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How COVID Taught Us the Value of Being Adaptive in Business

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image of shifting gears

Photo by DICSON on Unsplash

While COVID-19 had started to spread in Wuhan China late in 2019, it’s spread to the US was late January, with it being declared a pandemic in March. For those of us business owners and leaders, this pandemic has taught us quite a few things. From a macro level, it showed us how important contingency and emergency plans are. It shows us the value of forecasting and diversifying and being adaptive in business. 

Imagine if any of us had thought in December of 2019 that our businesses, suppliers or vendors may be shut down? Imagine if any of us, just 3 months earlier, had the insight to prepare for workforce, school and even restaurant closures. If we had a glimpse into the future, months before the national emergency and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, how would we have planned differently? 

There is no way to plan for every emergency, but frequently I find many businesses have not planned for ANY of them. Some may have planned once, but haven’t visited those policies since the day they were photocopied and dispersed. However, being adaptive in business means not only do we have a plan, we review it. In lean methodology, this is known as continuous improvement.

What we learned from the restaurant industry 

One real life example of how I saw companies being adaptive, both successfully and not, was the restaurant industry. Many restaurants had been offering “to-go” options prior to the restaurant shut down from COVID. Some restaurants quickly were able to scale up this business component, while others really struggled. 

One famous Italian chain of restaurants allowed us to order online, but when we showed up, there were cars all over the place. After two staff came out to talk to me, a third brought me the wrong order. It was clear online ordering was set up, but the specific location had no systems in place to help the process go easier when it came to getting the food out the door. 

To contrast this, we also went to a Mexican restaurant, and when we ordered, we were asked what color and type of car we were driving. When we arrived, parking spots were marked and someone came out in just a few minutes after we arrived, with the correct order. 

Where does this happen in your business? 

When has your business needed to adapt to a change and it went well, or poorly? 

The main component to being adaptive is communication. What needs to change? How do we implement this shift? How do we communicate the new processes? How will we know if it is working or not? Who else needs to have a say in this? 

Do you have systems in place to navigate adaptations, regardless of the source? Is it time to? Next time change comes, will you be ready to shift gears?


PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Providing consulting and lean process improvement training, we are ready to support your organizational goals. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a lean sensei.