How to make remote working work
The impact of Covid-19
Covid-19 is having a profound impact upon the world of work. Businesses are first and foremost protecting their people and mitigating critical business continuity risks. The impact upon supply chains and consumer demand present a clear and present danger. For some businesses, like airlines, a potentially existential one. Most businesses will hopefully weather the storm. But just getting through to the other side is not enough. Leaders will do everything they can to maintain business performance with a focus on minimising the threat to effective collaboration and innovation.
In a digital economy, success and sustainability are driven by the ability to out-innovate and change faster than the competition. This is underpinned by multi-disciplinary teams, agile ways of working and an organisation that is porous to the voice of the customer and the power of the ecosystem. Many organisations are highly dependent upon face-to-face interaction to make this work.
The steady march to remote working has become a sprint
The impact of the virus represents a sudden acceleration in a long-term trend toward remote working. We are unlikely to go back. The economic effects of the virus will put further pressure on travel and office budgets. Flying to meetings was becoming hard to reconcile with zero carbon commitments before the current crisis even started.
Companies able to adjust to this new reality and make remote working viable and in many cases better than the alternative will find a sustained source of competitive advantage.
Technology + Process + Training + Leadership
Technology has played a critical role in enabling dispersed global teams to function effectively. Communication is cheap and instant with tools like Teams, Skype and Zoom, which allow video conferencing, call recording and screen sharing at the click of a button. Zoom’s market capitalisation demonstrates the value placed upon effective remote collaboration, particularly in the event of a global pandemic.
Unfortunately, making remote collaboration work effectively is hard. Facilitating a meeting or workshop when everyone is in the same room is tough and doing it remotely is tougher. Collaboration requires a big investment in collective time. And there is always the risk that the collaborative output is inferior to that which would have been produced individually as the challenges of working collaboratively (free-riding, group think etc.) outweigh the benefits.
Just making the technology available is insufficient. It needs to be combined with process, training and leadership.
Businesses invest a lot in defining and optimising business processes from sales to billing. The processes that underpin collaboration get less focus. This needs to be fixed and should cover the following:
- Analysis of current collaboration activities to develop an understanding of what is working and what is not. There are a number of organisations offering capability assessments to support this process. This analysis needs to consider the implications of a world where most employees will be working from home for some time
- Regular meeting cadence, structure, decision rights and follow-up process to drive action and outcome. In a remote working world clarity here is absolutely critical to maintain effective business governance and decision making
- The process to plan, design, run and drive outcomes from workshops. Workshops are critical to collaboration with active facilitation and structure allowing them to massively outperform meetings in terms of business impact. When remote the need for structure becomes even more acute
- The innovation life-cycle, including approach to generate and screen ideas, prototype and iterate and scale into the core business. Innovation cannot stop due to the pandemic. The process of innovation is often grounded in chance encounters, customer / user interaction, supply chain and ecosystem integration and heavy face-to-face collaboration. The full innovation process needs to be assessed and re-designed to work in a remote world. This will imply compromises for example there may be limitations around the ability to prototype and test with end users
Effective remote working is not something that comes naturally. It requires training and practice. Start by identifying master practitioners and get them to run real sessions across the organisation so others can see what good looks like and learn from it. Look to blend with aligned initiatives around scaling design thinking and agile. Provide interactive how to guides and establish the means to share best practice insights and success stories.
Leaders need to set an example. They need to do the training, demonstrate the required behaviours and provide a consistent and powerful message as to the importance of new ways of working to the overall success of the business. They should find bright spots and promote them, accelerate the adoption of new tooling by removing barriers and invest time and money in making remote work effective. This means ownership of the agenda by the core business as a business priority. In the current context effective leadership of the shift to remote working is a business continuity imperative.
To kick-start this process organisations need to embed the key success factors to effective remote workshop facilitation in addition to wider advice on how people can successfully work and collaborate from home.
The power of Axis
As organisations look to adjust to the reality of sustained remote collaboration Axis offers an enterprise solution to help by democratising access to effective workshop facilitation that generates brilliant ideas and better decisions.
We make it simple, easy and quick for anyone to facilitate consistently brilliant meetings and workshops. A meeting where every voice is heard, hidden truths and insight are surfaced, and distance is no longer a barrier to participation. And we cut the effort to prep and write-up by over 90%.
We do this by digitising meeting facilitation and participation through a web-based application. Our digital workshop platform enables you to plan a tailored workshop in minutes using a best practice structure from framing the context to planning for action. There are a variety of methods designed to enable remote co-creation and collective decision making. The whole workshop is clearly sign-posted with a simple step-by-step process that makes facilitation effortless and effective. It becomes easy to keep a remote workshop on track and focused.