Saturday, 27 June 2020

Nothing wrong with accepting help

Many of us think we are very good at what we do for a living. Some are even arrogant enough to think they are ‘the best’.  Companies sometime act as if they have a ‘divine right’ to their market share, or market superiority.

However, the words offenders must be politicians.  They know they are right and act accordingly.  This. can seem patronising or arrogant to the rest of us - even when we share the same, broad political views.  Politicians often take decisions  without apparently thinking things through - rarely seeming to consider the unintended consequences of their decision and subsequent actions.  When some of those consequences become apparent and suggest more thought is necessary, the politicians plough on, taking further actions  and creating more of a mess.  

Remember, when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

In the current pandemic, the UK government decided that some form of contact tracing would be helpful - allowing contact to be made with those that had been in contact with others recently diagnosed with COVID-19. A number of other countries had already implemented technology - via smartphones - to assist with this ... and Google and Apple had already collaborated on the core technology for such an app, leaving governments to add the user interface and tailor the top level to meet their own needs.

Did the NHS (National Health Service) or the British government go with Google/Apple technology?  No, they did not.  they were arrogant enough to think they could do it on their own, and presumably do it better .... even though the record of major computer system implementation in the NHS is one of failure, overspend and scandal.  

Why would you not adopt what is in effect a global standard? ... especially one which had been developed (thanks, presumably to Apple) with privacy in mind.

But no. The UK government and NHS went ahead, trialled their app on the Isle of Wight, found it didn't work  and  then announced a delay in implementation before going ahead with a people-based  (and expensive) track and trace approach.

Sometimes politicians - and companies - just have to accept their limitations and seek help from those better equipped to deliver. 

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Motivate, don't measure.

The last few months have confirmed what many of us already knew.  That monitoring the behaviour and performance of employees can help improve that performance.  However, when many, if not all, of those employees are working remotely, such monitoring becomes difficult.

However, the other, more important lesson learned from lockdown is that monitoring employee performance is less successful than creating high performance via a positive and supportive culture which creates engaged and self-motivated employees, eager to make their contribution irrespective of the type or level of monitoring.

Again, continuing to fully engage employees is not always easy.

Obviously, engagement starts with communication, so the various communication tools the have come into common usage ca be very helpful … but only if you:
  • communicate in the right way
  • communicate the right things.

Employees need information to do their jobs effectively. So shared file systems can also be important -ensuring employees can tap into organisational databases and reference files.

It can be  useful to allow communication about non-work-related topics - the equivalent of moving the water-cooler or other social focal point online - but there should be  a separate channel for this ... and clear protocols about what can, and cannot, be included on ‘official’ channels.

We are talking about culture here, so it is important to continually reinforce the organisation’s core values - by what is said and what actions follow.

Effective communication is always dependent on the will to communicate. If the will is there, ways can be found to make the communication effective. And if the messages sent show trust and a commitment to shared values, employees should be engaged and reassured.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

What can we not do?

Many of us have become used to working remotely during the COVID 19 pandemic.Some of us have become used to managing others remotely - though there are still issues to resolve.  Of course, some processes are more difficult than others and, for some, we need specialist software support.

But ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. If we can’t do things face-to-face, we have to find ways of doing them remotely.

Can we hire people. Yes, we can. The administration of the hiring process can obviously be carried out remotely - and  we can use our remote meeting technologies to conduct online interviews - though this needs careful planning and preparation.

We can monitor performance - though here we have to avoid a simple emphasis on ‘duration of activity’ and find ways to monitor and assess outcomes or achievements.

We can communicate - work instructions, rules and regulations, and even elements of the organisation’s values and culture. 

We can carry out training - using online learning, video demonstrations and so on. 

So, it seems as though the question is not ‘What can we do remotely?’ But rather ‘What can we not do remotely?’.   Humans are innovators; they like a challenge.  

We have a range of technologies at our disposal. Let’s think creatively; let’s get things done.

Some of the things we have started will continue when the pandemic is over. Let’s have a positive legacy from the awful situation! 

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Good luck!

I got my quarterly summary of the performance of my various financial investments recently. As expected, results were not good. So many companies have not been able to trade at all, others have been seriously affected by lockdown and quarantine arrangements.

But, of course, some companies have been able to take advantage of their ‘special situation’.  Supermarkets have had some problems but have remained open, able to take advantage of the fact that people cannot go out to cafes and restaurants and thus were forced to buy and cook their own food. Supermarkets were even able to sell less essential items, giving them a temporary market advantage over their locked-down competitors.

A small number of companies in other sectors had similar strokes of luck - enabling three to take advantage - albeit temporarily - of a temporary market advantage.

Probably the biggest winners were those who had an established online business - but, of course, they also needed to have the ability to raise capacity quickly.

Ancillary service companies - delivery/courier services, for example, have seen a real boost to their business.
Did you manage to invest in such companies early in the lockdown - recognising and exploiting the potential?  I did not.

It does, however, remind us that in most situations, however dire, there remain opportunities. Not always to take financial advantage - but to take some advantage of the opportunity to focus - on writing - for example - while there are fewer distractions around.  

Those who succeed are often simply those who recognise opportunities early - and act on that recognition.

But, what the above suggested, is there is no substitute for good luck.  Successful companies recognise their luck and swiftly line up behind it and push it to the winning post!