The Real Risk of Empowerment: A Gift from Coronavirus

For the past six months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced organisations to rapidly adapt in order to adjust to, and in many cases survive, the biggest disrupter of the 21st century.

Companies have quickly recognised that their business-as-usual approaches to strategy, process and collaboration are too slow and cumbersome for the crisis and have moved to streamline for fast decision making, improved productivity and an empowered workforce. 

This shift to crisis mode has resulted in an unexpected resilience. Many businesses have reported improved teamwork, a more engaged workforce and unprecedented cross-organisation communication.  

Leaders are Learning That They Can be More Decisive, Agile and Rapid Than They Ever Thought Possible 

Here’s the thing. The world was already changing at an accelerated pace before coronavirus, but organisations struggled to adapt quickly enough. 

While leaders were beginning to understand the importance of fostering new cultures that unlocked speed and agility, other business functions that needed to adapt were not. Quite frankly, many companies were ‘boiling frogs’ and did not realise it. Had it not been for COVID, they would have continued to simmer in warm water and not made the tough changes that they have made without hesitation over the past few months.  

What Was it That Stopped Companies From Adapting Before? 

The size of their Buffer.  

The Buffer is the distance that a company creates between an originated idea, solution or recommendation and its final approval or endorsement.  

Organisations that are slow to adapt typically have very big buffers

Characteristics of a Big Buffer include: 

  • Many people & layers between a business initiative and its approval 
  • A ‘present & approve culture’ which often leads to analysis paralysis 
  • Constant dilution of original ideas to fit within often outdated frameworks 
  • A tendency towards ‘safe ideas’ due to perceived difficulty & wasted effort in presenting genuine innovation 
  • A culture where it is informally known that all decisions go back to one or two key individuals

Historically these layers of approval have existed to mitigate risk, but in doing so they inadvertently expose businesses to more risk by slowing them down. This is because it takes far too long to get changes or initiatives approved which makes companies less able to capitalise on opportunities and less resilient to economic shock.

A Gift from Coronavirus 

Coronavirus has shown even the largest organisations that surprisingly they can be fast and flexible. To achieve this, they have removed boundaries to decision-making and empowered team members with the clarity of real outcomes and can now see the quantifiable upside of these greater levels of empowerment. In reducing their buffer companies of all sizes can be nimble and have a test & learn the culture.  

Now is the time to reset your buffer 

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that in a post-pandemic world, all will go back to ‘normal’. But the world has inextricably changed, and it is organisations designed for speed that will survive and thrive. COVID-19 has given companies one of the biggest learnings and capabilities they have ever undertaken and now is the time to hardwire these learnings into the new operating model.

Ready to reset your Buffer? Learn more here

Learn more from Corporate Edge Director John Colbert about why companies perform so well during a crisis:


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