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The covid crisis as an opportunity for sustainable change

June 24, 2020

In the first part of a two-part blog series, we explained the effects of the current crisis on organizational structure, processes, and governance. This blog complements this view by taking a closer look at other transformation levers that are equally important and relevant to a sustainable transformation.

The environment as a new disruptor

The covid crisis once again reflects how volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous our world is nowadays. Natural disasters, political crises, social movements, and cyber-attacks are increasingly common and can disrupt the usual routine.

Every state of emergency brings with it familiar and new challenges. What is new in the current crisis, however, is that in addition to competitors and economic uncertainties a new disrupter is appearing on the scene that companies have underestimated until now – the environment. What is also new, is the extent and speed with which it is forcing companies to start to drive forward digital transformation. Even though some companies have been impacted more than others, most industries have had to adapt their ways of working or adjust their external partners or suppliers.

Surprisingly, many companies have been able to transform themselves, quickly and successfully facing this predicament.

The key to success

The rapid adaptability of companies to changing external circumstances is also known as organizational dexterity. In our change management study 2019 we were able to show that companies differ in their degree of maturity of organizational dexterity and only 1 in 5 (20.4%) are already at the target state and able to react quickly and appropriately to external factors.

However, the current situation shows us that when it comes to economic survival companies show a high level of organizational dexterity on certain dimensions of their target operating model (see blog 1). In the change management study 2019, the companies surveyed rated the dimensions like culture (77%), leadership and people (64%) as the most relevant  towards organizational dexterity. But now, the workplace dimension (18%) is becoming more of a focus of companies.  Corporate culture as well as leaders and employees will remain key influencing factors but, due to the current situation, we would like to focus on the workplace in this blog.

Figure 1: Dimensions of Organizational Dexterity

The flexible adaptation of the workplace as a first step towards organizational dexterity #WFH

Most companies have had different home office arrangements for years but have been reluctant to offer the home office as a daily option for their employees. The main reason for this, apart from the lack of infrastructure and digital skills, was the fundamental doubt whether employees could effectively work from home.

With our customers, we have observed that this works unexpectedly smoothly and, in addition to the obvious advantage of local flexibility, other positive aspects have arisen. For example, employees report back that they can concentrate better in the home office environment and work more effectively if they are not permanently disturbed with questions on the project floor. In addition, employees are increasingly using digital collaboration tools in virtual meetings and events, thereby acquiring the appropriate digital skills during their daily work.

Even if the first few weeks were marked by technology challenges, restricted access rights, and uncoordinated work processes, many employees and managers are now enthusiastic about the possibilities and ease of use of the digital tools. A major catalyst for this development is the high level of attention paid by top management in these times. Decisions on tool licenses, access authorizations, and much more can now be made much faster than before.

Although the current situation presents companies with several challenges, the current adjustments will also bring many benefits in the long term. For example, a home office arrangement increases the attractiveness of the employer especially for younger employees and potential applicants, as flexible working models allow employees to be more flexible in many areas of life and to decide for themselves when and where they want to work. In addition, the home office also has economic advantages, such as cost savings through the elimination of travel, reduced rental costs for office space, and lower energy consumption. It is undisputed that these factors also have a positive effect on the environment and thus on company sustainability.

The key factor for resilient companies: Hybrid working models as a model for the future

In addition to the benefits of digital collaboration, the value of social interaction is increasing. Many teams have introduced joint virtual coffee and lunch breaks, but it quickly became clear that this cannot replace the chats we have on the way to the next meeting in the office.

We believe that more adaptable companies will increase their productivity with a combination of a physical as well as a virtual workplace – enabling employees to do their jobs in an environment where they are most effective.

The infrastructure of agile companies also promotes cooperation across functions and hierarchies. Furthermore, the use of apps and digital collaboration tools enables employees to be connected with customers, colleagues, and partners at all times, even without physical proximity. In our opinion, the future should therefore be characterized by hybrid working models that allow companies and employees maximum flexibility but continue to attach particular importance to social interaction.

Covid crisis – and then going back to business as usual?

In our opinion, the current crisis offers companies the opportunity to take their organizational dexterity to the next level. Because one thing is for sure: this is not the last challenge for companies.

The changes in the workplace should therefore be the starting point to also address the other seven dimensions of the target operating model. It is important for us to emphasize that even after the covid crisis the value of social interaction in hybrid work models should be strengthened.


Julia Kostyra

Senior Consultant

Capgemini Invent

Aline Hagemann

Manager | People & Organization

Capgemini Invent