Lockdown Lessons: Businesses also need to have a Plan C or Plan Chaos - Saad Khan

India is emerging out of an over two-month long lockdown – a period that has changed our lives, behaviours and the way we conduct business forever. The lessons that we have learnt during the lockdown period and our experiences during the year so far, will help us navigate a world that we had never imagined. It has been a trying time for many of us, with everyone working from home and having to adapt to a new way of working and living. Adgully’s latest endeavour – Lockdown Lessons – is an attempt to present the key learnings that India’s business honchos have learnt and imbibed, and which can help the industry navigate the new normal better. 

Also read: Lockdown Lessons: “A valuable lesson in the power of compassionate leadership”

In conversation with Adgully, Saad Khan, National Planning Director, FCB Ulka, talks about planning for chaos, teams pulling together to make things happen, and being empathetic during COVID-19 times, as well as being disciplined while working from home. 

What are the key lockdown lessons as a professional during the lockdown period?
For me, three things have stood out the most from a professional point of view:

Planning For Chaos:

Business plans have always been built on the basis of the best and worst-case scenarios. The lockdown just shook both of them pretty hard. Now, businesses cannot think only of a Plan A or Plan B. They need to have a Plan C or Plan Chaos. The cushions must be put to land soft, and tactics to bounce back have to be thought through across production, distribution, finance, etc.

Planning for the future keeping in mind, what Nassim Taleb calls, a Black Swan event like COVID, will hopefully now be a part of annual plans.

The Power of a Common Goal:

Adversity brings people together. There is a certain kind of heroic narrative playing here. With more transparent discussions happening in organisations about the business reality, people have joined hands, are rowing together and putting in more. All to stand tall against the odds and reach the shore as one. Everyday, I see the phenomenon of teams pulling together to make things happen with more grit and determination.

Time Planning Helps:

Lockdown has made the poor old calendar come alive. The day runs like clockwork. No one can walk in uninvited and unscheduled saying, “can I have five minutes of your time?”. If you are free, you can say yes, but if you are not, you can say no and ask for another mutually agreed time. So, time is yours, schedule is yours. Meetings largely start and end on time. All this brings higher efficiency in the process. We get more done during the same eight hours.

Please tell us some of the key takeaways in terms of life lessons from the lockdown period? 
I only have one. Be empathetic.

These are tough times for people, whether they are your office colleagues, or family and friends. Everyone is dealing with the situation in their own ways. They have their individual challenges and daily little battles to fight. Yeah, even washing dishes and preparing breakfast are new chores added to their days. Some are staying alone, away from their families. Add to it, the toll lockdown can take on mental health.

Empathy and understanding are the lenses I try to look at things from before anything else. Listen to people. Talk to them as a friend. Let them know that you understand and are there for them. 

How did you manage and achieve work-life balance while working from home? 
It’s just a matter of discipline. I replicated the office routine at home.

I have a designated area in my home which is now my office. I start the day like I would have in normal times. I tell my family that I am going to office. At 9:45 am, I am at my workstation and I stop thinking that I am at home. Kitchen becomes my cafeteria. I take the same coffee and lunch breaks as I would have in office. That’s it. It’s really not rocket science.

Which brings me to the second point. Like the way I start my home office on time in the morning, I also try to end it on time. In fact, one has to be more disciplined here, because unlike regular office, there is no physical signal of leaving the office like punching out. If one is not careful, the workday can slip into late hours.

I try to keep the distinction and balance between work and life in the same as I used to before lockdown. Not just for myself, but for my colleagues as well. 

It has been more than two months since the lockdown was enforced. How are you gearing up for back to office mode?
I work out of Mumbai. With Mumbai being the most affected city among the metros, we have to be sure about re-opening the office. We are keeping an eye on the situation and will decide accordingly. People and their safety come first for us at FCB Ulka. 

Any lessons that you picked up in financial management during this time?
Honestly, I am not the right person to comment on this. But I would like to share a big change I have brought into my financial management and spending. I have actually started spending more on healthier food. I like running. It’s meditative for me, so, I have invested in more gear. Basically, I am spending more on my physical and mental well-being.


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