The COVID-19 pandemic has turned operations on its head. Site closures, remote working, and the previously unthinkable possibility of losing key staff to illness or worse, present a highly urgent and complex scenario for Chief Operating Officers (COO).
The situation and expectations for COOs
Ensuring the safety of the workforce is priority number one. It requires enhanced situational awareness and the ability to locate all personnel along with fail-safe methods to communicate with them. But it’s also critical to keep them engaged and motivated.
However, policies and procedures typically designed for “business as usual” may become barriers for companies responding rapidly in this global pandemic threat. A new protocol has to be defined and invoked.
Seven actions for COOs
1. Look at sustainable enterprise cost reduction
Many industries need to adjust to very different revenue levels and will need to reset their costs appropriately for the long term.
2. Plan ahead
Compile a list of your customers and establish a strategy to serve them for at least the next four to six months, while identifying the level of communication and priorities for each. Validate interdependencies by tracking and responding to critical supplier or third-party vendor interdependencies and resiliency challenges as they emerge.
3. Evaluate SKUs and distribution channels
COOs should focus less on manufacturing a wide range of SKUs and focus on ensuring a continuous supply of the most important ones. Many industries have seen a dramatic shift to online distribution, so this channel needs to be set up profitably. Later on, as society ramps back up, all SKUs can be assessed for whether they’re needed any more.
4. Explore ways to guide people through this period
Many people have spare capacity, so help them access opportunities for professional and personal development. This will help improve their performance and secure their loyalty once the pandemic has lifted. There are thousands of online learning resources externally, and organizations can encourage employees to explore internal courses too – for example, the EY Badges program that contributes toward a Tech MBA.