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COVID-19: Corporate Response

COVID-19: Corporate Response (2)


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Description automatically generatedWhen I checked with a HR Head of a Company recently about how they are handling COVID19, his response was that probably there is some amount of overreaction and Social media hype about it.  But looking at the rapid spread of the Infections, maybe he changed his mind by now. COVID19 is declared as a Pandemic by WHO and India declared it as ‘Notified Disaster’.  I think we need to take it seriously to ensure we stay in control. 


Why a response is needed from Corporates?


COVID-19 is currently coming from People who travelled abroad. Corporates contribute to a good proportion of the Foreign travel. Foreign travel either for Business or for pleasure by the Employees of the Corporates. If we include the Children of the Corporate Executives studying abroad, the Corporates contribute to a lot of Foreign travel. Hence, Corporates can play a very important role in controlling the spread. 


Indian Companies are perennially in Crisis! 

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If you look at the Eisenhower Time Matrix, most of the Indian Corporates are perennially spending a lot of time in the Q1. ‘Urgent and Important’. There are too many Crisis and we keep handling the issues right at the brink. Not a good thing. But we keep doing it. Indian Corporates are experts in living at the edge of the Chaos. We don’t quite get into full time Chaos. But we keep going in and out of them just like experts! 


My experience with the Indian Corporates is that when a Project is taken up, we ask for a lot of time. We fight for more time for the Project with the Boss. You would think the team would really do a great job by working on it systematically over the period of time taken. But most often I start getting calls from the team two days before the Deadline agreed. They would be asking for clarifications about the Project. They work very hard over those  last few days and Complete the Project. It would never be a Perfect job. But it won’t be a bad job either. I am not saying 100% of Companies and 100% of the Executives work this way. Maybe you do it much better in your Company?


Because of this dubious ‘capability’ to work well in a Crisis, I expect the Indian Corporates to do a very good job. 


But what is Critical is that they should identify it as a focus area and attend to it. A Clear Leadership is required for this Pandemic / Notified Disaster.  Otherwise everyone will be busy with their existing Crisis situations and wait for COVID-19 to become ‘Urgent and Important’ !! 



What are the areas for focus in this Disaster?


There can be at least 4 areas that a Corporate should address. 


a)     A group of people in front of a crowd

Description automatically generatedYour Employees: First focus area has to be your Employees. If you take care of your Employees, you are maintaining a big group of Healthy Citizens who can do more in this situation. Even if you do not do anything for the Society directly, maintaining your Business and contributing to the National GDP in this situation is a good enough contribution. Many companies are slipping on their growth right now. 

b)    Your Vendors: Second focus has to be on your Vendor Partners. If you are a Big company having several small vendors, then you can contribute a lot by helping these vendor partners to face the Challenge. It would also help you to keep the Production going without supply disruptions.

c)     Your Customers:  Then comes your Customers. If you are able to keep your Employee flock together and healthy, have uninterrupted supplies you can take care of your Customers. You would contribute to Economic growth in this challenging time. 

d)    Your City / Society: Then the City in which you are operating. If each corporate can contribute to taking care of part of the city that you are operating in, it can be a great help to the Government. 


There can be more angles to a Corporate’s Circle of influence. But let us start with these.


What can you do?


01.  Recognize the Problem: First of all, we need to recognize this as a Serious Problem. We cannot be lost in our ‘Urgent New Product Projects’, ‘Customer Line stoppage issues’ and so on. Please look at handling the COVID-19 as in the same direction as attending to all the Business Emergencies that you have. You are only modifying your approach and attending to an underlying issue for every project in your Company.  Special effort is required for Corporates to recognize it as Problem as we are used to responding in the last minute. This is one problem that you would not like to respond in the last minute. 


Data says that just a month back there were just 4 cases of the Infection in Italy on 21st Feb’19. On 13th March, there were 15,000 with 1400 deaths! Containment is the critical action that you can take. There is right now no medicine for this Virus. 


02.  Learn about the Problem: It would help to learn about the Problem from Experts. You may not be generally in touch with these Experts. You may have to contact A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generatedsomeone in WHO or AIIMS or any of the Private Corporate Hospitals where the knowledge may reside. Invite an Expert to your Company and let your teams understand the Problem and the precautions that we need to take. 

03.  Formulate Teams: Formulate teams to address the four groups of Stake holders that you want to address. Depending on the resources that you have, you can prioritize in the Stake holders. Have clear leaders for the teams and Objectives that they have to focus on. 

