Q&A: Steering clear of ‘deer in the headlights’ syndrome

Harvard business professor offers tips for operationalizing rapid pandemic response.

Like many other businesses, credit unions had to adapt quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic to steer clear of “deer in the headlights” syndrome and support members, employees and communities with critical needs, says Euvin Naidoo, senior lecturer of business administration with Harvard Business School, Boston. In this Q&A, Naidoo discusses how this crisis accelerated organizations to reprioritize, refocus and reorganize to be able to serve the needs of members and other stakeholders—and how they might incorporate this responsiveness into their ongoing management and operations.

Q: In your view of credit unions and the broader business community, how can leaders hold on to the practices that facilitated a quick and effective response to the pandemic to serve their organizations well in strategic decisions moving forward?

A: Many adopted practices, such as convening a core working group, swarming—having as many team members as possible work simultaneously on the same priority item until it’s done—or gathering specific teams to address specific challenges. For those new to agile practices, new rituals were knowingly or unknowingly adopted from the agile toolkit. Teams had to adapt to effective remote working, and some customers to new channel experiences. These digital and remote channels were either ready or needed updating or adaptation, which may have taken place in time or not. For many customers, the immediate challenges of a liquidity crunch may have also needed immediate support and response.


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