For the first time in recent history, millions of people across the globe are at home, isolated from our offices, our hobbies and our communities. While our heroic front-line providers are worn ragged, many of the rest of us are wondering how to utilize this unexpected downtime. The same issue extends to the business world, where key objectives have been paused as the landscapes of our organizations have suddenly and drastically changed.
Even though face-to-face opportunities have come to a screeching halt, organizations can’t afford to put strategic initiatives on hold. Whether the effort is a company-wide transformation, capability-building, or creating a differentiated strategy, no organization should push the pause button on critical objectives. In fact, I would argue that you should do just the opposite. By pressing forward now, you can strengthen your organization not just for the benefit of your company, but also for the employees and customers who depend on you during this uncertain time.
Five Ways to Improve Outcomes in this Unique Time
1. Act now: Take advantage of your captive audience and set aside time for strategic discussions. I’ve been privy to recent conversations following digital strategic organization design sessions, where participants commented, “Why does it take a pandemic to finally get our teams together and have these kinds of strategic discussions?” and “I never thought we could be this productive doing organization design in a virtual environment.”
Extensive research conducted by Global Workplace Analytics among numerous Fortune 500 companies found that remote engagement can equalize personalities and increase the productivity of planning activities. Actually, you may find your management team to be more comfortable, void of distractions, and at their collaborative best in a virtual setting.
2. Choose your digital platforms carefully: We have found that videoconferencing set up to operate in conjunction with complimentary collaboration tools is highly effective.
Before setting up a virtual meeting, look at what makes your team successful in face-to-face interactions and try to replicate that in this new environment. If brainstorming thrives when ideas are written on sticky notes or jotted on a whiteboard, how can you recreate that in a virtual space?
3. Partner with subject matter experts: This is a great opportunity to bring in outside experts to help guide your team through strategic conversations, planning and design. You may also find that you have your own internal subject matter experts who can be assembled in strategic teams.
4. Think strategically: Don’t be myopic about the types of activities you can conduct with your virtual teams. Now is the time for you to consider how your organization can be transformed to achieve unmet targets, improve disconnected workflows, optimize resource allocation, eliminate role confusion, overcome productivity problems, and/or codify lengthy decision-making processes.
There are many high-value, strategic activities that can be accomplished digitally with high levels of quality and thoroughness. I have witnessed leaders collaboratively improve their operating model design, contingency management plans, strategic organization design, or internal capability building, each with tremendous success using digital means.
5. Plan for the next “normal”: What will your organization look like post-pandemic? What can be planned “now,” for a better “then”? One very serious consideration for every organization should be how your business strategy will align with a large new workforce of remote employees.
Global Workplace Analytics’ compilation of research finds that two-thirds of people want to work from home, 36 percent would choose working from home over a pay raise, and 80 percent of surveyed employees consider telework to be a job perk. People who have unexpectedly become comfortable working from home may be more likely to seek long-term telecommuting opportunities.
Employers have found that telecommuting increases productivity, reduces turnover and unscheduled absences, and decreases overhead costs. With many of your employees now working from home, you might consider whether telecommuting could have a stronger future in your organization and, if so, how you will establish best practices for the long term.
In the midst of all of the current challenges, we also have many opportunities to utilize the temporarily reduced demands on our time to become better at what we do. As a leader of your organization, you can focus on ensuring your company emerges on the other side of this current crisis in a better position for the future.
It would be easy to believe that Shakespeare foresaw today’s tumultuous times when he wrote, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”