The shock and awe of Covid-19
The social and economic impact of Covid-19 cannot be understated.
The seismic shock on the national economy is super-massive and will be a huge trench from which to rise. But the lockdown and the future way we learn to live with Covid-19 is already hugely disrupting how organisations function.
No business continuity plan could anticipate a sudden stop like this. The digital capability of organisations are being tested to the full. Homeworking has driven service delivery online. Zoom, Teams, WhatsApp and Hangouts are already creating the new normal for collaboration. From well-established online shopping to mass awareness of online leisure models such as Zwift and Peloton. We are fast becoming accustomed to doing everyday things in a more digital manner. This is giving us a sudden peek into a new world of possibilities.
Deal with the bad, embrace the good
However it’s not all bad news – lockdown has shown that they are new ways to tackle traffic congestion and air pollution. Empty roads and clean, fresh air feels like a throw back to a begone age. But for organisations and workforces the genie is out of the bottle. More people than imagined can now work from home and customers, for a variety of health, safety and convenience reasons now want to maximise digital services. So, whilst organisations have talked about being digital by default or choice this is now the new reality. Digital now matters most.
The old ways will not cut it
How many workers will opt back into the daily grind of the commute when life can unexpectedly feel better without moving across the doorstep? How many customers want to queue at a customer services point or attend a physical meeting at offices or invite others into their home in the new world of social distancing? Who will happily sit in a crowded meeting, a physical training event, a conference or even a lunchtime canteen? This will all need to be re-thought and re-invented.
Moreover, some organisations are already being caught out. Old IT constructs that have been built around office working and the dead hand of information governance are limiting productivity and collaboration. Many have not made the real digital journey and whilst some staff have maintained a level of productivity for others it has been a shockwave. Culture built around office practise or people left unable to access key systems or manage workflow without bureaucratic approval processes. This won’t hold water in the new world we are hurtling towards.
So much to change, to fix
It’s a huge list of things to tackle, and this list goes on and on…
- How do organisations quicken the pace of technology transformation to survive, thrive and get all their workforce remotely productive?
- How does improvisation and getting things done rapidly become the norm? This is the real face of agile not the fashions that currently prevail. Daily stand-ups and scrums – will think again.
- What do organisations do with expensive building assets that in a socially distanced, home-orientated working world add cost not value? Will we see the end of the meetings culture that occupy management time? If so, the productive value could be high.
Can this be the end of managerialism and the beginning of the trusted employee? Will we move from a world of presenteeism at the office to socially remote working driven by self-management? Therefore a different kind of leadership and motivation will be required. And in delivering the positives of the new normal, how do organisations address the downsides – like social isolation, championing the physical health and wellbeing of employees?
Only by questioning what organisations need to do to become people-orientated, digital first businesses can the new future of work be laid out.
So what should organisations do as the lockdown ends and the battle of the fittest begins?
We definitely have a lot more questions than answers at this point as the full impact of Covid-19 on the economy and on future social behaviours work their way through our lives.
Here’s a few thoughts on what organisations may be able to do:
Reset corporate strategy
Some blue sky thinking is needed sooner or later to figure out the real organisational purpose in the new normal. Who will need your services, your help the most? How will the application of digital technology, long desirable, now essential, really play out in the new world for organisations and communities? What initiatives and investments are no longer worthwhile and what new ideas and re-prioritising is really needed to urgently drive change? What do we do with buildings we may no longer need? Future leaders will need to step up to the plate on these matters.
Think, really think hard about the customer
Serve the customer like you mean it. Ask how we really, fully design service delivery around the customer. If you are an organisation that serves people and communities how has/will this change? What are the new priorities and must-do’s? How do services need to be designed differently, rapidly and through digital channels? How do we really engage the voice of the customer? We will all have to use our data better to protect and serve our customers. Customer service must mean just that.
Challenge the technology
How much of the IT strategy, the current infrastructure and application architecture is still valid for supporting home-working and distance-based service delivery? Imagine an organisation with a dispersed rather than central hub and what would this architecture look like? Building this new backbone, through cloud and mobile first will be the new norm.
Pause and re-think current transformational efforts
Pause and critically review the programme you may be delivering – how much of this is now relevant? How much effort has really gone into designing services around digital as the primary channel? What are the new investments and priorities to drive this further? How will we learn to improvise and get things done rapidly, pragmatic not perfect; avoiding the dogma of current prevailing project management theories? Transformation will need to be re-invested in a very different way.
Up the game for your people
We won’t have traditional human resources in the new world, but instead support people with concerns, fears and hopes. This will need a new organisational model of workforce support. How will greater isolation impact on mental health, motivation, self-fulfilment, and mutual collaboration? How will teams work differently, better? If managing is to be dramatically different, then how, and how will we create a new trust-based, more permissive organisation? Much more investment will be needed here to create a new caring, people environment that is both dispersed and connected at the same time.
Towards a new beginning
This article doesn’t claim to provide all the answers – there is still much learning to be done – but it hopefully it helps to ask a few important questions that face organisations going forward.
We live in strange times, as Douglas Adams said, but rarely this strange. We are approaching the end of the beginning of a world-changing but also organisational changing experience that will usher in a permanent change. Starting on the journey is always better sooner than later.
Stephen Gray – [email protected]
Always happy to discuss all the above….Back to News Index