“Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world”…We don’t know exactly when Lauren Bacall quoted these famous words, but we’re sure the Hollywood great wasn’t talking about business and the digital transformation forced upon us in 2020 – or was she? The problem for people, let alone most business’, is that the familiar, the short term, and that which we understand and oversee, feels safest to us. That can lead to many business owners and those responsible for digitising the workplace to believing that they have taken the safest route, when actually, they are just not taking into consideration risks that genuinely impact the business in combination with a workforce that demands greater flexibility. Which brings me to the current crisis.
The structure of the workplace, cognitive demands and employee well-being
All of a sudden we were, and in many regions around the world still are confronted with a new situation where face-to-face contact is, at the very least, discouraged. Business was essentially forced to operate with each staff member working remotely, but somehow needing to work collaboratively with other team members or serving customers to ‘keep the light on’. It has been a bit of a scramble for most. Suddenly taking the ‘safest route’ over the last couple of years has been the downfall of many a business.
This pandemic has been, for most businesses, the perfect storm. Those who have been slow to adapt to new work settings and digitisation of core processes were simply not ready for their staff to work from home, let alone most of their staff to work from home. Lets say a business did nothing towards Business Continuity Planning (BCP) and never considered a pandemic scenario – if they had however been more open to greater flexibility in working arrangements and been on the path to adopting infrastructure to allow work-from-anywhere, a business could have been ready for a disaster scenario like we have just faced. When this disaster actually hit us some months ago, this business, with a few small tweaks to their organisational design, could have much more readily been able to cope.
The temporary solution
All businesses want, and need, to serve their customers; therefore acting quickly has been necessary.
I’ve seen most organisations granting access to systems and software to make it possible to work remotely. Unfortunately this has been a reactive move to allow staff to work and perform their daily duties with little to no guidance by corporate policies, information governance or cyber-security consideration. There has been forms of ‘digitisation’ but not proper and formal business transformation.
Very rarely do I see temporary solutions being dismantled. They may or may not get improved upon over time, but they tend to stick. The way in which most business has reacted to a changing workplace has been rapid with no consideration of governance and compliance. Therefore holes exist in:
- Technology (allowing malicious hackers to steal or internal staff to accidentally leak sensitive data);
- Process (such as operating procedures); and
- How the business is actually structured to work remotely (though its lack of proper organisational design).
When the temporary become permanent
I’m sure we’re tired of hearing the phrase “the new normal”. The fact of this matter is that we as a working world will never be the same again. Some people love working from home, some business owners now love a revolving workforce where 50% of the staff come into a smaller, reduced floorspace office on rotating weeks. There are many aspects of this forced change that will stay. Business must adapt properly to these changes – it is a new world for all of us.
Here too, I would like you to take a moment to consider the broader picture. Thinking for the long term about your own business will allow you to implement solutions that also facilitate new ways to serve your clients digitally.
There are 4 key business transformation areas a business needs to focus on to be successful in its ability to operate in this ‘new normal’:
- Analysis of capability and resultant organisational design;
- Processes and human capital – working in harmony;
- Systems to support change and growth; and
- Security and information protection now must be front of mind.
These key areas will be discussed in detail in future blogs. If you need help on these aspects in the meantime, or want more information on topics discussed in this blog, drop me an email or message me on LinkedIn.