Building a 'new normal': How to help your business embrace change

Matthew Rivard / May 2020

As we enter another month of the global pandemic, not a lot feels normal about life right now. Every day brings new information and challenges to businesses of all sizes. The change has been rapid, and it is forcing us to rethink and reshape what we consider business-as-usual.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach that will help steer businesses in the right direction during this period. This experience is unique to every team, and every organisation. Yet there’s probably one question we’re all hearing: “When will things get back to normal?

But is going back our only option? A better question might be: “What do we want normal to look like?”

This can be a great opportunity to re-evaluate what ‘normal’ can be. In business, I believe our collective job is to build a better normal, where we are more thoughtful about what consumers need, and how we as businesses can adapt to meet them.

Here are three ways you can help your team build a new normal.

Map out your current reality and set clear goals

How close is your current reality to your initial business plan for 2020? For many, plans have entirely changed. Recognising this shift and re-evaluating your goals is key to understanding where your team’s focus should be.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the use of OKRs at Google. OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results. Objectives are tangible and attainable goals within a measurable time frame, and key results should describe clear outcomes, not activities. At Google, OKRs remain an incredibly valuable tool during this period of uncertainty, helping us clearly articulate revised timelines, shift priorities and in the current situation, remain nimble to pivot when necessary.

Challenge yourself and your teams to identify potential shifts in behavior that might trigger gaps your products and services can fill.

Setting clear and measurable goals requires challenging yourself and your teams to identify potential shifts in behaviour that might trigger gaps your products and services can fill. Google Trends can be a great assistant in understanding where we are increasingly showing sustained intent.

Use the disruption to build your new normal

History has shown that periods of incredible challenge often breed incredible progress. Walt Disney found his footing during the Great Depression by bringing joy at a time when many were pulling back, as did Parker Brothers with the board game Monopoly — both of which are still loved today. More recently, during the global financial crisis in 2008 brought businesses like Stripe, Square, Airbnb, and Slack.

The current situation is both accelerating and shining a light on needs that need to be addressed. Build and share a vision anchored in a view of where you are today, but more importantly where you need to accelerate investment and pull your future forward. Sometimes fast is better than perfect.

Adaptability equals survival — adapt to change and celebrate it

In nature, heritable characteristics are passed from one generation to the next, resulting in change to a species over time. Characteristics that are favourable survive and continue to be passed to new generations. It is not always the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent — it can be the one that is most adaptable to change.

This holds true for business as well. Companies that embrace a culture of experimentation and adapt quickly to match their product with the evolving needs of their customers are most likely to come out ahead.

Evolution isn’t always visible in the moment. Ensure that teams have the license to think and build with this in mind.

Evolution isn’t always visible in the moment. Ensure that teams have the license to think and build with this in mind. Make sure to celebrate positive moments big and small, and ensure that teams have the space to think and build for the needs of both today and the future. This creates the conditions to evolve. Unless we try we can’t succeed, and yes, we may accrue some failures along the way, but a culture and a leader that celebrates progress and recognises growth in failure will build teams that can weather any storm.

Change isn’t always easy, but many businesses have a unique opportunity to embrace these uncertain times as a way to learn and grow, so that the “new normal” is a better one for all of us.

Interested in learning more? Watch Matt Rivard’s Lighting Talk on creating a new normal here.

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Matthew Rivard

Head of Strategy & Product Acceleration Google Canada