Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Adapting to the “new normal”

July 20, 2020


We are fortunate to have a special guest blogger, Chris Parker, who will share some of his experience and advice from 30 years of executive leadership and crisis management in both the military and in business. Chris explores the emerging ‘new normal’ for technical leaders and how we must adapt fast. Covering aspects such as resilience, cyber fatigue, adjusting to ‘the new normal’ and the need for more adaptive skills, Chris offers guidance and ideas for us all as we face a different future as managers. We are lucky enough to also have Chris join us for a webinar following on from this blog, demonstrating executive leadership tools and systems to help boost your 2020s readiness and empower all technical leaders during any tough times ahead. It’s not to be missed! 


Adapting to the “new normal”

Author: Chris Parker, Chartered Manager and Founder of Cyberplus


What is this new normal we suddenly find ourselves in?

I knew the 2020s were set to be a ‘Decade of Disruption’. Moore’s Law predicts that the speed and capability of our computers will increase every couple of years as prices lower and, so far, this thesis has continued to be proven through the relentless rise of technology.

After COVID-19, our ‘Decade of Disruption’ will now be even harder. The huge economic and social impact will constrain our options to adapt. Businesses will need strong leadership and agility to manage the benefit and risk ratio of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).  This will first ensure survival, then safely secure success.

In February 2020, Cisco released its annual CISO benchmark report which surveyed 2800 security chiefs just before the onset of COVID-19 and the priority change of needing to secure remote working.

In this blog, I’ll set out key trends from the report which aim to help you target urgent requirements and set new objectives to succeed in the new normal.


Tackling cyber fatigue with military tactics

The scale and regularity of cyber-attacks and alerts is leading to cyber fatigue, which is threatening business resilience. It can cause bad decisions that reduce overall safety.

Traditionally this is a classic military problem. For example, perimeter guards get bored doing the same routine day-after-day. To avoid this, they need to be inspired, to be led well and get regular breaks.

There are several well-proven leadership tools that achieve this and they’re easily transferrable to other industries including cybersecurity.

One of them is human factor enhancement – the understanding of effect of teamwork and culture on human behaviour and how to apply that knowledge in work settings.

For example, set up a team and personal development system that allows junior members the chance to lead and run monthly social events.

Align this with an Intelligence Cell or direct global cyber incident awareness sessions that allow us all to ‘think enemy’. I asked my junior staff to brief our team each month on new technical developments and recent global incidents. This approach is well-proven in enhancing professional contentment and loyalty to the organisation: a win-win to bolster any team in the 2020s.


Implementing a fail-fast culture from the top-down

If we can find new tools to develop our team, what about ourselves?

If you’re lucky enough to undergo management development, it’s still worth having your own plan as well.

Each month I allocate an hour in my diary just for me. During this time, I ask myself: “Where do I feel in the last month I was short of knowledge or skills?” and then look up answers or learn new skills. It sounds easy but it needs discipline as that hour slot comes under a lot of pressure!

Once equipped with new skills how can we also adapt ourselves to the growing and evolving market ahead?

The answer is by genuinely looking at trends and indications to work out what we’re doing that’s fading and what’s rising. As leaders we must focus on the rising set and properly balance adequate plans time with operations.

One approach you can take is to embed honesty about failures into your workplace culture. As a COO, I introduced a system that allowed junior staff to anonymously highlight team mistakes without any risk of criticism – it was amazing, we learned so much.


Looking ahead and settling in

There will be other factors in the post-COVID-19 world that will affect us all. For example, will high-grade IT talent want to work in busy urban offices anymore? Must we now accept remote working as our ‘new normal’ by hot desking in a smaller head office? If so, what risk mitigation measures, systems and management is needed?

The impending speed businesses face to adapt needs better integration of complex security systems, so that managers are able to answer these questions.

The 2020 CISO benchmark report offers some great reminders of the rapidly evolving world we live in. We’ll see a new normal emerge in working practices, technology (rising in cost, threat and defence capability) and the already-present ‘cyber fatigue’.

The difficult decade ahead will be further disrupted by a new set of challenges for management. However, nothing is impossible: by being better adaptive leaders, we can adjust to this ‘new normal’ rapidly and safely.

“…Standby, team, we’re going in…”


I’ll be conducting a webinar demonstrating the executive tools and systems that can help boost your 2020s adaptive leadership and readiness. Sign up here to watch.


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