Build Back Better – why wait?

Author – Rosie Warin, CEO, Kin&Co

If you haven’t already, you’re about to hear a lot about Build Back Better. But what exactly are we going ‘back’ to? Leaders must grasp that we’re operating in a new normal – the opportunity is to Build Better Now. 

If you haven’t yet heard the term ‘Build Back Better’ being bandied around (virtual) board rooms and dominating your social feeds – get ready for buzzword overload.

Build Back Better is, originally, a progressive methodology used in Disaster Recovery. It enables cities and communities who have experienced a natural disaster to rebuild in a way that is (surprise) better than before. More suitable for a modern world. More equipped for climate change. More inclusive. And crucially, co-created by the diverse range of stakeholders actually living in and experiencing it. 

Many leaders have adopted this mindset in relation to C-19, moving from ‘how do we get through this?’ to ‘how do we use this opportunity to transform for the better?’

Because overnight, some of their biggest, pipedream transformation goals have come true. People are more agile, more resilient, more adaptable. More digitally connected. More innovative. And of course, more purpose-driven — with an increased sense of social responsibility and higher demands of employers. 

What good CEO, Transformation or HR Leader didn’t have these changes on their agenda pre COVID-19? And what good leader doesn’t want to keep them?

In addition, many CFOs are seeing unexpected financial gains to the tune of hundreds of millions. Savings on property. Savings on plane tickets, hotels and events. Savings in senior exec time as decisions that would have needed endless meetings are made in a devolved, agile way. And – in some cases – unexpected topline growth as employees pivot and innovate products for the COVID world.

So, the common narrative is that leaders must codify these changes into policies, processes and systems, ready for the ‘return to normal’. To build back better. 

BUT WHY WAIT?

In theory, we agree wholeheartedly with the above. And we’re helping businesses do this. But there’s a key fault in the argument; what exactly is ‘back’? 

Build Back Better innately suggests that there is a continuation of life as it existed before. Life as we know it. But we have no idea what we’re going ‘back’ to.

Here’s what we do know:

  • We know 85% of people want some of the personal and social changes that have happened as a result of the pandemic to continue afterwards.
  • We know CEOs like Jes Staley of Barclays have agreed, suggesting things like “a long-term adjustment in how we think about our location strategy…the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”
  • We know that whole industries have collapsed for the foreseeable future – Airlines don’t expect to return to previous passenger figures until 2022. 
  • We know that the impact on society’s mental health is thought to be “deep and long term”.
  • We know there will be some level of disruption and social distancing until a vaccine is found, possibly 12-18 months.
  • We know that the coronavirus could already have mutated into more than 30 strains, and more will come.
  • We know that C-19 is a practice round for the global community preparing us to deal with other huge upheavals like climate change and mass migration (depicted perfectly by The Economist’s brilliant cartoon).
  • We know that even before Covid, we were operating in one of the greatest times of uncertainty ever experienced. 

All in all, we know that – though the lockdown may be eased, may be tightened – for the foreseeable future, this situation IS the new normal. And after a vaccine is developed and we truly wave goodbye to C-19, we have no idea what ‘normal’ will look like. 

So with our clients at Kin&Co (who tend to be a forward-thinking bunch), we’re not just working to the principle of Build Back Better, but Build Better Now. 

They know that their teams are demanding a new type of organisation – empowered, people and wellbeing-centric, ethical, sustainable, agile – and they’re demanding it now. They’re not waiting for a return to something, or a ‘going back’, but grabbing the opportunity and becoming better from today. 

The ‘how’:

BUILD BACK BETTER BUILD BETTER NOW
1. Define the current state 1. Fast, continuous, bottom up insight-gathering from whole employee base, using fun engaging methods and latest tech tools 
2. Agree the desired future state at a leadership level  2. Use the live data to create a future state owned by all, and identify parts of the organisation living it
3. Create solutions from the top  3. Crowd-source solutions from your people then test, measure and ‘fail or scale’ initiatives quickly
4. Launch and ‘roll out’  4. Continuous measurement, continuous change

To hear more examples of Build Better Now in practice, and how to get started in your organisation, contact info@kinandco.com.