Strategic thinking: Reflections for the post-COVID-19 business environment

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“Kenya’s economy has shown considerable resilience to the enormous shock of the pandemic, and this year is expected to post one of the stronger growth rebounds in the region thanks to diversified sources of growth and sound economic policies and management,” Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya (Hansen, 2021 Dec).

This was rather unexpected given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe. Despite the positive outlook, the future course of the pandemic still remains a major cause of uncertainty. Given the challenges posed by the pandemic in economies, each sector, industry and business is engaged in strategic thinking: reimagining and reacting to the environmental shifts.

Strategic thinking; the art of coming up with alternative viable strategies or business models that deliver customer value (Stan, 2005). It accounts for economic realities, market forces and resources to create goals and plans for businesses to survive and thrive through intelligent opportunism and focusses on variables that influence long term progress and impact of the business. So what will the new normal for the business environment, post COVID-19, look like?

Businesses adjustments post COVID-19

  1. Tech-enablement and reliance
    The pandemic has made businesses rapidly digitize their operations. No other sector has seen as much growth as the digital and e-commerce sector. Tech-enablement has become a necessity. In the modern workplace, tech solutions are becoming increasingly popular for communication to customer and for management processes. The pandemic has accelerated the trend toward e-commerce rather than brick-and-mortar sales, and Artificial Intelligence is helping businesses offer more personalized services to their clients. The Amazon Business and other large digital players that are building the very best distribution networks and offering products that they used to avoid due to technical or supply chain challenges (mckinsey, 2022 March).
  2. Remote working
    In times past, working from home was an idea that was frowned upon. It brought the picture of distracted and lazy employees resulting in ineffectiveness and unproductivity in the work place. However, when the pandemic hit many companies and businesses were left with no options but to decamp their staff to remote working, at least until the pandemic blew over. Nearly three-fourths of small businesses in knowledge- based industries had all or a majority of their employees working from home, versus one-third of those in service-based industries and one-fourth in industries that rely on physical labor (SHRM, 2020 September).

Many employees say that the time spent on commuting and travelling have been redirected to productivity in their work. Plus with reduced commute fatigue their effectiveness is heightened. Employers have also found a positive edge in this shift, as it has enabled them to hire persons outside of their radii which has opened up a wider talent pool.

Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) is in the midst of a three-year transition that allows for more flexible work, including allowing much of the work force to go permanently remote (Ryan.T, 2022 May). Twitter, Square, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Salesforce have lengthened their work from home option (SHRM, 2020) and other companies like Deloitte Africa have adopted a hybrid working model where employees split their time between in office and remote work (Deloitte Africa, 2021).

3. Transition from designing for efficiency to designing for resilience
Business models have been plagued, for a long time, with the challenge of rigidity. The resistance to change caused many businesses to collapse under the unprecedented conditions posed by the pandemic. Flexible organizations were able to respond better. As a result, many entities are now adopting flexible business models so as to have the ability to make whatever internal changes are necessary to respond effectively to the changing outward environment, as quickly as possible. Having an open minded approach, consistently collecting ideas from the employees and stakeholders, feedback from clients and having allowance for mid-course corrections gives the business a better chance at long term survival.

4. Service led economy
According to a World Bank report, we are on a trajectory to an economic revolution that will be service-led (World Bank, 2021 Dec 14). The services sector which includes four sub-sectors, the global innovator services (ICT, finance, and professional activities); the skill-intensive social services (education and health); the low skilled tradable services (transportation and storage, accommodation and food services, and wholesale trade); and the low-skilled domestic services (retail trade and personal services); has experienced high rates in scaling, innovation and spillovers in the post pandemic era. The robust growth in digital technology has largely enabled the services sector. As a result the job creation in the services sector is over-shadowing the manufacturing sector which has been pre-dominant before the pandemic. This is a new pattern of economic transformation particularly in the African nations.

5. Separation of critical skills and roles
In 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs, an unprecedented mass exit from the workforce, spurred on by Covid-19, which is now widely being called the Great Resignation (US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022). This has created major skill gaps in the work places as per a recent McKinsey Global Survey. In the initial adjustments resulting from the impact of the pandemic, employees had to adapt quickly to new systems and software. Employers now have a duty to find ways to up skill and reskill their employees to ensure functionality in the post-pandemic business models. For example, in sales digital marketing is now pre-requisite; management have to hone their skill in leading their teams and maintaining client relations virtually; and medics are forced to learn how to give diagnosis remotely.

In the new post COVID-19 business environment, many businesses and organizations will have to reinvent themselves to be strategic. Some of the areas and issues that may need adjusting include:

  • Businesses need to update their training packages to mirror the needs of today’s business operations. Especially in areas of information technology.
  • Adjust business structure to be more flexible to heighten their life cycle. For example; in concepts like remote working. Tim Ryan, U.S. chair of PwC said “We’re living in this amazing transformation of the workplace, and we don’t even know it because we’re showing up every day living in it.” (Ryan.T, 2022 May). This is an exciting development for the economy and it holds the potential of enlarging talent pool for employers and fostering greater global economic cohesion.
  • Tech-enablement
  • Strategize for resilience rather than for efficiency. Organizations need to build themselves around the emergent trends of the business environment, as per their relative advantage. This is because we cannot assert that COVID-19 is the last big blow that will hit the economy.


  • Hansen.K.(2021, December 14).The World Bank Press

  • Abraham, Stan, Stretching strategic thinking, Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 33, No. 5 (2005), 5-12
    Society for Human Resource Management.(2020, September). Small Businesses get creative to survive

during the businesses-get-creative-to-survive-during-the-pandemic.aspx

  • Deloitte Africa. (2021 October, 25). Deloitte Africa moves to a hybrid working working- model.html#:~:text=Johannesburg%2C%2025%20October%202021%2C%20Deloitte,choice%20to%20deliver%20their%20workworking-model.html#:~:text=Johannesburg%2C%2025%20October%202021%2C%20Deloitte,choice%20to%20deliver%20their%20work.

  • Mckinsey. (2022 March, 31). How distributors can self-disrupt to win in the new digital world. distributors-can-self-disrupt-to-win-in-the-new-digital-world