After a bruising two-year pandemic, the world is eager to start living again, albeit in a changed environment. We are in the midst of transition from epidemic to endemic, in the lengthy process of crossing over to a more stable recovery path and regaining the balance we seem to have lost in the crisis.
That is not to say that the pandemic was all bad because there are WINS. Changes that we thought we could gradually implement have been accelerated — the digital shift, putting health care as a critical component of global development, intensified buy-in for addressing climate change, the rise of corporate activism, the importance of trust in securing a stable market, and the government finding ways to uplift the poor.
And if there are wins, there are big winners. We see big pharma increase their sales as demand skyrocketed, the rise of the fulfillment centers, the growing acceptance for artificial intelligence and robotics, the hybrid workforce and workplaces, and the micro and small enterprises that entered the market through buyers in search of alternatives.
There were also swings and misses. Many companies closed or are barely surviving, and there are job losses that can put social protection for those affected on the line. We have a health system that is still groaning from the weight of the pandemic responsibility, and COVID-19 remains a large unknown that can rear its spikes anytime. We are also on the look-out for other emerging health concerns.
LIVING IN THE WORLD OF IN-BETWEENSToday, we are at a crossroad — forging pathways that can redefine what was to what can be and what will be. Our country is about to have a leadership change that is expected to result in political realignments and policies which will impact the recovery process. History is hindsight, and time will tell if the effects of these movements will benefit the country.
This is the backdrop against which we will pick up the threads and weave a new fabric for the future. We were slowed down by the pandemic, but it is time to move forward. Our directions will be enriched by the lessons that were taught to us by our collective experience. We need all this wisdom to initiate, manage, and complete the transition process for our organizations. The road ahead will not be easy because though this pandemic period affords a chance for a do-over, it is also not possible to wipe the slate completely clean. We have to build upon the wins that were posted, even as we examine what lessons are taught by those that did not come up to expectations or failed.
There are developments that crept so silently and stealthily that we are even unaware we have come to accept these as normal — much in the same way that we are now learning to live with COVID-19.
Managing the transition process requires patience and discipline. It is akin to a home renovation project, going through our plans from room to room and examining what will still be useful and still serviceable, what may need only cosmetic renovations or enhancements, and those that might have to be done away with to give way to new spaces we should create based on present and future needs.
Transition is not about making changes for the sake of change; it requires foresight and planning. It is getting the people and the processes ready to face even the most uncertain future and remain stable. It is building a solid foundation towards a resilient structure that can enable growth and development, but which is also capable of withstanding the test of time and the worst of conditions. It is NOT all or nothing actions; more often, they will be a series of small wins versus one big success. They will be systematic improvements of bits and pieces until the whole becomes fully functional.
Transitions bridge the present and that future where we want to be. Having a transition plan can establish a roadmap we can follow that will lead to that future. Our experiences these past two years underscore the importance of building into the organizational DNA out-of-the-box thinking and innovation. The future we are preparing for will depend on how well we can question and disrupt our own familiar structures that served us for a long time, and initiate the steps to build capacities and capabilities that are imperatives of the times. Retooling, upskilling, and reskilling the present and future workforce mean putting a premium on human resources as a means for dynamic and continuing development.
Leadership matters but leaders are not infallible. The way forward will be difficult for many, and no one is expected to know all the answers. We must learn to solicit opinions and ideas and really listen. Create a CHALLENGE NETWORK made up of those who are mavericks in the organization; those who are always questioning; those who see the problems; the skeptics, even pessimists if you will. We need them more than those who say “yes” all the time because they will challenge status quo, keep us in healthy discomfort and give us the impetus to push the envelope. They will keep us grounded and on our toes. Think twice before firing the messengers of bad news. They are our early warning devices.
The challenge for leaders is how to remain relevant. The importance of learning from past practices and experiences while keeping an eye to a future signaled by the trends that continue to evolve cannot be over-emphasized. Therefore, value planning, no matter how fluid the times are. Even if plans change, or are scrapped altogether depending on conditions, they will provide bases for our strategies and actions.
More importantly, people must know their leaders care, are able to empathize with their situations, and are investing in their development.
WORKING OUR WAY FORWARDOver the coming decades, society will continue to be confronted with serious global trends, among them climate change, geopolitical shifts, peace and security, resource scarcity, ecosystem depletion, and a growing social divide. Regardless of who or where we are, we will be called upon to help develop solutions that generate shared value for communities and societies.
Governance will need to embrace new ways, learn to collaborate, forge alliances, build synergies, and work with sectoral interests. We will need to engage in a fundamental rewiring of our relationships if we want to remain relevant to our stakeholders. In the end, the progress we will enjoy can only be limited by our perspectives and openness to ideas. Expand these, embrace diversity and inclusion, and it is possible to win them all.
Please mark your calendars for the Sept. 13 (Tuesday) Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) International CEO Hybrid Conference on the theme: “THE WINS OF CHANGE: Thriving in a World of In-Betweens” from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For inquiries/reservations, please e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Alma Rita R. Jimenez is Vice-Chair of the MAP Health Committee, Chair of the MAP CEO Conference Committee, President and CEO of Health Solutions Corporation, and former Undersecretary of the Department of Tourism.