The COVID-19 outbreak poses a significant humanitarian challenge across the globe, as governments, health workers, and policymakers work toward containing the spread of the new coronavirus and aiding those affected. The crisis also poses a significant challenge to businesses and managers. Many companies and industries, including business travel, supply chain, and trade, are already facing wide-ranging economic effects and industry-specific impacts.
The editors at MIT Sloan Management Review have been brainstorming about how we can provide readers with more information to help them manage and work effectively despite uncertainty. While there is a range of factors in this crisis that remain outside of the control of companies and leaders, there are several areas where focused efforts can have a real impact. Two new articles — one on leadership practices to embrace and another on the lessons China’s response efforts offer to companies and managers — offer important insights.
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We plan to publish more material for managers on these issues in the coming weeks, and we have also collected a dozen of our most popular articles related to supply chain resilience, leading remote teams, and risk management. Several of the articles include case studies from companies that have faced critical operational challenges in the face of major global events in the recent past — including cyberattacks and natural disasters. This collection offers practical strategies for leaders and companies to manage and respond to large-scale disruptions.
Supply Chain Resilience
In a volatile global economy, supply chains have become increasingly vulnerable. Companies can cultivate resilience to unexpected disruptions by understanding their vulnerabilities and developing specific capabilities to compensate for them. The authors identify and detail 16 capabilities companies can use to respond to particular vulnerability patterns.
This article looks at how Cisco Systems improved its own supply chain resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The company implemented a five-step process for improving risk management: Identify strategic priorities, map the vulnerabilities of supply chain design, integrate risk awareness into the product and value chain, monitor resilience, and watch for events.
Most managers know that they need to protect their supply chains from serious and costly disruptions, but the most obvious solutions — increasing inventory, adding capacity at different locations, and having multiple suppliers — undermine efforts to improve supply chain cost efficiency. This article looks at how companies can build resilience by segmenting or regionalizing supply chains, and limit losses in performance by avoiding the overcentralization of resources.
In this adaptation from his book The Power of Resilience, Yossi Sheffi, director of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, explains how companies are learning to more quickly detect unanticipated disruptions that interfere with global operations. Sheffi offers strategies for preparing for and coping with disruptions effectively, and for increasing your company’s resilience.
Leading Remote Teams
As more companies around the world turn to remote work to contend with the impact of COVID-19, this article offers five strategies for conquering distance and improving communication and performance in dispersed teams. In the end, it’s not the tech that matters — it’s how people use it.
Digital tools make remote teams possible, but it’s not always easy to wrangle a distributed workforce. Leaders must grapple with problems in several key areas: communication, project management, talent development and management, and reliable access to technology. Still, those who take steps to harness the strengths of remote work while minimizing the drawbacks will find themselves with a highly motivated, invested team.
Whether your company is already remote-ready or turning to telecommuting as a new solution in the face of COVID-19, creating an inclusive environment for remote workers must be top of mind. This article offers practical steps managers can take to ensure that remote employees feel valued and ingrained in company culture.
This interview with Lindy Greer, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, offers insights into why hierarchies continue to provide important benefits to leaders, even when moving to virtual work models. In the Q&A, she cites examples from leading remote-work companies, such as Automattic, to illustrate how a solid structure still allows leaders and teams to be flexible.
When environments are changing and filled with uncertainty, companies asking good questions have an edge. Yet vigilant leaders need to balance their eagerness to find answers to these questions with a recognition that they can’t do everything at once. This article offers tested guidelines designed to help leadership teams better navigate turbulence and sharpen the sensing capability of their company.
In business, a black swan is neither a bird nor a ballerina — it’s a very rare convergence of factors that leads to catastrophe. Research suggests that by exploiting all types of data, managers can help prevent some black swan events and reduce the hazards of other risky blind spots.
This article, written in 2010, looks back on a decade that saw a number of the world’s most widely respected companies collapse. The authors look at an important (and not often mentioned) consideration to explain these companies’ failures: the breadth and depth of their approach to risk management. The authors assert that among the many measures that companies deploy to recover from collapse or disruption, an improved approach to risk management may be the most important.
Rather than trying to predict the future, organizations need to strengthen their abilities to cope with uncertainty. A new approach to scenario planning can help companies reframe their long-term strategies by developing several plausible scenarios.