leadership

Stocks dove again today, driven lower by plunging oil prices fueled by disagreements between the Saudis and the Russians over the economic impact of the coronavirus on oil demand.

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has become a transformational event in our lives and careers. As technology leaders, our colleagues and business partners will surely look to us for guidance, advice and reassurance. They will also rely upon us to help them develop and implement practical frameworks and programs for managing through these difficult times.

From my perspective, we definitely have the strengths and experiences required for handling periods of turbulence and uncertainty. The hard lessons we learned as the world shifted dramatically toward digital commerce models will prove incredibly valuable in today’s rapidly evolving landscape.

As a group, we have a unique view of complex transformational processes. In other words, we know how to get things done and we’re not afraid to tackle hard problems.

Unquestionably, the coronavirus is accelerating the transformation of work. The process was already underway, but the virus has greatly increased the urgency of our work. Now is the time to revisit, review and update our capabilities for supporting remote work over extended periods of time.

Equally, and perhaps even more importantly, we will need to strengthen our capabilities for enabling remote leadership. Our business cultures will be forced to adapt quickly in order to maintain efficiency and avoid losing productivity.

I strongly recommend breaking the challenge into three easily recognizable components: People, Process and Technology. We used this type of approach during the era of ERP transformation, and it has proven its utility beyond measure.

Here are three questions we all need to ask ourselves:

  1. Do we have the people, the processes and the appropriate technologies in place for not only surviving the current crisis, but emerging stronger and more flexible when it’s over?
  2. Will our communications networks handle the additional loads placed on them?
  3. Do our vendors understand the urgency of the situation and have we briefed them on our plans for managing through the crisis?
  4. Do our managers and supervisors fully understand how to leverage the tools and platforms necessary for handling a remote workforce?

Some of the issues we will be confronting are similar to challenges facing the military, which has a long history of managing resources in multiple locations, often under extremely difficult circumstances. We can learn valuable lessons from the experiences of leaders such as Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and Stanley McChrystal.

In my newsletter last week, I urged you to read “Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis,” an excellent article published in the Harvard Business Review. The authors of the article outline 12 practical steps for responding effectively to the virus threat.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the HBR article, please take a few minutes this week to read through it and share it with your colleagues. The article contains highly useful advice such as updating your intelligence daily, constantly reframing your understanding of what’s happening and preparing for the next crisis. This is complementary to the advice I have been sharing with technology executives for years: Gather facts, share them openly, develop practical plans and provide strong courageous leadership.

I speak and write often about the need for courageous leadership. Today is definitely the time for bold, truthful and inspiring leadership. We owe that to all the people who count on us to provide expertise and guidance.

Make no mistake: the coronavirus will become a test of our leadership abilities. This is only the beginning of a long and arduous trek into unexplored territory. I am confident that we will discover the solutions and devise practical strategies for coping with the realities of this new environment.