The Italians say ‘andrà tutto bene’ which translates as ‘everything will be alright’. Our own version, produced by the Orwellian-sounding Ministry of Information in 1939 in preparation for World War II, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, doesn’t sound as cool but the inference is the same.

Broadly speaking, everything will be alright but that’s not to downplay the effect Covid-19 has had on many millions of lives, both personally and professionally. Reading the abstract facts about the millions who have died or lost their jobs or the number of businesses that have stopped trading is one thing but many of us know, by degrees of separation, people who have been – and continue to be – profoundly affected by this pandemic.

But for those of us fortunate enough to have weathered the storm, and for the businesses who reacted in agile and decisive ways to meet the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, now is the time to look for and then seize the emerging opportunities as businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes get back to something approaching full-scale operations.

The ‘New Normal’ Has Become the ‘Next Normal’

As we entered the first lockdown way back in March 2020, people kept referring to the ‘new normal’. We took that to mean working from home, making the owners of Zoom instant billionaires and learning just how much can be accomplished from our spare bedrooms and kitchen tables.

We worked, learned, banked, shopped, exercised, relaxed, sought medical care, taught and conversed online and while the pandemic is now leaving the world’s governments counting the eye-watering costs, we are now entering a phase dubbed the ‘next normal.’

In Hong Kong, a piece of graffiti may have summed up in a few words what much of the world was thinking – ‘There can be no return to normal because normal was the problem in the first place.’

So how can business leaders prepare for a post-pandemic era, or the ‘next normal’?

Fine tuning day-to-day tasks, processes, roles and responsibilities is a good start, but that’s what golfers call a ‘gimme’, a goes-without-saying. The business leaders who will emerge as winners over the next decade need to look at the bigger picture. They need to be willing to re-evaluate how they operate, even why they exist as businesses in the first place.

It’s time to consider a broader perspective.

In a report by management consultants McKinsey, the pandemic revealed (and accelerated) a number of trends that will play a front-and-centre role in shaping the future of the global economy, including:

  • The wave of innovation
  • The new generation of entrepreneurs
  • A permanent shift to hybrid working
  • Digitally-enabled productivity
  • The permanently-altered change in consumer behaviour
  • The shift and rebalance of supply chains
  • The biopharma revolution

And it’s the business leaders who are looking at the big picture and evolving their businesses to align with this new paradigm shift that will come out on top.

After talking to hundreds of C-Suite executives around the world, McKinsey identified five key priorities and in their words, ‘Companies will want to adopt these five priorities as their North Star while they navigate the trends that are moulding the future.’

Priority 1: Sustainability

A lot of business have embraced the concept of carbon neutrality and as we move towards a greener future, a business’s green credentials are going to be as important as doing end of year taxes or paying your staff. It has the awesome ability to determine if people work for you and most importantly if people buy from you.

Priority 2: The Cloud

The cloud’s potential has been clear for a number of years but it is now starting to deliver real-time results, efficiency and innovation. Businesses of all sizes and complexities need to deploy the cloud for good purpose and will need to ensure their people are ‘cloud literate.’

Priority 3: The Human Element

As it has always been, it’s the people that make the difference. The key is to not only recognise the talent but to develop the talent as well as being more flexible, more diverse and less hierarchical.

Priority 4: Speed & Fluidity

The business landscape is moving at a rapid pace and no-one can afford to rest on their laurels. In the first few months of the pandemic, we were fuelled by adrenaline and an acute sense of urgency but that version of speed isn’t sustainable. The ‘new normal’ speed needs to include fluidity. It’s not simply about pushing your foot harder on the accelerator, it’s about re-versioning your business to be run more efficiently and with greater intelligence and data.

Priority 5: Meaning & Purpose

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, tomorrow’s successful business leaders need to recognise that their people need meaning and purpose both in their work and personal lives. Research suggests that companies with a strong sense of purpose outperform those without one. Businesses with purpose and meaning have lower attrition rates and more loyal staff who are prepared to go the extra mile and in addition, it helps for a business to connect at more touch points with its consumers.


How these five priorities are implemented will vary from business to business and dependent on who you are and what you do, a different premium will be put on each one, however mastering them will substantially increase the chances of long-term success.

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