04.  What can be the Goals: Single biggest Goal is for everyone to stay healthy. But the Process goals have to be the New Behaviors that you want the Stake holders to Practice. Some of the new Behaviors can be as follows:

a.     Spreading the knowledge about the Problem and the seriousness. 

b.     Not shaking hands. Practice Namaste instead.

c.     Working in Shifts to reduce the density of the employees.

d.     Using Video conference even for local meetings.

e.     Maintaining some distance between you and your colleagues.

f.      Avoiding non-essential travel. 


There can be many more practices that you may define in your Company. This article is not meant to define a complete list of Best Practices anyway. 


05.  Create Champions for monitoring: Some of our Colleagues are naturally more disciplined and keen observers. Eg. Audit department colleagues, Quality Department colleagues and so on. Use their services to monitor the practices that you have defined. As these are new practices / behaviors that we are trying out, there are bound to be violations. These Champions have to identify the violations and keep talking to the Teams. 

06.  A picture containing object

Description automatically generatedQuick Decisions: In a Crisis, there have to be quick decisions. There can be a small team of Senior people who can be authorized to take decisions as needed. The Teams have to be informed about this. 

07.  Communicate, Communicate and Communicate: Communication is another important aspect that is very critical in this situation. It would be quite okay to over communicate. Let the Problems and solutions be known to everyone in the Company. Maintain transparency. Especially in the light of Bad news. Whatever is construed as Bad news can be screened before relaying. This is to ensure spread of undue panic. 


Through your efforts if you can keep your Employees healthy and also create Soldiers who can contribute to the immediate society around you, then you have done a great job! 


You would have also trained your Team to handle a real Crisis before it really hits you hard!! 


How are you responding to COVID-19? Please share so that Others can learn from you! 


Act fast and Prevent the spreading of COVID-19!



COVID-19 is causing a lot of fear all around. Fear of infection is there for each one of us. But this is only one type of fear. The Businesses are suffering the fear of uncertainty. Where will the topline come from? How will we pay the Salaries and Wages of the Employees without proper top line? It seems even the famous Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupathi is going through these uncertain times. They are not having enough money to pay the huge contingent of employees that the Lord has in terms of TTD! I am sure the TTD will find a way. But the Businesses seem to have big problem at least in the immediate term. It is not just about big businesses. Even the small businesses right from Barber shop to a Management Consultant to a Trainer to a Recruiter are suffering a high anxiety level. 

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Employees are losing jobs. There are many messages in my Inbox about Good and competent people losing the jobs. Wonderful professionals otherwise losing their way temporarily. 

Fear is also an energy. A negative one. But it can be a great motivator if used well. 

Businesses and individuals should use the current situation to reenergize their Plans for Growth. They have to go to areas where they never even tried to go. This is the time to learn new Skills, new methodologies and challenge the fear. 

Let us look at one area in the Business in this article. The Top line. How do companies rediscover themselves in the area of whom they are serving and how they are serving. How do we find higher Topline in these times. 

I am not saying I have some magic wand. But one needs undying Positivity during these times. A belief in themselves that they can transform themselves as needed. The Positivity can be a magic wand. 

Clarify ‘Why’ you are doing what you are doing! 

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One also needs to link to the higher purpose of what one is doing. Do not run after the Top line alone for the sake of top line!! A Consultant will have to find out what really motivates him. Is it the money that the client gives or is it the Development of the Businesses that gives you a kick? Can you get motivated by building high performance teams in companies? Can you get motivated by Companies adapting new technology and going to the next level? Can you get motivated by Indian Manufacturing becoming world class? 

Looking at bigger Businesses, a Foundry can look at the higher purpose of utilizing less resources and taking care of environment while they are chasing turnover OR you make the ‘Environmentally friendly and efficient foundry’ as your goal. Then the Business will follow. A Textile company can chase the dream of becoming an efficient company that can serve the humanity with its’ technologically superior products in these Pandemic times. The whole humanity wants Clothes / Bedding products / Home textiles that are safe to use. That can protect them from the Virus. A wonderful opportunity for a right-thinking company. 

An Engineering Company that is producing Capital goods can look at making their Products World Beating products now if they are not. If they are able to diversify into Products that are in demand right now, that is quite good. We can see many companies that are venturing into producing Ventilators. 

