Post Pandemic Resilience: The View from McKinsey

By Shlomo Maital

        The global pandemic has left side-effects – not just individual ones, loss of taste and smell,  but those related to our businesses – massive global uncertainty and geopolitical risk.

    The bad guys – autocrats – are taking advantage of the preoccupation of the good guys – Western democracies – to sow trouble and oppress their people.   The pandemic has created supply chain problems, ‘the great resignation’, and waves of virus, that have us all on a giant roller coaster – like Kingda Ka at Six Flags, NJ, allegedly the world’s scariest roller coaster.

     What to do?  How can we strengthen our organizational resilience?  Here is the view from McKinsey, which actually has a ‘resilience’ practice in its consulting business.*    The world has become much much riskier (see graphic).  How do we deal with it?

1.  Embrace build back better.  That is – set a goal, to emerge stronger, wiser, healthier, from the pandemic, by building on the lessons the sneaky virus taught us.

2.  Do not let Short Run crowd out Long Run.  Short run has meant just surviving, for many organizations.  The long run has been shelved, for many. Bring it back.  When the pandemic subsides, we will still have the long run climate crisis with us.  Make sure you keep your eye on the long run ball.

3. Do not become overly conservative.  When risk rises, there is a natural tendency to hunker down.  Maybe not the best plan.  Take calculated risks, as General Patton said.  When others are hunkering down, the pot at the end of the rainbow goes to the bold who seek it.

4.  Build in robustness.  Elon Musk (Tesla) was mocked for keeping in-house software production, rather than out-sourcing it.  When chips became scarce, Tesla was able to rewrite software to adapt to the chips that WERE available.  Other car companies were not. 

5.  Invest in infrastructure.  Broadband, hardware, software —  in risky times, you need it.  True for families as well.  By luck we upgraded our home WiFi.  We really needed it during the pandemic.

6. Cultivate your team’s resilience, and practice it.  A key element of individual resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity – is self-efficacy – the knowledge that we are highly capable to achieving what we set out to do.  You can build this into your team’s culture and mindset.  Yes, we can.  But make sure they are not just words… like those of a famous US President, who in many ways…couldn’t.

7.  Anticipate. Practice scenario planning. What if?   What if a new variant emerges?  Russia invades Ukraine?   Thinking about possible crises in advance can help overcome them. 

8.  Try to gauge and measure your resilience at present.  Do you have ‘bounce back’ mojo?   Do you have bounce-back stories that become part of your culture?

     There is a paradox of pessimism – young people, who have bright futures ahead of them, have become more pessimistic, even before the pandemic,  while we seniors, who are closer to the end of our lives, tend to be optimistic. One reason:  We’ve been through hard times before, and come through them, and believe we can and will do it again.  That’s why we need to help our kids experience frustration, and even failure, so they can learn, as a skill, to overcome them when encountered in future.

*  “The resilience  imperative: Succeeding in uncertain times”Strengthening institutional resilience has never been more important. by Fritz Nauck, Luca Pancaldi, Thomas Poppensieker, and Olivia White. McKinsey  Risk and Resilience Practice…