Coronavirus: 15 emerging themes for boards and executive teams (McKinsey & Company)

The 15 themes that offer guidance to boards and executive teams in an effort to manage through crisis and resume work now that companies are planning to return to full activity.

  1. Boards must strike the right balance between hope for the future and the realism that organizations need to hear.

There are many prognostications on what comes after COVID-19. Many will be helpful. Some will be right. Boards and managers may have some hopes and dreams of their own. Creating value and finding pockets of growth are possible. It is important to have these aspirations, because they form the core of an inner optimism and confidence that organizations need. However, leaders should not conflate aspirations with a prescience about the future.  

  1. The unknown portion of the crisis may be beyond anything we’ve seen in our professional lives.

Boards and managers feel like they might be grappling with only 5 percent of the issues, while the vast majority are still lurking, unknown. Executives are incredibly busy, fighting fires in cash management and other areas. But boards need to add to their burden and ask them to prepare for a “next normal” strategy discussion. Managers need to do their best to find out what these issues are, and then work with boards to ensure that the organization can navigate them. The point isn’t to have a better answer. The point is to build the organizational capability to learn quickly why your answer is wrong, and pivot faster than your peers do. Resilience comes through speed. This may be a new capability. that very few organizations have now, and they will likely need to spend real time building it. 

  1. Beware of a gulf between executives and the rank and file.

Top managers are easily adapting to working from home and to flexible, ill-defined processes and ways of working, and they see it as being very effective and also the wave of the future. Many people in the trenches think it is the worst thing to happen to them (even those that are used to working remotely). Remote working is raising the divide between elites and the common man and woman. There is a real risk of serious tension in the social fabric of organizations and in local and national communities. 

  1. Don’t overlook the risks faced by self-employed professionals, informal workers, and small businesses.

These groups are often not receiving sufficient support. But their role in the economy is vital, and they may be noticed only later, when it is too late. 

  1. Certain industries and sectors are truly struggling and require support.

Several disrupted industries and many organizations in higher education, the arts, and sports are severely struggling and require support to safeguard their survival. 

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