus, the Church has got the opportunity to fast track the adoption of the digital and other channels to reach even more people. And indeed, some of my friends who had not visited the Church for a long period, now they tell you that “I was on-line attending mass.”

There is Holy Mass, not scientific mass. Baptism, not scientific baptism. Wedding and not a scientific wedding.

Before the pandemic, the world was said to be experiencing a VUCA revolution defined by increasing automation because of the fourth industrial revolution, the internet of things, robotics, virtual reality, machine learning, and advanced computing power. The VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous was said to be changing rapidly, and to survive people had to embrace the new oil – data and information. But with the pandemic, we now have a VUCAP world – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, and pandemic. The pandemic has intensified the VUCA. To win, both individuals and organizations must be agile, responsive, and lean.

This is the new world order we are all learning to cope with and survive.

How to survive in this new world order?

Unlike the financial-economic crisis of 2008, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all industries, while giving advantages to select few like technology companies to thrive. Sectors like Aviation, Hospitality, Tourism, Entertainment, and main-stream businesses have suffered the wrath of the pandemic. Places of worship, Churches, which bring many people together have too suffered because of this virus.

It seems to worsen by the day.

In times like these, your dominating goal is to navigate this period safely, supporting your family, business, and Church to continue operating.  In these times, cash is king. You need money to invest in the capabilities – resources, and systems to drive the new priorities.

So many opportunities are coming up.

But you need some cashflow which has become scarce. Following the market uncertainties, many economies have seen their credit risk scores downgraded. In Africa, large economies like South Africa had a downgraded country risk rating by Moody’s following the coronavirus reported cases. This meant that banks and other businesses operating in such an economy find it difficult to receive foreign capital, as the country is seen as high risk by investors.

The same thing we are seeing across many African countries. Capital hates uncertainty like that caused by a coronavirus.

For Uganda, a Fitch Credit rating report dated June 2020, stated that “Fitch Credit changed its outlook on Uganda’s ‘B+’ sovereign credit rating to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’ on June 24th, 2020. The decision reflects downside risks to public finances and growth from the coronavirus shock amid a build-up of government debt and persistent twin deficits, which are expected to continue into the medium term. The agency considers relatively high the current government’s budget deficit estimate of 7.5% of GDP in 2020 (from 5% in 2019) and projects it to widen to 9.4% in 2021. Meanwhile, the GDP growth is seen slowing sharply to 3% in 2020 from 5.6% in 2019 because of sweeping coronavirus-related disruptions. Standard & Poor’s credit rating for Uganda stands at B with a stable outlook. Moody’s credit rating for Uganda was the last set at B2 with a stable outlook.”

A credit rating for a country is used by sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and other investors to gauge the creditworthiness of Uganda thus having a big impact on the country’s borrowing costs.” In times like these, the economy needs foreign capital inflows to ease any pressure on the Ugandan shilling exchange rate against major currencies. Businesses need funds to improve their liquidity. And that is what makes the coronavirus pandemic a bad one.

Where to get funds to create capabilities to win?

What lessons have you learned?

First, is size. Small businesses (which are the engine of growth for Uganda) may be considered more vulnerable, but this may not necessarily be true. For example, the Church must now create digital channels and online registration of all parishioners to create a platform of ease of communication, support among the same parishioners, and social media counselling for psychosocial support that families need most during these times.  But this applies to everyone in the business. You need a forum to engage with your stakeholders in real-time. Any Church that fails to embrace the digital agenda shall end up failing to survive the new world order.

Second, pre-hard times financial conditions and performance also do not matter. Market leaders go under during hard times even when they were doing well financially before the hard times.

What about the number of years the business has been in existence?

No. Not at all. Historical pre-existence does not necessarily provide immunity to the troubles caused by hard times. The corporate graveyard is full of dead companies that failed to respond to change. Many others are on their sickbed.

The same applies to individuals and families.

You must change fast or perish helplessly. Likewise, the Church has done the right thing to adopt and embrace new technologies. But the Church should not fail to establish digital channels to facilitate Christians with adequate savings and passive income sources to support the Church in this time of need. The Church must play a critical role in mobilizing funds from those who can donate and help the less privileged members of the community. In times like these, people seek refuge in the Church. They should not fail to.

