C-Suite Advisory

How the C-Suite is Ramping Up Collaboration Amid Digital Demands of COVID-19

Six months ago (which now feels like six years ago), 50 Fortune 500 executives and successful entrepreneurs reported in a study that the pressures they were facing were more intense than ever. Since then, the COVID-19 crisis has intensified the volume, variety and pace of these pressures, exponentially. And, it has placed digital transformation at the center of the maelstrom for almost every business.

From telemedicine in healthcare, to online retail and delivery services in consumer packaged goods, to the recent virtual NFL draft, organizations are relying almost entirely on technology to deliver their services and products to their customers. This requires extensive acceleration of inward-facing operational technology and systems, as well as the rapid development of outward-facing, customer-engagement technology.

This sudden, rapid acceleration of everything digital requires unprecedented collaboration within the C-suite — especially among the CIO, CHRO, COO, and CFO. It requires these critical roles to work closely together to affect three things:

Shift the business model. They must revise the business model to integrate technology into how work gets done, both inside and outside the company. This requires a collective reinvention of how work happens among employees, and how those employees then deliver their services and products for clients, customers, and consumers. To do this, the CIO, CHRO, COO, and CFO must bring their respective expertise to the table to redesign and reinvent the processes and technology that are required to keep moving forward, analyze the human and financial resources required, and quickly put new models in place to ensure continued profitability.

Create new capability. They must identify the technology and skills required to deliver a digital, technology-enabled experience, and buy or build that capability within the company. Once the vision for what’s next has been reinvented and clarified, this collective group must assess gaps in the current structure and create a plan to address those gaps. That plan might include adjusting recruiting efforts, acquiring a new business establishing new partners or vendor relationships, or investing in building the new capability in-house. A plan to build or buy capability will likely need to be multi-faceted, cross-functional, and phased in over time. It will require significant investment, but given our current environment, these investments will be the difference between staying viable and closing your doors. Regardless of the plan’s specifics, HR will need to work closely with IT to provide training, tools, recruitment, and onboarding. Operations will need to be shifted, and financial resources will need to be reprioritized. And, of course, the project will need to be carefully managed to ensure clear ownership, roles, and responsibilities along the way.

Empower talent. Leaders must inspire and equip their talent to understand new capabilities and fully adopt modern ways of working. This will require a clear vision from leaders who are organized and equipped to think systemically and collaborate effectively. To shift to a digitally enabled workforce, the company will need an end-to-end talent strategy that empowers a diverse workforce to shine across the employment experience’s full life cycle, from recruitment to onboarding, to performance management and retirement. And, to engage this talent throughout the shift, the C-Suite must sponsor a robust engagement strategy. Companies will need ‘surround-sound’ that ensures continued communications about progress and challenges, and an honest and authentic two-way dialogue at all levels of the company.

Demonstrate emotional intelligence, energy, and vision. This C-suite ‘quartet’ must pool their collective expertise and intelligence to reinvent, develop, and inspire. This requires innovation, flexibility, and empathy — and a shared vision and willingness to loosen individual agendas and rally around a shared sense of purpose. To thrive in this new world, the CIO, CHRO, COO, and CFO need to check their egos at the door, hold hands, and consider 10 lessons we learned from interviewing top executives:

  1. Winning in 2020 requires extraordinary speed and agility. Be fast and agile.
  2. Cost-cutting in the name of reinvention and transformation will result in anxiety, not trust and inspiration. Be fiscally responsible, but keep reinvention front-and-center.
  3. Too many leaders waste time tinkering instead of driving real change. Take thoughtful risks to minimize wasted time and drive real progress.
  4. Change isn’t easy, and it’s just getting harder. Make sure you’re all up for a challenge.
  5. Involvement equals commitment. People will make or break any corporate-wide change, so you must ask questions, listen to the answers, and respond accordingly.
  6. Successful leaders connect ideas with actions. Think big, but make things tangible for your people.
  7. Make it meaningful. Stay motivated with a sense of purposeful connection and challenge yourself with intellectual pursuits.
  8. Go slow to go fast. Remember when it’s time to take your foot off the gas to maintain momentum.
  9. Humility drives greatness. Admit what you don’t know and seek input from others.
  10. Real change requires hearts, minds, and energy. Stay connected to your sense of self, team, and greater purpose, so you can keep your energy for the long haul.

It’s not always intuitive to collaborate in this way, but in 2020, as we continue to face an unprecedented amount of uncertainty, it’s necessary for the transformation required to sustain your business – no matter the type of business. True digital transformation requires the right people in the executive suite, a tenable structure for decision-making, a mutual set of goals and objectives, clear accountability and responsibilities, effective communication and collaboration, and a set of metrics to evaluate progress along the way.


Written by Christine Andrukonis. Have you read?

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Christine Andrukonis
Christine Andrukonis is the founder and senior partner at Notion Consulting, a global change-leadership consultancy that helps leaders tackle their most complex business challenges. Christine has worked with companies across a variety of industries, including Chanel, Datto, FedEx, The Estee Lauder Companies, Goldman Sachs, Hess, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Lundbeck, The NFL, Pfizer, Quest Diagnostics, Rag & Bone, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Stony Brook Hospital, Tesoro, and Weight Watchers. Christine holds a Masters of Science in Organizational Development from American University and a B.S. in Management from Penn State. Given her love of learning, Christine now serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at Cornell University. Christine Andrukonis is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.