Covid-19 is here to stay, as many members of the international scientific community have already realized, and only few leaders have communicated this to their fellow citizens. When Angela Merkel estimated that 60% to 70% of the German population will contract “the coronavirus”, she was not only speaking about Germany. Although in the long-term companies and countries will have to revisit past decisions, like increasing supply chains’ complexity and extending retirement age, in the short-term priorities are to keep people safe while avoiding both marketplace’s stock outs and disruption of value creation for shareholders. Therefore, organizations must find new ways of working to ensure people’s safety while preventing stock outs in the marketplace and company’s value lost in the financial markets. On one hand, country and company leaders must start collaborating in effective ways and acknowledge that they didn’t in the past, which had as a consequence that an outbreak in a Chinese province turned into a Global pandemic. On the other, shareholders must realize that if they continue devaluating companies, they will only increase the fragility of already fragile supply chains and will put at risk sustainability of companies because of major unplanned downsizings while will also increase pressure on countries and healthcare systems by rising dramatically unemployment. The way out of Covid-19’s crisis is exactly in the opposite direction and while technology is key to ensure connectivity it is even more important to develop tailormade ways of working not only to both remotely handling the BAU and problem-solving but also to reshape leadership and empower people to cope with this crisis.
Developing Tailormade Ways of Working
To begin with, it was the Agile Manifesto the latest framework which pointed out the close relationship between productivity and team’s co-location. Moreover, all the ways to scale agile must cope with keeping the same level of collaboration and productivity expected within an agile framework, when deal with dislocated teams. Furthermore, with headcount offshoring in GBSs and outsourcing with BPs, many companies have already developed operating models which try to minimize the negative impact on productivity of having dislocated teams. However, neither any of current ways to scale agile nor any of existing operating models contemplate so far, the possibility of having a complete dislocated team with each member working remotely. What is more, the so call “flexwork” models in which team members are expected to regularly work from home, were never applied to large companies and even in medium to small size companies were implemented only partially because working from home can be a challenged for some people. Therefore, although most organizations are not starting from scratch, it is important to acknowledge that a tailormade ways of working must develop not only for each company but also each department and country to achieve effective remote collaborations and minimize productivity losses.
Remotely BAU Handling and Problem Solving
Another aspect to consider is to hand the “Business As Usual” (BAU) in a fully remote way, is definetely not the same that to have a conference call to collaborate between teams once per week or month. Moreover, collaboration pathways and its intensity will vary according to industries, companies and departments. Furthermore, it is important to consider this article is focused on offices which workplaces are facing completely different challenges that the ones faced, for instances, by plants. Firstly, a digital information centre is needed where each team member workload and performance can be not only shown but also followed up. Whether Power BI or Excel is used to create the digital information centre the objective is to create visibility in workload and performance not only for the manager but also for the team, hence its purpose is not “micromanaging”. Secondly, daily meetings within teams and at least weekly ones with customer, suppliers, business partners and key stakeholders must be held either through Webex, MS-Teams or other platform what is most important is that these are all “team meetings” and not “one on ones” used for coaching purposes. Thirdly, daily issues must be separated from BAU in order to avoid its “normalization”. Then, based on skills and workload, issues should be assigned to different team members to tackle them by using simple Problem-Solving tools like PDCA-A3 and a lot of teamwork either with not only with colleagues within the team but also customers, suppliers and members from other teams within the company.
Reshaping Leadership and Empowering People
By developing tailormade ways of working which allow each team to achieve effective collaborations to remotely handle the BAU and solve daily problems, people will be safe while creating value for customer and shareholders. However, organizations need to ask themselves if their leaders and employees are prepared enough to face the challenges not only to manage and work within a completely remote and different framework but also in the middle of Covid-19 crisis. Probably the answer in most of the cases is “No”, therefore it is essential to reshape leadership by developing coaching skills not only to create or increase team’s flexibility, which is more important than ever before, but also to help the team coping with uncertainty, fears and difficult situations. On the other hand, organizations must empower their employees to maximize their ability to work remotely not only by developing problem solving capabilities but also making them more resilient to face challenges of working from home, deal with isolation feelings and keep spirits up while living all sorts stressful situations due to Covid-19’s crisis. Moreover, organizations need to ensure that the technological infrastructure is available and an indeed an enabler instead of another issue for the people to deal with. Furthermore, organizations and leaders should role modelling people by being flexible to bring organizational agility when it is most needed. To conclude, I would like to share a quote from Bill Gates: “Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent.”
Thanks for Reading.