“Change series on adapting Consumer Goods to the impacts of COVID-19”

Article 1: Transition Period

The weeks and months that followed the 9/11 disaster brought much disruption to the CG landscape—bankruptcies, job loss, enhanced site, and product security to name a few. Customer and employee confidence were shaken to the core and had to be reinforced before the industry could move forward. Today we face a similar situation with the COVID-19 virus. The CG world is juggling unprecedented demand level swings with major shifts in shopping habits while trying to keep nervous employees safe and healthy.  We have been forced to do things differently almost overnight.  Through the exhaustion of the last several weeks, many of us are anxious to define a “new normal.” We wonder if social distancing at work will become as common as the 3-oz. sized liquids inside our dusty suitcases.

William Bridges, a well-known expert on change management, references this period of change as the “Transition Period”.  To get through this transition process, we must experience an ending and a neutral zone, before finally reaching—a new beginning.

Endings: For CG, it may be the end of long assembly lines with employees working shoulder to shoulder. It may be the end of shared microwaves in dirty break spaces that only get cleaned when an executive is coming to visit. We must decide what behaviors and circumstances we’ve allowed pre-COVID that can no longer be acceptable long term, and what band-aids we’ve put in place in the last few weeks that need sustainable solutions.

Neutral Zone: We’re in it right now, trying to define this “new normal” that everyone keeps talking about.  Our teams are stressed; likely confused.  They are doing their best to follow instructions and find creative solutions, but this new way of working is far from routine.  We must create an environment that allows our employees to give feedback, show them empathy, and engage them in finding solutions that can be sustained long-term.

New Beginnings: This renewal happens when our teams have new energy to pursue a new direction. They know why new rules are important and they don’t get mixed messages and conflicting goals. They see us walk the talk. We inspect what we expect, and we recognize good performance and reinforce changing mindsets.

There is no time like the present to begin this process as refocused attention on the future brings new energy to tough situations. Engage your teams to realign on mid to long-term goals. Assess their readiness to sustain long-term change. Make sure your priorities, plans and KPI’s are the right ones. Keep investing in leadership training. If you find yourself uncomfortable, reach out to someone who is experienced in change management to help you through the process.

In the next few weeks, we will share articles to foster thoughts about the changes coming our way. Topics will include:

  • People impacts – safety ideas to protect employee welfare
  • Supply chain optimization impacts – asset utilization and workforce management amidst volatile customer demand, cash constraints, and high unemployment
  • Demand planning – predicting the unpredictable
  • Commodity pricing – direct and indirect impacts on procurement
  • Maintenance systems evolution – protocols and practices to keep equipment running as scheduled
  • Automation and building for the future – automation plans that meet your payback hurdles

Let us know your feedback and please be on the lookout for the second blog in this series to be released next week. Thanks for reading and stay safe.

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