Saturday, 30 May 2020

Sometimes it is too easy

Most of the world is slowly emerging from some form of lockdown. It is still too early to establish what the ‘new normal’ looks like - how have people’s habits changed due to the enforced period of isolation?  Many people will rush back to their old habits - but many will not.  They will have re-evaluated their values, their beliefs, their priorities - and changed actions and behaviours as a result.

Companies too will have re-evaluated.  We are almost bound to see quite a few re-evaluate the need for great estate - when home working proved so successful for many.

Many of us got used to ‘virtual meetings’ and found Zoom, Teams, Skype and Facetime  very easy to use ..... perhaps too easy.

When email first arrived, it too was very easy and convenient - but this very ease of use turned it into a monster - that consumes attention, focus and resource. We copy too many people into emails and often do not make it clear who is to action  the email. Many people find their lives dominated by email - and not just within working hours.

Virtual meetings might go the same way. Because the various platforms are so easy to use, we might find ourselves swamped by requests to participate in many more meetings - just as we were copied into more and more emails.

Companies need to get a grip on their use of virtual meetings - setting a protocol for when and how they should be used, who has the authority to call them in various situations, how they should be ‘minuted’ or recorded, etc.

Otherwise they will be counter-productive, sucking productivity out of the organisation and demoralising staff. We need to start thinking now about their use - and misuse.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Where are the leaders?

During any crisis which affects large swathes of the population, any nation needs leaders who can galvanise the collective spirit and collective will of the people to withstand the pressures of the crisis and take the actions necessary to survive and emerge from it.

In wartime situations, such leaders tend to emerge - though  not always.  Too often  what we get arw crisis managers who try to marshal resources and manage the situation, without creating the shared will and the shared vision of a future worth fighting for.

America has for long been held up as the leader of the free world’ - but, in this Coronavirus crisis, we have seen little evidence of any leadership from that source.  America has looked inward, looking after its own…but in a shared, global crisis, this is not enough. We need concerted, cooperative action - and policy-making - based on effective global leadership.

The European Union has also failed its constituency - where has been the agreed pan-European action or policy-making?

As we slowly emerge from the crisis, we will again need leadership, concerted action and shared policy-making to help rebuild the global economy. However, what I expect to see is increased competition,, increased insularity, less free trade and less cooperation.  This puts post-Brexit Britain in a difficult position - looking to negotiate tariff-free trade deals in a situation where everyone is looking to protect their own economies.

Where are the leaders we need?

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Sunny Outlook

Since the lockdown started in the UYK, the weather has been very good. Small compensation, perhaps ... but let's count our blessings.

Of course, once, when the weather was good, we did all we could to maximise our harvest - so that stocks of food could see us through the bad times that would inevitably come.

The current economic crisis seems to suggest that many people and most firms - have not bothered to invest in the future.  They have taken their returns in the good times - and expect government to see them through the bad times.

Being optimistic - as I am, we will get through this ... and signs are currently quite good.

Being a realist - which I also am - the economy of the UK will be in a mess.

Future generations will have to pick up the tab.

For now though, I listen to the weather forecast for next week - which is excellent - and I go about with a smile on my face.    Let's smile together - and at each other.  Let's smile out way into a better future.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

No Difference

If, like most, people, you have been  working from home for the last few weeks, you will no doubt have participated in (endured?) a number of online meetings.

Presumably, therefore, you will have a list of things that you should do to make such meetings effective.

If you compare that list to the things you would have written when answering the same question about face-to-face meetings, you will probably find little difference.

Of course there is the added issue of ensuring that everyone  has the right technology and knows how to use it  … but that is the easy part.

Apart from technology, key ’DOs’ are:

  • make sure the purpose of the meeting is clear and shared by all participants. (Is it to collect and share information, to each a consensus, to make a decision?) 
  • construct and share an agenda (with timed entries) so that people can prepare for the meetings. If appropriate, ensure people know which data/information they are responsible for bringing to the meeting
  • make sure all participants have their chance to contribute (this means that you, if you are the meeting host, need to know the tools that are available within you platform of choice that enable you to do this)
  • Stick, as far as possible, Ito the agenda/schedule
  • Summarise each discussion and make any future actions and responsibilities  (with deadlines) clear
  • If you are trying to reach a consensus, take advantage of any included polling features to collect views.

As we said above, apart from making sure everyone - especially you, as host - knows how to operate the software, these DOs apply just as well to face-to-face meetings.

This is quite common. Technology doesn’t fundamentally change what we do - it can make what we do more effective (or it can make us inefficient and ineffective faster!)

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Home working lessons

Many people have been working from home for a few weeks - presumably with varying degrees of efficiency and effectiveness.

Those companies that had detailed and up-to-date disaster recovery plans might have planned for such a scenario - a disaster (pandemic, explosion on-site, etc) that rendered the normal office site inoperable or inaccessible.

They will haver ensured they had enough equipment to provide all key staff with the facilities to work from home - and they would have trained staff in the processes and procedures that made home working possible .They will have beefed up their networking infrastructure to cope with increased incoming traffic - and ensured  backup procedures were automated and system-wide.

They will also have trained supervisory staff and managers in ways of managing and mentoring remote workers, established protocols for online meetings  - and so on.

Of course all of this would have reduced the risk - or the consequences of the risk - but would also have made the organisation more effective during ‘normal’ working:.  After all, strengthening infrastructure and skills is never wasted investment.