Reset and reimagine: How to reactivate your team and your organization

Recovery from a truly disruptive situation like COVID-19 means creating a new vision for your organization and your teams. Here's how to begin.

by Seth Bidder

The coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to business models and ways of working. Finding a clear purpose and vision as you begin to reimagine your business is essential. Most leaders are adept at short-term crisis response, and at evaluating and prioritizing the initiatives critical to sustaining both an organization’s business model and customer satisfaction. They understand how to create roadmaps from which to govern and operate during a temporary situation, but how do they begin to engineer a larger recovery plan that synchronizes proactive re-onboarding or talent reorganization with business reactivation? Creating and executing a purposeful, data-driven, and combined recovery plan now will help you to reimagine your business and prepare effectively for the post-crisis landscape.

There are three steps you should take to purposefully prepare for recovery

Prioritize for a new environment

The first step is to identify and rigorously prioritize the critical initiatives you need for recovery. The post-crisis landscape is likely to be materially different, pressuring organizations to assess business model risks and opportunities, invest in digital capabilities, and redefine their product portfolio to meet evolving customer needs. This altered landscape will give you the criteria to assess the criticality of initiatives and products, both legacy and new business.

Great prioritization approaches are simple but not simplistic; structure against 2x2s to determine how you’re measuring criticality. Axes to consider include speed to market vs. cost, impact vs. level of effort, and customer need vs. feasibility. Once you’ve determined the axes that are relevant to you and developed corresponding severity definitions for each, you’ll be able to map your initiatives in quadrants that represent quick wins, strategic investments, nice-to-haves, and longshots.

prioritization matrix grahpic

This example matrix shows initiatives plotted against customer need vs. feasibility.

prioritization matrix grahpic

Your instinct is probably to focus on the initiatives in the top right quadrant: quick wins. These initiatives are critical and generally lower cost and effort, but the selective investments—initiatives that are high impact and potentially higher cost or effort—are worth evaluating against the needs of a transformed market that might demand significantly different services from your business. You may find some of those worth prioritizing.

Scrutinize all the initiatives you believe the recovery period will require, and narrow your portfolio of initiatives to the ones most likely to drive value for you in that time.

Sequence for critical outcomes

After determining a set of prioritized initiatives, you’ll be ready to move them through some sequencing criteria and build a data-driven roadmap for reactivation and recovery.

“Sequencing” describes a purposeful approach to determining which set of prioritized initiatives should go live first, second, third, fourth, and so on. The first step is to identify your sequencing criteria, or the set of characteristics that determine the reactivation chain of events. The sequencing criteria will be unique to each organization, but you can use these five foundational criteria a starting point:

  1.  Customer impact: How important is it to your customers? What’s the scale of impact to deliver on customer needs?
  2.  Dependencies: What role does the product, initiative, and/or business unit play in the overall strategy? What else that’s critical depends on it?
  3.  Ease of reactivation: How difficult it will be? How will the maturity of your processes and technology influence the ease of your reactivation?
  4.  Organizational readiness: Are your employees ready to operate and drive progress in a changed environment? How present and prepared are they to get it done? Is leadership aligned on a program to support the psychological, emotional, and physical well-being of employees?   
  5.  Externalities: Are there factors outside your direct control that complicate reactivation? What contracting, legal, partnerships, and/or other external factors will impact  timing and complexity?

Run each initiative separately through the sequencing criteria, rating it 1 (low), 2 (medium), or 3 (high) and then adding the total score. This score will help you determine which go-live wave the initiative belongs to. The higher the score, the earlier the wave.  

With initiatives now arranged into waves, you can successfully break through the ambiguity of the recovery period and proactively organize it. Moreover, you now have two of the three critical elements that will inform your recovery strategy: a clear understanding of recovery priorities and a directionally correct roadmap—broken into implementation waves—that details reactivation timelines. This roadmap will be the spine against which you build your reactivation and reonboarding plan for talent.

Strive not only to reactivate the workforce necessary for each go-live wave, but do so in ways that excites your teams and prepares them for the challenges ahead.

Map your workforce to the sequencing waves

Now that you’ve identified the initiatives required for recovery and sequenced their activation, you should turn your attention to the critical job families, skill pools, and business units required to bring them to life. It’s easy to concentrate on business prioritization and not expend the necessary intellectual calories in this area. But taking your teams and people into account is essential to a successful reactivation and recovery. Not paying attention to it will set you back.

Your activation roadmap will provide direction here; if a critical service is to go live at a particular date, then you have a milestone against which to plan re-onboarding or reorganizing talent. This exercise might include determining the workforce size required to capably activate a service, developing a purpose-built learning approach to aid physical re-integration, or identifying your top talent and giving them increased responsibility and opportunity. Keep in mind, this is really about getting back to the basics of workforce planning with new variables.

This vital step is where strategy meets execution. It’s important to balance business needs with organizational culture and strive not only to reactivate the workforce necessary for each go-live wave, but to do so in ways that excites your teams and prepares them for the challenges ahead. A great employee experience is always important. Playing a key role in the recovery period will be a source of employee pride and may boost retention and performance.

It’s time to act

Being proactive in determining a recovery strategy that aligns talent reactivation to business prioritization will help you find a competitive edge. While it’s likely that the post-crisis recovery period will be a fundamentally altered business landscape, there will be opportunities as well as challenges. Organizations that have already reimagined their business for the next normal and considered the next way of working will be ready to make the most of them.

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