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Opinion - Covid-19: Lessons from uncertain and disruptive times

2020-09-11  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Covid-19: Lessons from uncertain and disruptive times
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The uncertain and disruptive environment is painful episodes. Covid-19 is a classic example of an uncertain and disruptive environment. Since December 2020, and Namibia since mid-March 2020, the world has experienced painful moments. Social and economic life have been drastically trans (re)formed. On the other hand, even though uncertain times are traumatic, valuable lessons can still be drawn from it. What business management leadership lessons can be drawn
from the current disordered and disruptive times? The following lessons can be resultant: 

Lesson 1: Apt management of
information load Too much information is the hallmark of the 21st Century. Social media and the Fourth Industrial Revolution have significantly opened up access and availability of information. With social media, the news is always ahead and difficult to control. Covid-19 has exacerbated the speed of news and
information load, to the point that it now requires a unique skill to discern fake news from the truth. All leaders hear a lot of things on an hourly and daily basis.
In the current times, the information that a business leader receives from various sources, such as word-of-mouth, social media platforms, emails and other written submissions, is immense. If not careful, the whole day can be taken up overwhelmed by bewildering, varying and complex information
that comes on an hourly and daily basis through various social media platforms. Therefore, business management leaders need to develop an auxiliary, but essential, skill to decipher and categorise information into intelligible chunks in the current times. If information is not properly discerned, fatal decisions and consequences are certain. What did we learn thus far from disruptive moments such as the Covid-19 catastrophe?
We learnt the need for careful discernment of information by categorising and managing a diverse load of information to aid effective decision making.

Lesson 2: Careful discernment
Disruptive times, such as Covid-19, demands careful discernment. Discernment, or the ability to assign the correct description to events and situations, can considerably assist in determining and comprehending the root causes of problems. On its turn, determining the root causes of problems is vital in developing appropriate solutions. Covid-19 has, no matter how injurious it may sound, forced the world into a forced “retreat” of “interior silence” to deeply reflect on what
is happening. It is from such deep reflections that business leaders can come up with fitting and timely solutions, e.g. responsible adaptation from other contexts rather than pervasive copy and paste from contexts that might be dissimilar. In spite of the difficulties brought about by chaotic events, there is still a need to focus and emphasise, contextual and unique differences to come up with homegrown solutions. For instance, Covid-19 is a global phenomenon but solutions can still be localised to fit the country-context or unique organisational situations. This can be one of the leadership lessons that can be learnt from uncertain
times: careful discernment to develop localised and unique solutions to a global crisis.

Lesson 3: Continuous
engagement and collaborative efforts  In disruptive times, no country, organisation or individual has all the answers. Arguably, one of the ultimate lessons from Covid-19 is the need for improved collaborative efforts. No organisation or individual, including those that regard themselves as the most developed, the mightiest of the wisest, can go it alone. Institutions and individuals need to work together to solve complex problems brought about by disruptive and
uncertain times. It is not possible any longer to single-handedly figure it out from the top, and have everyone else following the orders of the "grand strategist"; the all- knowing and ever-hearing person who figures it single-handedly and have everyone else following the orders of the «super-human” or
super organisation. 
What we have learned from Covid-19 is that unilateralism (exclusivity) cannot work, but multilateralism (inclusivity) might work. It requires listening to others, even the “dull” and the ignorant to have their story. Considering that stress and anxiety levels are heightened during uncertain times, prompt feedback on questions raised by the community and organisational members is vital. There are few upsetting things in an uncertain and disruptive environment than to experience the “wall of silence”.

Lesson 4: Accelerated response times 
Once a “light” within (answer) seems to appear, usually, through one’s inner thoughts and feelings, prompt action needs to follow. It is of no use having solutions that never get implemented, delayed or shoddily implemented. It is akin to not developing solutions in the first place. Therefore, one of
the lessons learnt from Covid-19 is the need for enhanced response times instead of bureaucratic tendencies. Disruptive events come at rapid speed and great intensity. Hence, it requires equal promptness to deal with emerging problems. This means that once problems have been discerned, and possible
solutions considered and decided upon, practical implementation should promptly follow at an accelerated pace.

Lesson 5: Leadership and management through a virtual reality
Covid-19 is enabling virtual management, or generally referred to as “working from home”. There is no need for one to be in the office to be effective these days. One can work from anywhere, provided that one has the right tools, that is, a laptop, Internet connectivity and Wi-Fi at minimum. For a business
management leader to be effective in leading from a virtual space, good written communication through email and social media (especially on WhatsApp) forms
the basis for effective leadership and management. In essence, good written communication consists of three types. First, good referential writing that denotes editorial, organisation and content improvement feedback. Second, directive giving writing, that refers to giving clear suggestions, questioning and instructions to do something as feedback. Finally, expressive writing, which refers to offering praise, criticism and opinions as feedback. Thus, a clear
lesson emerging in the current Covid-19 crisis is that virtual office space, or working from home, requires good written communication delivered promptly as feedback
* Dr Matthias Ngwangwama is a
Namibian business management academic and practitioner. He is the Managing Director of Namibia Wildlife Resorts Limited (NWR) but writes in his capacity. The views expressed in this article are his abstractions.

2020-09-11  Staff Reporter

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