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Responding to crises and economic recessions

Responding to crises and economic recessions

Coulson-Thomas, Colin (2020) Responding to crises and economic recessions. Management Services Journal, 64 (2). pp. 24-29. ISSN 0307-6768

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The experience of Covid-19 raises questions about how management services practitioners could assist with responses to economic shocks. The contexts in which many practitioners work have changed. Traditional governance and management arrangements sometimes struggle to deal with fast moving and disruptive shocks to economic and social systems. A pandemic can expose the vulnerability and lack of resilience and flexibility of many business models, lean operation and extended and international supply chains, when countries and some companies prioritise safeguarding their own interests. The pandemic poses an existential threat across many sectors and presents directors and boards with both challenges and opportunities. Many of these are shared by stakeholders, competitors and Governments, and require common and/or collective responses.

Lockdown is a time for management services practitioners working from home and/or self-isolating to reflect on whether previous practices will return and former requirements remain if and when the pandemic finally passes, or whether behaviours, preferences and priorities will revert or move in new directions. Questions could be asked about whether operations and processes that have been analysed and improved or re-designed could or should now be replaced by digitally driven alternatives and new business models and services, or whether people whose work has been studied should be replaced by algorithms and automated fulfilment systems. Changes may be required to enable entities to be more resilient and flexible in the face of adversity and to quickly vary or switch production. Management services professionals may need to switch attention from the analysis and improvement of ‘what is’ to the design, scoping and planning of ‘what could or should be’.

During a recovery phase future priorities may need to change to put more stress upon considerations such as resilience, flexibility, speed of response, multi-tasking and transformation of activities and processes such as the development, approval, production and distribution of a new vaccine. Rigour and thought may still be required. Many management services practitioners will already be aware of the potential impact of digital technologies on work and productivity. Creative practitioners with a forte for designing new and better alternatives rather than improving existing ones should be in demand. In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic distribution and other systems struggled to cope with sudden changes in demand. Practitioners can help managements to design more resilient, flexible and sustainable alternatives. They can also move into new areas, such as the development of operating models that avoid a trade-off between growth and environmental quality.

The rapid expansion of cities and urbanisation prior to Covid-19 is not sustainable. Many management services professionals have experience of redesigning layouts and flows, planning, human behaviour, and reducing waste and increasing efficiency. Their approaches, tools, techniques and rigorous analyses could support the development of more sustainable patterns of urban living. They could become valued members of multi-disciplinary task-forces, project groups and/or consultancy teams commissioned by city authorities and public and business leaders to design and build simpler, healthier, more fulfilling and less stressful and harmful alternatives to current urban models. They could aim to add value by investigating new and emerging needs; alternative sources of supply and/or means of operation and/or delivery; and how to increase productivity to produce more sustainable value from fewer scarce inputs. They could consider the relationship and welfare of stakeholders and look for ways of benefitting them and/or working with them to reduce harm and/or increase social and/or environmental benefits in particular situations.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, directors, boards, crises, economic recessions, economic shocks, winners, losers, governance, management, resilience, flexibility, sustainability, business models, supply chains, challenges, opportunities, stakeholders, lockdown, management services practitioners, management services, recovery, speed of response, transformation, environment, environmental quality, digital technologies, work, productivity, social benefits, economic growth, urban living, efficiency, lifestyles, differing board and corporate responses, renewal
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW)
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Leadership & Organisational Behaviour Research Group (LOB)
Faculty of Business > Department of Human Resources & Organisational Behaviour
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Last Modified: 23 Jun 2020 13:10

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