The popular reference from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are. But we’re living in a topsy-turvy world where the name stays unchanged but the context is changing …

Organisations may decide to either develop, implement and maintain management systems standards such as ISO 9001:2015 Quality management systems, ISO 14001:2015 Environmental management systems and ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems. This requires them to understand their context and “determine external and internal issues” relevant to their strategic purpose. Once the context is understood, documented and monitored. It should also be reviewed.

Globally, the playing arena has continued to be disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Organisations already maintaining their management systems can confirm that the “context of the organisation” they defined needs to be reviewed owing to the changes in their risk profiles. The changing risk profile has been triggered by the pandemic.

Reviewing the context
The reality is that the context of the organisation needs to reflect the current business environment. Inevitably, organisations’ strategic directions have been distracted by the current pandemic. An annual review of the context is not sufficient anymore. The impact on business continuity cannot be underestimated.

Most recently, long-distance bus operator Greyhound Citiliner announced it will be ceasing operations in mid-February 2021. As we conduct the context review exercise, let us include lessons learned from these scenarios. Of course, other factors such the complexity of the organisations and their risk exposure should also be taken into account.

As we embrace the reality of “working from home”, I am reminded of a Harvard business review working paper titled “Covid-19 and the Workplace: Implications, Issues, and Insights for Future Research and Action”. It highlighted “emergent changes in work practices” such as work from home, virtual teams and virtual leadership and management. A reality of the context review is that of a digital divide. Think of how this gap impacts on your employees’ productivity as they work remotely.

During strategy sessions, tools like the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (SWOT) or political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental analysis (PESTLE) are used. It’s helpful to refer to them and review what external and internal issues have changed.

There are also still opportunities to pursue in the market. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is now in place. According to the South African Government’s media statement of Jan 1, 2021, “The AfCFTA Agreement has been signed by 54 of the 55 African Union member states”.

The continent is open for business. During the context review exercise let us assess the risks and opportunities likely to impact our business strategies in relation to AfCFTA. Do we have the appetite to take these risks and opportunities? Despite Covid-19 overshadowing this development, it is important if we are looking at playing in the AfCFTA arena.

Moving forward
We acknowledge that the business environment is constantly changing. This is equally influenced by the change in the risk profiles in this environment. Hence these risks could either cause disruption or bring about opportunities. Irrespective of these scenarios, organisations should constantly review their environment and incorporate the changes in their management systems.

The “rose” might look different, but it can still smell sweet.

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