It wasn’t that long ago I was attending conferences, listening to podcasts and reading articles about remote working being the future. . . . and yet here we are two months later, living that future. I have always been a proponent of not being chained to an office, in so many ways it doesn’t fit with the 24/7 mobile world in which we were living. But people often assume working from home is “shirking” from home; with individuals sitting in their pyjamas, idly tapping a laptop whilst watching Netflix. (just for the record, those people that shirk at work, will also be the people that shirk at home)
This crisis has shown that a) large-scale working from home is entirely possible and productive, and b) it’s possible to implement transformational change within a couple of weeks.
In my experience transformational change takes far too long. This is due to a number of reasons: changes are required to go through various decision-making committees and layers of bureaucracy, there is often an absolute requirement for a multiple detailed business cases, consultation is required with every stakeholder possible and most often too many people are involved in pushing the change forward.
However, it is my belief that the underlying reason that transformational change takes too long, is fear. Fear of making the wrong decision, fear of making a mistake, fear of upsetting people, fear of change. I have worked in business transformation and used Lean thinking for most of my career, and in my experience fear of change is the biggest barrier to step change.
If Covid-19 has taught us one thing, it’s that we can achieve goals and targets quickly, if we choose to. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure when this is all over there will be a myriad of lessons to be learned for the future – about how we could have done things differently or better – but this must be balanced against pace of change and providing a modern and excellent service to our residents, customers and staff.
Within Notting Hill Genesis we moved an entire workforce to remote working in a matter of days. This meant providing people with the right equipment, producing policies and guidance on how to work from home, understanding how to performance manage at a distance, producing materials on managing mental health, ensuring home working environments were suitable and rolling out training to use new software. . . . . the list goes on.
I am relatively sure if we had opted to roll out this policy in “peacetime” it would have taken a significant amount of time and resource. In this instance the necessity, the burning platform, outweighed the fear of doing something wrong.
What does all this mean for our businesses as a future? If we want to make real change and quickly we need to decide on and create our own burning platforms, we need to reduce the number of decision makers in each process, create small and agile teams to solve problems, we need to devolve decision making to the lowest point possible (assessed on risk) and trust our people to achieve our goals.