CEOs from Singapore and Hong Kong offer crisis advice in new ADL report

22 April 2020 3 min. read

CEOs heading critical infrastructure companies in some of the earliest hit countries have shared their advice on responding to COVID-19 in a special report from Arthur. D. Little.

Global management consultancy Arthur D. Little has followed up on its innovative initiative to bring critical infrastructure CEOs together from around the world to share insights on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic by releasing its first attendant report, which contains learnings from telecom, transport and utility-sector CEOs in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Italy and is freely available to help businesses deliver vital goods and services safely in the face of COVID-19.

As has been urged by a number of consulting firms, the very first point is that companies should put people before short-term profits, with the 25 business leaders who contributed to the new ADL report (including, just to name a couple, Desmond Cheung of Towngas in Hong Kong and Yeow Lian Tay of Singapore’s Singtel Networks) also suggesting organisations should avoid step-by-step measures, delegate authorities, and intensify employee communications efforts.

Also of note, the necessity to work closely with governments, authorities and communities to ensure the best outcomes. “We can learn from one another, build resilience in our economy, and emerge from this crisis ready to innovate and restore,” said ADL chaiman and CEO Ignacio García Alves. “This report gives CEOs unique peer-to-peer insight from leaders who maintained effective operations through the worst of the pandemic and are now emerging ready to rebuild.”

CEOs from Singapore and Hong Kong offer crisis advice in new ADL report

In addition to wider collaboration, the report identifies four areas of focus, in the words of ADL; move fast, assume the worst, be comprehensive, and secure employee safety first and operational continuity next; create separate A and B teams for critical operations, support suppliers and ecosystem partners, and be innovative with cash management; and be prepared to spend most of your time on employee communications, focus on positivity and morale, and listen as well as talk.

As to the latter, the emphasis is not just on communicating a message, but ensuring that personnel understand what’s behind certain decision-making rather than just asking them to comply. Being upfront can also help to allay staff fears driven by uncertainty, with one CEO encouraging others to, “deal with it and be straight with the people wondering about it.” Another states; “Work on employees, trust, delegation, and engagements – and then the magic will happen.”

Meanwhile, the last major piece of advice is to start realistically planning for recovery now, and take advantage of potential opportunities from the “new normal”. “Today’s CEOs are being called to lead through this crisis and emerge ready for new opportunities,” comments Karim Taga, Managing Partner of ADL’s global TIME Practice. “Companies, governments, and individuals must all focus on protecting public health and defeating this pandemic together.”