Even at the peak of the corona pandemic, people needed food, wanted to buy electronics, home improvement supplies, furniture and sporting goods. As the largest retailer in Switzerland, how do you ensure that everything is always available? How do you minimize the health risk for customers and employees? And what has Migros learned from the crisis?
Questions that the crisis team of Migros Aare (with annual sales of 3.35 billion Swiss francs the second largest Migros cooperative, see box) have dealt with over two years. Reno Berner is the Head of the Crisis Team; at its peak, his team included up to 50 people from all areas of the company: Wherever the regular organization was overwhelmed, the crisis team was given authority to take the lead,“ he says.
Immediately after the first situation assessment in January 2020, the secondary organization was created. Reno Berner: “We quickly realized that we were dealing with different challenges. Challenges that, for example, involved uncertainty and dynamics that we cannot control, but to which we must respond adequately.”
The team’s most important takeaway from this period: stay calm and take a deep breath. Then reduce the complexity of a challenge by splitting it into individual subtasks that are then delegated.
Sometimes we only had one weekend to prepare to implement new Corona regulations.RENO BERNER
Head of Crisis Management, Migros Aare Cooperative
Combining traditional elements of crisis management with agile methods
“Sometimes we only had one weekend to prepare to implement new Corona regulations,” Migros Manager Berner recalls. “The crucial point, therefore, is to develop viable solutions in the time available,” he says, adding that this can only be achieved by combining traditional elements of crisis management with agile methods.
Instead of striving for perfection, Berner advises starting with simple solutions, gathering experience and making improvements. If necessary, this approach also requires “young talents” in the team who can simply come up with solutions without going through official channels. And without getting stuck on one solution. “Otherwise, you will be totally overwhelmed if there is another quick change in direction,” the crisis expert said.
Continue to regularly assess the corona situation
Meanwhile, the cooperative has developed skills from the lessons learned in the Corona crisis that it can also use to deal with new difficulties, such as responding to the economic consequences associated with the war in Ukraine.
For Reno Berner and his team it was now time to step back from the crisis and reset the situation to normal after many months: “After this long period, this was more difficult than we thought, but a crisis team is not a permanent institution.”
However, until Corona is defeated, the team will continue to periodically assess the situation in order to take new actions if necessary.
The Migros Group is the market leader in the Swiss retail sector. The regional cooperatives form the core of Migros. Today, the ten cooperatives are autonomous, prepare independent financial statements and have unrestricted area and personnel sovereignty. Migros Aare was formed in 1998 from the merger of the Bern and Aargau/Solothurn cooperatives and most recently achieved annual sales of 3.35 billion Swiss francs with 11,301 employees.
by Gottlieb Duttweiler