The Flow System Offers Insights into Doing Business Better during COVID-19

A central theme of the newest book on my reading list is the need to listen to, and learn from, the customer. Its customer-centric message is particularly meaningful as applied to the challenges brought to us by COVID-19.

Our business now offers products customized for individuals and families, but we began as the administrators of dental benefits for group customers. We now administer the dental benefits of 1,393 group customers offering their employees dental benefits to encourage them to visit their dentists regularly to improve overall health and wellness. Our group customers include financial institutions, hospitals, school systems, unions, associations, and a variety of businesses and nonprofits of all sizes across a spectrum of industries. Early in the pandemic, we engaged with our customers, both individual/ family and groups, to find out how we could serve them best. As you might imagine, the needs of our group customers were more complicated, but we have continued to meet our commitments to all our customers, and we were able to offer them some financial relief.

We’re still wrestling with the new realities of during business in 2021. Are you? Written in 2019, released in 2020, The Flow System: The Evolution of Agile and Lean Thinking in an Age of Complexity by John Turner, Nigel Thurlow, and Brian Rivera could give you valuable insights into a system designed to help businesses manage and operate in dynamic environments. Five forwards by business notables and the preface provide a meaningful COVID-19 context. That is, the writers provide the scope of how the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded and how businesses, governments, and healthcare systems reacted to it; and they make the case that more skillful approaches to unexpected and complex situations that could arise would have improved outcomes. The pandemic made this book even more relevant and valuable than it would have been had it been released at a time when business challenges were somewhat more predictable.

The Flow System, with a foundation of the Toyota Production System and the Toyota Way, is represented by a Triple Helix, standing for complexity thinking, distributed leadership, and team science. From several disciplines that include organizational theory, psychology, and team science, many best tools and practices have been distilled for the benefit of its readers.

The insights the authors offer about the need to keep customers’ needs central, empower employee decision-makers, and use team approaches to increase high quality outcomes are valuable ones. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for more in-depth thinking on these themes, but I especially suggest you read it to learn more about doing business better during the pandemic

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