Post-lockdown success demands yet more new ways of working
Apply lessons learned during the pandemic and pick people who can act on them quickly
published : 20 Sep 2021 at 06:25
writer: Arinya Talerngsri
The imminent reopening promised by the government will be welcomed by most leaders. However, we will not be coming back to either the old or current business as usual.
All organisations will face rapid waves of change in creating new ways of working. They will quickly have to figure out how to reorganise operations (with an eye to possible further shutdowns) and lead their teams. They also need to balance the new needs of customers and employees.
Last month I joined a session SEAC had arranged with Stephen Denning, author of The Age of Agile and a former World Bank director. Steve shared some fascinating insights on what agile was and was not. After reflecting on my experience, I have some simple ideas based on my observations that I’d like to share with you.
I think every organisation has seen its ways of working transformed by closure, social distancing, or market/ supply chain disruption. Every organisation has had to improvise because no philosophy — agile, to name just one — was developed for what we are currently experiencing. I believe certain principles emerged that can be used as guidelines in the next few months.
Work out your new management needs quickly: Existing management models will struggle. They are too slow. More so than even in lockdown, leaders now need to free the talents of their people. Technology adoption is driving this management transformation. Bureaucracy is not for the new world; how can we ensure it doesn’t creep back in as we return to the office?
Now the customer really, really, really is king: Because so much will continue to change so quickly, only organisations that really buy into customer obsession will come out ahead. Although companies have faced fierce financial challenges, the focus now must be increasing value to customers. Covid really taught us we are not the centre of customers’ universes.
We can no longer supply a partial solution or just a good enough product. Now, everything we do and how we do it in the organisation needs to be focused on customers. Many companies learned this the hard way over the past 18 months and must now ensure there is no backsliding.
Just the essentials: Stop doing the things that don’t directly help customers, or that we do just because we have always done them. Some research shows that before Covid, up to 40% of work in organisations did not add any value. During the pandemic we all got leaner, and we must stay that way and instead invest in building the new capabilities we need, rather than recreating old kingdoms. Customer responses must guide what we do and do not do more than ever before.
Organise and execute through small teams: One pleasant surprise we learned during the pandemic is how how quickly new things could be achieved by small, empowered teams. By providing purpose and removing bureaucracy, it has been a revelation to see what is possible.
Leaders and managers must not go back to old organisational models because there are so many things to do now. The walls between parts of the organisation must stay down, and teams must retain the flexibility they need to succeed.
Increase empathy: Ways of working must be based on really understanding how other people, customers, colleagues, and team members think. This requires a very human-centric approach. Convincing employees to adapt using logic will only work if they agree with you. Ruling with an iron fist is the worst possible choice now.
Creating and making new ways of working stick requires inspiration, and this is built on empathy. Organisations now need to help leaders build skills to get people to want to change how work gets done.
Get started: Your leaders need to say we need to do things differently and experiment. The exact answer will be different for each organisation. Work with your early adopters and innovators because these will be the future of your organisation once any remaining dinosaurs fail to adapt.
Also, don’t limit ideas to those that come from the people with the titles, because all ideas should be open for discussion. Finally, as Stephen Denning shared, ensure that new-normal competence, not noise, is driving the conversation.
Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Talk to us about how SEAC can help your business during times of uncertainty at https://forms.gle/wf8upGdmwprxC6Ey9