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Small firms tackle COVID-19 crisis with new approach to leadership

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SMALL and medium sized manufacturers from across Warrington and Cheshire have embraced a new approach to leadership during the coronavirus crisis.

Forced to close or reduce operations in factories and offices, owners and senior managers involved in Made Smarter, the national digitalisation movement to drive manufacturing faced their toughest test as they figured out how to restart, reassure their uncertain workforce and customers, and recover.
Business leaders from Actikem and Twinfix, based in Warrington have revealed that changing their approach to the new needs of their workforce and business is helping them navigate the impact of the pandemic.
Agile leadership, flexibility, transparency, open communications and being receptive to learning from others have proved vital new tools for the future.
There is also a rallying call not to return to the old ways, as manufacturers look to recover and cultivate new paths to growth.
Programme director Donna Edwards said: “From the start of the pandemic Made Smarter has been in regular contact with leaders across the region offering support and advice. Our conversations revealed some striking changes in the traditional norms, attitudes and behaviours that guide leaders.
“They have demonstrated agility and adapted to an unprecedented and emerging situation to ensure people and companies have remained functional. New flexible approaches have helped individuals and teams cope with the intense challenges to their daily and working lives. In many cases they have used this experience to change longstanding practices and find better ways of doing things. At the heart of this need for change is technology, which has proved invaluable in allowing manufacturers to work remotely to maintain operations and communications and prompted SMEs to accelerate and broaden their adoption of digital tools.”

Andrew Mooney, managing director of Warrington-based chemical manufacturer Actikem said: “Transparency through regular and open communications was a critical factor.
“We focused on getting the communication right across the business, keeping in regular contact when employees work from home, so they do not feel isolated,” he said. “We have been very open with personnel about COVID-19 impacts on the business and they have appreciated that.
“COVID-19 has also made me think more about what our strategy should be as we come out of this pandemic. “It has cemented my thoughts of moving our IT infrastructure to a completely cloud based solution. The benefits of home working deliver improvements in productivity, better utilisation of office space and value improvements to staff in time and money in the pocket. It also gives us challenges about hardware at home, IT security, mental health and communication and collaboration.”
Registration for the next Made Smarter leadership programme, delivered by Lancaster University Management School, starting in October is now open.
For more information or to apply for your place visit www.lancaster.ac.uk/lums/madesmarter or alternatively: email madesmarter@lancaster.ac.uk or call 01524 593 881.

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