HR Takeaways from the Suez Canal incident

We have always believed that any transformation (Digital or otherwise) starts with the Leadership Team. While many understand it theoretically, the learning points may be better illustrated from a real-life scenario. The recovery response by countries to the recent Suez Canal incident showcased the effects of how different leaders may lead their team during periods of uncertainty.

The Importance of Leadership Teams

The massive container ship, the Ever Given, blocked the Suez Canal – one of the world’s most vital shipping lane. While the container ship was re-floated in 6 days, the incident had already drastically impacted global trade and the supply chain. The blockage had left more than 100 ships stuck at each end of the canal, effectively causing an impasse to global trade which was already struggling to recover post-pandemic. The proliferation of global trade is a testament to the progress we have made in an increasingly globalised world. With that comes along its own set of challenges that leadership teams in each country have to grapple with effectively.

Even the slightest delay in traffic can result in congestion and disturb the delivery of goods and commodities on both sides. – Analysts at S&P Global Platts (Chapman, 2021). [1]

Many countries sought ways to minimise disruption to their supply chains and the economic fallout. As a small country reliant on international trade, Singapore was no stranger to being prepared for such unexpected situations. Armed with an agile decision-making body, Singapore anticipated temporary disruptions to supplies and a possible drawdown on existing inventories to combat the incident. Such a response was likely made possible due to proper planning and foresight by the leadership team in question.

This is another unfortunate incident that illustrates how the world is now so closely interwoven together. - Ong Ye Kung on the Suez Canal Incident

Likewise, in this new normal, it is not uncommon for organisations to face periods of uncertainty as we become increasingly susceptible to the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world.

Transforming Leadership Teams

The first step to any transformation begins with the Leadership Team. What are some key learning points that we may then extract from this incident from an organisational transformation perspective?

1. Better Collaboration, More Accountability and Trust

The group of leadership team trusted to drive the Organisational Transformation agenda needs to display values of collaboration, accountability and trust. A transformed Leadership Team should have a clear purpose and vision on what is important and the rationale behind each organisational objective.

As the company enters uncharted water, the Leadership Team should be clear of its Priorities & Inhibitors (PI) – How can the organisation get to their goals and what are the possible factors that might get in the way of reaching their objectives?

2. Influencing the rest of the staff in the organisation