How strategic Enterprise Program Management helped a global food manufacturer navigate what’s next at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the initial news of COVID-19, two things were immediately true: people would need access to groceries quickly and safely, and the way we work was going to change fundamentally.
A few industries saw an immediate impact: healthcare, government, restaurants, and, yes, the food retail industry.
For global food manufacturers, this meant they would need to:
- Ramp up production of their products while ensuring everyone was following new safety protocols
- Put policies and procedures in place for people who could work from home
- Create contingencies for when essential roles, or even entire departments, could no longer work.
Our client is one such global food manufacturer, employing over 25,000 people in over 150 countries. Specifically, we worked with one of their major business operations arms, helping its 800 employees respond to the pandemic to keep its business running when more consumers need them than ever before.
With so many employees in different places, the team not only needed to change its operations in parts of the world where coronavirus was already making waves, but it also needed to prepare those cities the pandemic hadn’t yet reached. To continue serving its customers while protecting its employees, its leaders knew they needed a helping hand.
Enter Centric: A Solution for Consistency and Delivery
The client’s leaders partnered with Centric Chicago, in part because we were already working with them to enact strategic program management within their enterprise program management office (EPMO). They recognized how vital program and project management would be when responding to the pandemic.
Because we only had a little over a month to create a plan, we needed to complete an assessment of the problem within three days alongside their leaders before diving into our solution: a consistent global framework they could use in every region of the world.
Why one framework instead of a decentralized solution? Because it would provide some consistency, scalability and learning between each group while everyone was under a time crunch. The pandemic was already making its way across Europe when we started working together, so we knew North America and South America weren’t far behind and would have a similar experience.
We had to approach creating the framework by looking at each region and working from there. Here are a few of the scenarios we had to work through:
- Can every employee work from home? If so, what does our client need to execute?
- What sub-processes are critical for continuing core business operations, and what sub-processes could operate with reduced staff for a short time? Of the critical sub-processes, how many employees (or contractors) are key to that process’s success?
- What happens if one of those key persons must be offline for three or four weeks with almost no notice? Are there backups in place that can the company can onboard quickly?
- What happens if an entire team goes offline? Do we have third-party contractors or a similar group in another region that can act as a backup?
Once we answered these questions, we were able to work with the client to create a consistent framework they could use in every region, including:
- templates to help them get organized,
- due dates and deliverables for each step within the framework, and
- working sessions to help answer any questions around the framework itself.
We built the framework to accommodate three phases: initiation, crisis management and return to the office. Based on each stage and region’s needs, the client could choose paths for executing, whether a particular department is operating at 100 percent, 80 percent, and so on.
The Results: A Custom Guide for Navigating the Pandemic
Following the framework’s creation, the client has been able to respond to region-specific issues more efficiently. For example — because the global framework allowed room for learning — the client knew to plan for internet outages or spotty service in rural areas, making the transition to remote work a lot faster as they followed the framework from city to city.
We were also able to help them coordinate processes during the crisis management part of the framework. For example, they quickly learned that sales skyrocket as a country starts to shut down. As a result, by the time the pandemic reached South and North America, they could follow the framework’s processes and prioritize getting products out the door faster as needed.
No one was expecting a pandemic of this caliber. Because we worked together with our client to solve challenging problems and create a framework, they can ensure their teams are safe even while their customers get what they need.