This re-orientation is a must to survive this short-term fear and help yourself to propel into a higher orbit. 

Do not chase the Top line alone to take care of your Top line. Re-orient towards the ‘why’ part of what you are doing. Find a higher purpose of ‘Why’ you are doing what you are doing.

Having set the context, we can look at a few options in front of Businesses in these Pandemic times:

01.  Look at Adjacencies: A Recruiter should look at helping the Companies to redefine the Organization structures, he can look at Coaching the Senior people to become effective. A Trainer should look at turning to Video training. But training methods suitable for this type of engagement have to be adapted. 

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A Textile Company should look at diversifying into Hospital products. A Capital goods company can look at providing the Services of their products in place of their products. Your Clients may not be interested in buying your products. But they may be interested in it as a service. A

Compressor company can look at providing Compressed air as a solution in place of giving a Compressor. They can set up Compressed air stations and provide Compressed air to the Companies around the Center. This may require more technology than what they have. But that is the challenge. 

A Stone Crushing Plant manufacturer can look at providing the service to the clients by setting up his own Plants owned by the Company itself. 

An Engineering Company that had been ignoring its’ Spares business will find it the right time to enter into it. 

02.  Look at introducing New Products to suit the new situations: Bring out all your New Product Plans that you have been shelving as your team was not free. 

This is the time to bring out the family of products that are more efficient. Bring out the Products that your clients have been waiting for. 

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An Automotive Parts company can look at introducing parts with higher efficiency. A Textile company would bring out the Apparel that may include matching Face masks, Face shield. Products with Anti microbial / Anti viral coatings. Earlier only Hospitals were looking for Bed sheets with specialized coatings. Now even the Hotels would be looking for it. A huge opportunity for the right-thinking company. 

An Engineering Products company can come out with more energy efficient products. 

03.  New Markets: No company is operating in ALL markets. Not for ALL products. This is the time for going into new Markets for all your Products. 

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If you do not have enough Exports, then it is the time to get into the Export market. A tough time to do that. But remember the problem of not being able to travel is there even for your potential customers overseas. But they are looking at improving their efficiency as much as you are looking for your growth. 

Same thing will apply to the various markets within India. 

If you have been ruling out certain markets as you do not have products, now is the time to look at those markets. 

04.  Diversification: You had been planning the Diversification into a different Product for a long time. But you had been too busy to complete this Project. This is the time to bring the Project forward and complete it. 

A Trainer may have been planning to get into using E-Learning to enrich his offering. Now is the time to find the right partner for this and take it forward. 

An Engineering Products that had been planning into Medical Engineering Products will find the current situation more than welcome.

A Foundry or Machine shop that had been planning a Diversification into their Product can go ahead now. 

An FMCG company that had been building its Brand will find this situation apt for launching different products. People are at home now and are having more time now to take a look at the new products. More snacking is happening now than ever. This is a wonderful time for new products from a known Brand. 

A Consultant who can give solutions for Companies to rediscover themselves can be in demand. 

05.  E-Commerce: Everyone knows that now the E-Commerce is going to boom and Customers would look at going online for more products than they had been doing. Now, how can you modify your offerings to suit this preference of the Customer? 

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A Trainer has to become effective on Zoom and deliver results. 

A Consultant should be able to inspire his client’s team to go to the next level online! This is an entirely new level for most of the consultants. 

E-Commerce can be used effectively whether it is B2B, B2C or C2C. This is already happening in terms of Amazon, Flipkart and so on. 

The question is how do you get into this yourself? You need to draw up a Plan for a big push in this area. A Big Goal has to be set up in this area. 

The right talent has to be brought in and the Company has to start off the journey in a confident manner. 

If you have not been selling using the E-commerce platform, then it is a huge opportunity for you. You can look at selling your Products / Services using the E-Commerce platform. 

Virtual Customer Relationship Centers

Every Company should look at building closer relationships with their Customers. Currently it is difficult to be in touch with the Customers in person. Hence every Company should find its’ own way of building closer relationship with the Customers using the Digital platforms. Companies need to invest into Digital Customer Interaction centers. You can use Zoom and give them Presentations. But you can go much beyond these normal Presentations. 

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You can let the Customers much more into your Company and give them peek into your work and your factories. There is going to be much more invention in this area. How can you tie up a bigger relationship with your Customer? Earlier they were coming to your Company once in few months. Only a few people would come from your Customer or few people from your company would go there. But now you have opportunity to build relationship with a larger team at the Customer Company and in more regular manner. They are available to you every day if you can interest them. 

