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Now is the time for boards to review and reset what their organisation stands for.

With a bit of luck, New Zealand is on the brink of moving to Covid-19 level 1. After 11 weeks of extraordinary national resolve, the pandemic here looks to be in hiatus, and life can return to a semblance of normal.

But, in less than 3 months, our economic, social, and technological environment has changed fundamentally. Covid-19 is the Black Swan event that we all feared: an unknown, unknown with wide, permanent consequences.

When strategy changes, culture must change too

With our environment changing so radically, most boards are already working with their CEOs to thoroughly review their strategy. Directors must take a close look at how value disciplines, competitive advantages, channels, products, and price need to adapt to deliver a great outcome for our customers in our new world.

But boards should not stop there: when your environment and strategy change to such an extent, your culture must change too. We cannot lead our people, innovate, and react to problems and opportunities in the way that we did before. We need to adapt, learn different skills, and acquire new knowledge to move forward. People leaders need to be adept and comfortable at working with remote teams, allow people greater flexibility, and rely less on positional power and more on emotional intelligence. Boards need to ensure that their CEOs and senior management teams can make the changes, and if not, bring in new talent who can. Have a look at your values

Culture is the way in which we live our organisational values. The established wisdom is that organisational values should not change over time. I am not sure I agree entirely.

For many of us having 6 weeks at home was a unique experience and we were able to reflect on our personal values in a way that we hadn’t been able to before: we spent more time with our families, we were able to set our own work hours and patterns, we learned to embrace technology, we realised we can live without stuff, we probably got more fresh air and exercise, and we came to understand what is really important to us. I, for one, can say that my personal values changed during lockdown.

If our personal values can change over time, why can’t the same be true of our organisational values? Even if the values themselves remain the same, the way they are articulated and operationalised in our new environment needs careful thought. Values are such an important tool in aligning people behind a strategy, that they must be reviewed from time-to-time, particularly in the wake of a Black Swan event. Now is the time for boards to take the lead

We cannot meet the challenges of our new environment by doing things the old way. Now is the time for boards to take the lead in reviewing strategy, and to set the culture and values necessary to deliver that strategy in a radically changed world.

Suzanne Wolton is a professional independent director, visionary strategist, coach specialising in leadership, communication and public speaking, hypnotherapist, and Managing Director of Communication Counts NZ.

To contact Suzanne, email

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