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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Adaptability: Are You Ready?

The reason we develop great leadership practices, team dynamics and every day high performance is to be a high performing, productive, more competitive organization overall. However, an additional critical reason is to be ready when we are forced into crisis management. Organizations managing how COVID-19 will affect their employees, businesses, and markets will require adaptable leadership and teams that function agilely and flexibly in this constantly changing and evolving environment.


I’ve taught crisis management. Customers, employees, clients, partners, vendors, and affiliates want, need, and require straight forward information based on facts and free of hyperbole. We rely on our governments to give us the best, most current information. However, in business, we cannot wait for governments to determine the effects on our business and industry.

A pandemic is only as disastrous as the ability to manage what we know, plan for what we CAN do today, anticipate business effects and affects, project worst-case scenarios, and create running, evolving plans based on the latest, best information. Lastly, it requires us to create an information pipeline that is corporate-approved and rely on our business units to adapt accordingly.

I worked through the mad cow crises at Masterfoods, a Mars Inc. company, in the United States when I worked in pet food. On any given day, there were so many alternate plans and considerations that needed to be employed it was mind-boggling. From changing production and distribution models from the United States to Australia, Africa, South America, and Mexico, to monitoring product availability, managing pricing contracts, alternate warehousing, cleaning of facilities, changing suppliers, managing quality control, the list was never-ending. Every single team required adaptability and the ability to create adaptable models to manage the crisis.

The AIDS Quilt, Washington D.C., United States

I lived through the AIDs crisis when health fears were rampant and paralyzing, prejudices were heightened, governments ignored the magnitude of the situation, and hospitals were overwhelmed with patients they didn’t know how to treat. Entire groups of people were dying while governments stood idly by and let gay men wither and die. It was the LGBTQ and entertainment communities that forced leaders to wake up to the pandemic and deal with the casual and preventative factors with facts, methodical planning and communication programs, funding science to find answers and develop multidimensional programs of awareness, treatment, and global crisis management.

Adaptability in organizations, national and local governments, and geographical idiosyncrasies are going to affect every level of the organization. “Adaptability seems to go against the natural instinct and preference to be drawn to what is known and stable.” However, leaders and teams will be required to hone strategies when dealing with the unknown, accept that environments will be constantly changing, and shift behaviors to accommodate new situations and challenges.


Organizations that have improved efficiency by refining work processes, established norms and standard procedures, invested in specialized personnel, facilities, or equipment and organized around a specific strategy may find themselves less adaptable. Efficiency refinements actually reduce flexibility, make change strategies more difficult, and reduce adaptability response in an environmental threat such as the coronavirus.

No one knows anything for sure right now. The information, facts, and rumors are constantly changing and moving throughout the day and day to day due to access to information, knowledge availability, geographical pattern immersions, politics, and systematic problems and they will be for a while. Therefore, how have you set up your leaders and teams to sustain high levels of adaptability over time?

The media is asking questions, getting answers, and disseminating some information that should have been fact-checked. How are your leaders and teams developing a plan for adapting to new information, developing a system of collecting reliable information from employees, retailers, distributors, clients, etc.? In this way leaders and teams can shore up more reliable, better information for your company and industry as the coronavirus evolves in your markets.


Do your leaders and teams know how to avoid speaking in absolutes at this time? Have they adopted the language of the organization or industry, PR, HR or the community in speaking of finding the best solutions with the information they currently possess?

Do your leaders and teams know that passing blame in crisis management is not useful nor does it facilitate adaptability? There are enough problems and challenges to overcome rather than waste time on unhelpful behaviors. Is your team solution-oriented, which is the ultimate skill set in adaptability?

In summary, what we know is that the coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a constantly moving target. We know as more large festivals, conventions, and cultural celebrations are canceled the local economies are going to suffer which will affect the larger economy overall. Short and long-term market planning is going to be difficult for investors, companies, markets, and stocks.


School closures and the inability of people to go into offices are going to affect business and employee attendance. Do you have a virtual work system in place? Does your leadership know how to manage and lead in these new dynamics? Are you developing scenarios of the best and worst-case scenario for employee impact? How ready are you?

Lastly, adaptability should be an everyday focus not only in response to major global events but when evaluating markets, competitive products, and general market disruption. Adaptability as a practice is positive leadership and team dynamics that enable organizations to get ahead of the curve and maintain sustainable high performance.

There are so many unknowns at any time in business and your information pipeline should be substantive and robust. If as leaders we are great at developing adaptability and flexibility in ourselves as well as our teams, the business will be more resilient especially in times like these.

We do not know how long the coronavirus (COVID-19) will have an effect requiring crisis management. However, what will affect businesses most is not the number of people falling ill and dying, which is horrible, additional concerns for business are the number of people that will be quarantined and restricted from grouping together both nationally, regionally, and locally.

Please Note: Our PCS tool can help to identify how adaptable your leaders and teams are and if it is practiced with cohesion.