Then what matters?

It is the behaviours of business leaders and managers that matter the most! It is about the response and recovery decisions taken by business leaders during and after the hard times have struck.

At Summit Consulting Ltd, during this period, we have been working (and continue to work) with business leaders to respond and recover businesses during the hard times using the ACT – agile, change, and train model. We are happy to have responded well and adopted our working approaches using remote delivery channels. Before the pandemic, we had created capabilities for the mobile office, each of our staff with a mobile device (laptop). So when the lockdown was announced, we immediately discontinued the office fixed internet, and instead channelled the money to mobile data bundles. And since over 90% of our clients have never visited our offices, we made a quick decision to reduce our floor space and channelled the savings to cloud hosting and digital solutions into a platform for remote working. We find our quick decisions have eased our cash flow pressures and given us cost-cutting initiatives we would have never considered. In the past, a large floor size was a measure we tracked – it was common for some of our staff to boast about our company’s success in terms of the size of our offices. How wrong we were. Now our measures are number whitepapers downloaded from our website (this shows our thought leadership and leadership influence), and client inquiries via our digital channels.

To win, we have applied the ACT model of winning behaviours for creative and successful business management during hard times.

Agile

Agile is about responding fast to the winds of change. That way you do not wait to see but create organizational fitness by identifying the right resources that will enable it to survive the hard times.

Agile is about thinking fast and acting before someone else. If you are a business, who are your top customers who bring the 80% revenue to your business? If you are a Church, who are the top parishioners and well-wishers who bring 80% of the tithe to the Church? You must have a record of such people. Keep them close. And when faced with a challenge, engage with them on social media for solutions. More than before, the Church must be at the front line of mobilizing resources to support the most vulnerable members.

If you are to win, you must throw the old strategy out of the window. Whoever does that faster, wins.

Change

To change is to transform and adapt to a new normal. Change is not necessarily bringing new products and services. It is about repacking their existing products and delivering them in the new channels. For example, for a Church, traditionally, people come to the Church and physically attend mass.

Today, people do so on their mobile phones. For your business, what new technologies will you adopt? To survive, your business and brand must evolve in different ways. No business survives without adequate cash flow. And no business earns cash flow without delivering services. You must, therefore, deliver services and earn revenue to continue and be sustainable in the new normal. Failure to do so will weaken your organization. Since many businesses are in operation, the Church should consider digital channels to receive tithe from those who can.

Ask, what changes have you are making to win? Are they adequate?

Teach

If you do not teach it, you do not create succession. Have you created a leadership operating system that empowers people and you are not afraid of what happens when you are out of the room?

Are you an empowering leader who shares information freely, trains colleagues, and juniors in the way you do things? Imagine how the Church would be today if Jesus Christ was not a great teacher. Great leaders are great teachers in the first place. Instead of holding information, you release it through training others to empower them and allow decisions to be taken at the lower level?

During hard times, great leaders harness the power of their teams to address business challenges. Training yields the positive effect of keeping businesses close to their customers and other key stakeholders. Empowering leaders do it through the creation of an environment of Trust, Clarity, and Momentum.

Re-establishing trust by owning up to business mistakes demonstrates care, reliability, and fairness and thereby drawing customers closer. Clarity is achieved through effective communication.  Momentum is the energy, drive, and zeal and dynamism exhibited by business leaders. Good business momentum will not only make a business thrive, but it will get employees to fulfil their potential in unimaginable ways.

COVID-19 has been a great disruption, but has also created many opportunities, especially for creative and responsive leaders!

As several businesses are experiencing a period of slowed business and economic growth and loss of key customers, dynamic business leaders are moving forward and thriving despite the backward push and roadblocks created by COVID-19. You too, don’t call this a ‘scientific

Will you join the dynamic and creative business leaders who have

Remember, when hard times hit, your response actions matter more than all your pre-existing factors and conditions before the hard times. And whatever you do, put people at the centre of your response strategy. ACT. Assess. Change. Transform. And win.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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