The New World
The New World. 2021’s new favourite corporate cliché, but what is this and what does it mean for businesses?
On the surface it is all about solidifying new remote and flexible working arrangements, however, business leaders should be aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of business have been through huge turbulence and a triple-lockdown over the last 12 months, forcing internal discussions about cost exposure, efficiencies and opportunity.
The suddenness of the pandemic and the restrictions it created, forced us all to adopt remote working practices. Most are reporting a successful transition, but in the longer term, there must be a full adjustment to “The New World” and further business transformation that reaches beyond simply buying more laptops and corporate Zoom accounts.
Through our numerous conversations with Business Leaders and Senior Finance Professionals, at least 95% have committed to a degree of further business transformation. Reviewing real estate commitments naturally sit high on the priority list, but equally and critically important is systemisation. Systemisation does not just mean new systems, but the identification and re-engineering of processes and procedures that enable virtual collaboration. Those systems and engagement methods that can replace those water cooler moments to account for the loss of walking over to a colleague, and to replace asking questions of your manager across the desk.
Through these conversations, we have identified three core themes of concern.
Inbox Enlargement: The significant increase in email traffic will come as no surprise to us all as a result of the inability to have a quick chat or series of quick chats;
- It is an unrealistic expectation to be able to call through to every stakeholder in a day and expect an immediate answer or response. The fall back in this scenario is to send an email; a long-winded written version of the information (with errors and omissions likely) or booking in a time to talk have a conversation. That could, with some back and forth, be a handful of emails exchanged over several hours before a discussion has even begun.
- There is also the unconscious attitude we all have to difficult pieces of work and potential bad news which pushes tasks down the pecking order giving way to even more traffic by having to chase colleagues and escalate.
Calendar Congestion:Whilst our inboxes are becoming even fuller, our calendars are also following suit;
- This point is even more obvious; without being able to catch people sat at their desks for a few minutes to show them some data and get a response, we default to diarising that conversation. Multiply that by the number of stakeholders you deal with on a regular basis, the diary becomes rather dense – not to mention video calls most certainly taking longer in general than face to face meetings (“You’re still on mute” …. “You just broke up. Can you repeat that?” …. “Sorry I’m late, my other VC ran over” …)
- If you have a decent sized team or are in conversations for most of the day, “Zoom Fatigue” will almost certainly set in and effect productivity. Not to mention the unnatural-ness of video calls and the unconscious over-formality everyone has that cause lengthier conversations.
- The lead time of successful onboarding of new team members is also significantly affected with the lack of opportunity to shadow and closely advise.
Solution Stagnation: Problem/Error management has become more time consuming. Issues are identified later and risk profile increases;
- The simplicity and speed of bringing a team into a meeting room to deal with something there and then has not existed for the past 12 months. The time it now takes to talk to relevant parties, agree a mutually convenient time, create a plan, and then agree a follow up procedure is now hours and days, not minutes as it would have been.
There is logic to implement some basic strategies to alleviate this, such as “No VC Fridays”, but adding more layers of policy, process or controls will not necessarily make things easier. The long-term strategy should be a fully transformative one. Implementing a culture of continuous improvement, identifying new supporting technologies, workflow tools, management techniques and outsourcing arrangements are essential to streamline and future proof our working practices.
All businesses need to think about what “The New World” means for them and how they can successfully transition their business and teams to work effectively in it. Most scenarios will look significantly more virtual with smooth, simple collaboration, connectedness, and delivery being the end state. We all have technology on our side but without an understanding of what these new processes and operating models should look like, it will be impossible to maintain a high performing working environment. The transformative process must begin now.