So, how are you going to grow this year and beyond? 

Manufacturing Companies are getting ready to reopen. Some will reopen in full and some in part. Government is going allow this depending on the criticality of the Industry to the current situation and to the Country and its' peoples' existence.

Already the companies are working out Detailed safety Plans. There are several Power point files in circulation.

It would be good to approach this work much more systematically and at greater depth. The Risks have to be identified very carefully. It would be good to use a Tool to identifying all risks.

RIM Plan (RIM - Risk Identification and Mitigation)

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Please look at this simple format.

Every Work activity at the Company would be a potential Hazard area.

I have read that in Germany a factory played a big role in spreading the virus in the initial time. In this factory the virus passed on from one employee to the other when the person passed a Salt dispenser. So a simple act of passing salt can spread the Virus! Such a simple act has become a Hazard now !

Methodology for each Function in the Company

Prepare RIM Plan: Each Function in the Company should prepare a RIM Plan as illustrated above and identify ALL activities that happen in the Function. Teams should not look for short cuts here. There can't be a lazy approach of identifying just some activities. Just an act of opening Door can be risky. A Coffee vending machine can dispense the Virus too if we don't take care. 

Slow down: Teams need to slow down and identify every small activity. In the normal situation we may not pay attention to several small activities that we do as routine. It would be useful to ask the Team to write out a 'Micro SOP' that captures every small activity for one particular activity. This will slow them down and make them look at details. For many Team members, it is a struggle to slow down! Recognise that and help them to slow down!

It is good for the teams to Prepare the RIM Plan and then take it up for revision a few times before settling down.

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Some Company Level Solutions:The Company should look for innovative solutions. We can already see videos of several Soap / Sanitizer dispensing solutions without touching the Dispenser. We are capable of solutions when the need comes! 

There are some situations that can be given Solutions at the Company level. Look at the list below:

a) Opening Doors : You may encourage the employees to open the Door with Elbow instead of hand. You may simply keep more doors open to avoid this need!

b) Hand sanitising : Any solution like the above can be designed and make them available across the Company. 

c) Handling Files : It would be good to ensure that a set of files are handled only by one individual. It would be good to prepare a few more files if the next person has to use them too. Any way the Digitalisation agenda can be taken up now! 

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d) Using Computers / Laptops : Providing Disinfectant for everyone and specifying the frequency of cleaning can be from Central level. 

e) Handling Company Gates : Again it would be good to limit the Gates that are being operated. Release one procedure for handling Gates.

There can be more such Solutions that can be given from a Central level. 

Posters : After identifying all the Solutions, the Team can prepare Posters and display them at respective places. These Posters should have many Photographs. These Photographs should be Company specific and not downloaded from Internet. This is to ensure that someone tries it out practically on the ground before demanding that every employee should practice it! 

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Training: After preparing the Posters and Power Point files, the Employees need to be trained on the first day of operations starting. Every Company should devote good amount of time for this. We have to be aware of the fact that Employees have been working in the Company for years and they got used to working in a specific manner. It would require some effort to change their regular practices. We should not approach it like another Procedure ! It is unfortunate that many Companies do not have full adherence of Procedures already in place!! 

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System Auditors : For the first 2 months, all the Senior People should don the role of Auditors. In addition, few full time Auditors also may be identified who will be going around and identifying the Adherence and Adequacy issues. The Auditors can use the CC TV footage too to identify potential risk areas. The Auditors will identify the Potential risk and also implement a Solution.

Course Corrections: We should expect that we will not cover all Risks and we should expect that we need to improve the practices continuously. These Course Corrections have to be encouraged. We should not be under the false belief that we have set up a system and it will work well forever. 

Videos : Videos of each new practice can be taken when the Employees are actually practicing it and use them for Training the employees. 

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E-Learning and Certification : It would be good to put together a simple course of having all the new practices, train the Employees using the E-Learning course and Certify them. This Certification may become the most important one in the Company! 

It is important for Companies to take this effort seriously. This is a wonderful opportunity for companies to improve the Discipline in the Company. This effort has to be led from the top! If the Senior Management treats this effort as one more ISO efforts, then the Company may soon have COVID Positive cases and put its' employees and its' own Business to Risk!

How Seriously are you undertaking the Safety Practices implementation ??