After running its course, the original Call for Leaders – 3Q was completed successfully, achieving its intended purpose of bringing a positive, insightful, or otherwise constructive view of the Romanian business scene in the context of the current crisis. Now, Business Review followed up with some of Romania’s top professionals and entrepreneurs for #Call4Leaders part II – Back in Business, to see how they mapped out the long-awaited return to normality.
Current conversation: Silviu Rei, Head of Research & Development, Continental Sibiu.
How do you define the new normal that everyone should submit to?
From my perspective the so called “new normal” is not yet here, we are still handling a special situation, special compared to what we were used to for many years. This period is somehow uncertain, with a lot of decisions we need to take by integrating a limited amount of information and limited knowledge of what exactly will happen in future. In addition, I wouldn`t consider “submitting” as the right approach or action, but rather keeping the focus on identifying constantly the opportunities which are emerging together with the changes that are driven by the dynamic situation we are in since more than half an year now.
I do not think that the pandemic situation brought only new things on the table. It acted more as an accelerator of changes which were already seen on the horizon, some such changes visible and predictable since years. The way I see it, the current period is a transition period to a possible new normal, a transition period which has as characteristics fast and dynamic situations and changes, psychological pressure on the people, financial instability but also a lot of improvements which are accelerated, as they are needed even more now, like digitalization, people connecting with each other even more, despite the social distancing (or maybe even because of social distancing), faster decision making, more pragmatic approaches, less talking more doing.
After the transition period is gone, it might be difficult to say exactly what will happen. Are we getting back to how we were before? I would say that definitely no. Some changes were irreversible. What will be the “new normal”, I believe, is entirely up to us. I can imagine a future with very intelligent employees, having an extensive set of technical, dynamical knowledge, employees involved in complex activities, employees not limited by a standard work schedule or by a standard way of thinking. I imagine a much less hierarchical and much more interconnected community, with even more ownership, employees who will do things with even more passion, out of pleasure and out of scientific and technological curiosity and because the topics they work on are interesting.
Has this crisis altered your optimism or hopes for your business plans in this calendar year?
Not really, the optimism is there, but my optimism was always a realistic optimism. The business plans for this specific calendar year of course changed and adapted to the current situation, but this only reflects small scale changes or details from my point of view. We started the transformation towards more digital, swift organization, innovative and technology oriented, keeping a high performance and fine tuning the technology with people, already before the pandemic started. For example this is one of the reasons why when employees needed to work from home, we were fully prepared, both with our technology but also with our processes and way of working. There was no big obstacle for us to transition towards mobile working.
Of course financial stability affected all of us during this foggy situation but we still keep our focus and still know our true north, so that once the fog will lift, and history shows us that fog always lifts, we continue our successful journey in the right direction.
What’s next for the industry you are currently representing?
The automotive industry was already undergoing changes, before the acceleration of the pandemic. The automotive definitely goes towards more electrification, towards autonomous driving but also connectivity. More clean energy, more safety in transportation, more comfort for the driver and passengers, customized information and entertainment even in the vehicles, interconnected intelligent technology, these are, I believe, the trademarks of the future. Transportation can become with these an even more comfortable and pleasant experience, creating also more time for the passenger to do more things.
I believe that our future is bionic, driven by optimum balance between people and technology. The huge potential we have in Continental is given by the excellent combination and foundation we already have on our people and our technology. If we will have an open mind, this potential will become a reality. The game is now to adapt fast, and even more to steer the future of this industry by bringing new technology on the market, innovate. Also, in the end also serve and adjust to the needs of the market and, why not, create new markets.
What we should do in my opinion is to stay connected to the reality and to, one the one hand react fast to the dynamics of it, adjust our methods, our tools, our strategy, on the other hand try steer and model the future by leveraging new opportunities and by installing proper framework to keep and enhance our performance. And while we do that, of course we have to not forget that the current pandemic situation has some important impact dimensions: the public health dimension, the financial dimension but also the individual psychological effect on us all. As a consequence, we should also behave in a way to keep a fine-tuned balance between protecting the others and ourselves by wearing masks, by keeping social distance, keeping hygiene, and so on, but at the same time keeping our performance at a high level, keeping the financial engine running, to say so. Last but not least, we, as leaders, have to take care also of the psychological climate of our teams, to keep the people safe not only physically but also psychologically.