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Sustainability in the new normal

By Eric Johnson

As sustainability takes the place of panic within the current pandemic, many organizations we have engaged with have asked what will things look like over the next year and beyond. As the pandemic curves flatten out and organizations get back to business, a new normal is settling in that will change the way business will be conducted across every industry. From shifting consumer demand to erosion of business due to customer lost income, the landscape for developing a new normal means developing a system for meeting presumed expectations consistently.

Conduct a thorough evaluation of your products and production, with the focus on planning and retooling

  • Prioritize those SKUs that have the most demand and re-evaluate those with sagging demand for transitioning or hold.
  • Understand the costs that go into the potential product shifts and determine a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Engage employees to determine new opportunities and other areas of improvement to the business.  Front line employees are critical in seeing current gaps and how they can be both a hindrance to future plans and also opportunities to new value creation
  • Prepare external communications to suppliers, customers, and media to create and control the narrative around the changes made.
  • Pilot ideas and roll them out expeditiously with an agile frame of mind.

Ensure training reflects the now and near future
Often times organizations make changes without effectively establishing the baseline level of knowledge for employees to be the best at what they do. Or they may provide training that is sufficient for the process, but does not address situations where issues may arise.Both of these lead to workarounds which will decrease the efficiency of any new ideas and can cause an increase in employee frustration at a time when the organization is trying to reduce anxiety as much as possible. Ensure that training for new changes incorporates both the changes and also perceived potential inefficiencies or frustrations, to manage expectations for those conducting the work.

Treat this as a chance to redesign into essential products or services
These are tragic times, but many organizations do have the opportunity to shift into new products or services that may reignite demand. A case in point is a distillery that was deemed nonessential by a local government. After the first several weeks, an employee developed an idea to use the inventoried alcohol to make hand sanitizer, after her daughter had participated in a project from her online classes from school.  While this was completely different from the current path of the business, the small business owner viewed the change as an opportunity to reinvent.  He worked with employees to research and develop a product that was within the cost parameters of the business and produced a batch within a week. The first batches were shipped free of charge to essential workers and after getting their feedback, two streams of business were created – one for essential workers, and the other for retail sale. The shift was successful, and the organization not only generated great marketing potential but also realized a new line of business that could potentially continue even after commercial alcoholic beverage sales resume.

At Propulo, our focus has always been on safety culture and operational excellence.

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