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The impact of COVID-19 on business transformation

In the last few months, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on many businesses across Australia. Our Business Transformation team at Ambition decided to utilise our network of candidates and clients, inviting leaders from different industries and organisations to discuss how their businesses have reacted and adapted.


We would like to thank the following clients for taking the time to contribute to this discussion:

  • Megan Tough - Change Lead at Woolworths

  • Kylie Herbst - COO at Maltem Consulting

  • Bruce Hope-Maclellan - Director at Consulting Services DQA

  • Martin Fletcher - Director at Deloitte 

  • Brett Young - Program Manager at Westpac

  • Roque De Souza - Principle Global Workplace Solutions at Telstra

This turned out to be a really powerful session for knowledge sharing in the world of Business Transformation during the time of COVID-19. Here is what we learnt:


Businesses that are Lean and Agile in nature adapted easier than those who aren't.


  • Martin elaborated on an example: “This particular business had been keen advocates of lean for many years and they deeply understood their processes. When they were hit with COVID-19, their offshore call centres were shut down. However, they were able to quickly and effectively stand something up locally because they understood what needed to happen - workflow paths, skill sets, systems etc. Within a matter of days, they were able to hire new people from adjacent industries to get the call centres up and running. That is the power of Lean + Agile - they have understood their processes and they are flexible”.

  • Of course, Lean can be seen as a ‘dirty’ word in some organisations: sometimes perceived purely as a cost-cutting exercise which results in job losses. Martin explains: “One negative perception of Lean equates to being stripped to the bone and therefore, not able to respond to shocks like COVID-19. I had to spend a lot of time with my stakeholders reminding them that lean and agile work together. The ability for an organisation to move and respond to these shocks is an agile feature, but you can do it because you are lean and have stripped out non-essential processes”.

  • Brett raised a great point when he talked about how businesses should take this downtime to partake in “opportunistic behaviour”, even if they hadn’t before. This includes things such as looking at their talent acquisition plan, skills gap, and having management teams thinking about the strategic adaptation of what markets will sustain, emerge as well as ones they should step away from. He concluded that what businesses do now to ‘pivot’ in an Agile and Lean fashion can provide a competitive advantage for them 3-5 years down the line.

"One negative perception of Lean equates to being stripped to the bone and therefore, not able to respond to shocks like COVID-19"

- Martin Fletcher - Director at Deloitte

Effective and flexible working from home communication


There is no doubt that you would have read from at least 10 articles during COVID times that communication is the key to be effective while working from home. Our session covered off the things our panel thought would help deliver effective working from home communication:

  • Keep it streamlined. Almost every one of us is a technology or social media expert now and that means that you can contact people via multiple platforms. Yet, Kylie and the rest of us all agreed that we should only use 1 communication channel for the team to get hold of each other internally, be that Slack, Teams, Skype, Discord or Google Hangouts (besides formal email of course), to minimise technology distraction. 

  • Stakeholder engagement is already challenging enough in a face-to-face meeting. The Zoom situation has definitely not made it easier. Brett made a great suggestion - When you meet with multiple stakeholders over Zoom, task one person to observe the stakeholders so that you won’t have to worry about not being able to read the room and focus on delivering your work!

  • Don’t be afraid to have some fun – Megan gave an example of a well-received team meeting that involved everyone doing the ‘Macarena’


People make your business great

  • At many points during the conversation, the human factor was discussed. Our panel agreed that despite the inherent challenges of workforces being split up into some working from home and some working in the office, great people and simplified processes will still stand out: “really good people that can work effectively remotely, will be in high demand”.

  • There has and will be a “Journey of discovery” during COVID-19. If the general workforce can become really good at what they do that gives them the flexibility to adapt when a crisis comes up. On top of that, it may help future-proof themselves in this era of significant technological change.

  • The idea that great people make your business great is not a new idea. However, it is a timely reminder that when developing your Human Resources strategy it is critically important to focus on bringing in bright-minded people to help deliver your vision.

A concluding thought

Owen summarised the conversation quite well, leaving everyone with the thought that humans thrive in the face of adversity. Maybe COVID-19 was the shock that a lot of the world needed to kickstart not only the new way of working but a new way of living too...

Watch the full recording below:


If you would like more information on this topic then contact Paul Mcann - or Owen Marquis -


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