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The Next Normal: Let’s Rewrite the Rules Together

Originally published on LinkedIn by Erica Coletta, Global People and Organization Vice President, Mars Petcare.

As I write this, it feels a strange end of summer in my hemisphere. We now have all dealt with almost half a year of lockdowns, with constant worries about our friends and families. Many had to mourn the loss of loved ones. Many are facing an uncertain autumn and winter for many reasons. It continues to be a difficult world that we find ourselves in. Many people call it “the new normal.” To be honest, I’m not a fan of this phrase. But, there’s no going back to the pre-COVID-19 world. 

More importantly, though, I believe that we get few chances in a lifetime to reframe important paradigms and we are handed now a great chance to rewrite the rules for the “next normal.” We have a chance to reimagine our future.

And to succeed, as business leaders we can do three things: 

  • Encourage compassion, and practising humanity
  • Act with agility
  • Crowdsource innovation

Encouraging Compassion and Practicing Humanity 
Our business is hugely diverse, with more than 85,000 people ranging from scientists, veterinarians and nurses to marketers, software engineers, factory associates and product developers; that’s why we always had to put a huge emphasis on our company culture, anchored around Mars Five Principles. During the lockdowns, this really paid off. There was an obvious sense of togetherness and compassion, but also a readiness to show vulnerability. I hope that sticks. 

If any manager was still clinging to the model of leadership-by-control, then this pandemic should have put an end to it. As we reimagine our future, I think we all want to maintain a culture where we’re human being first and Associates second. And where humanity and mutuality play a strong part of our ethos.

Of course, the longer the lockdowns last, the heavier will be the strain on the social fabric of any company. We must encourage compassion. Only then will we be able to maintain our culture across the company, especially for new hires who never or only belatedly get a chance to meet their teams face-to-face. 

Acting with Agility
Take speed: As a family business, Mars has always taken a long-term approach. What COVID has taught us is that we can run our business as a mix of both sprints and marathons. For example, when the lockdowns triggered a phenomenal acceleration of our online business, we coped because we took decisions at a speed that we simply hadn’t realised we could muster.

For many, it involved a leap of faith. A company does not have to wait for every data point to make bold and successful decisions. We learned to drive our business in a world full of ambiguity and uncertainty.

We are an “agile business” (even though that’s a buzzword, it’s an accurate description.) We know how to achieve big things with fewer resources for maximum impact. We had been planning to build a platform to help our business to act with agility. COVID-19 simply forced us to create this platform on the go, and I’m proud of our Associates for getting us there. 

Crowdsourcing Our Future
I’m an optimist, though. Reimagining our future is not just about agility and compassion, but also how we evolve our company culture and collaborate to innovate - at a time of social distancing and reduced business travel. To achieve this, we are crowdsourcing our future. 

As a company, Mars Petcare has come out of this crisis more future-ready than we could ever have hoped for. We’ve already shifted many traditional activities from face-to-face to virtual, like upskilling, induction, volunteering and team socialization. Since June we have been running a series of “hacks” and other creative forums bringing together Associates from across our business — all designed to crowdsource our future.

Our opportunity is to imagine and adopt new leadership practises and ways of working; with a platform that boosts our creativity and innovation; and processes that give us the digital dexterity to thrive in the post-pandemic world. Let’s rewrite the rules of the next normal together! Curious to hear how you are re-imagining the future.