I have been working with companies to help them solve complicated problems and improve performance for over thirty years now. Over that time, I have developed the ability to sniff out the issues, underlying causes and then galvanise action and buy in to the plan. Much of this has been using the “go, look, see and feel” approach. When you walk around a factory, an office or meet people face to face, you can pick up the clues to the issues and their causes –piles of inventory, body language, scrap bins or office chats all point in the direction of the underlying causes of issues in companies. All of this can then be supported by rigorous analysis of data.
So, with this so called “new normal”, does that mean I am now obsolete? I don’t think so! I wanted to share a little of my experience of moving from helping clients face to face, to the remote working we are all getting used to.
Five years ago, I would drive 36k miles in an average year visiting clients around the country, 3000 miles a month! Last month I did 5 miles in my car, two trips to Screwfix! But I have continued to work at helping my clients address their difficult problems.
My story doesn’t start with Covid-19, it goes back a couple of years when I started a transformation programme with a global client working across 18 hours of time zones. They needed to move quickly to address some specific business risks – so I didn’t have time to go and visit locations from Sydney to San Francisco via Singapore. I had to learn how to diagnose, communicate and generate ownership and buy in to a plan remotely – on skype. Successful delivery of this programme has equipped me well for the Covid-19 transition and I moved seamlessly into consulting by skype. I won’t pretend it’s not difficult, because it is! But it is perfectly doable, it just takes a few adjustments to your normal way of working to make it happen.
1. You can’t bump into people – so you need to plan your stakeholder map so much harder.
2. Take time to get to know people “one to one”, don’t just jump into a workshop with 10 people you have never met.
3. Test your understanding more than once, question harder, get examples.
4. Think through the process of making a decision – they don’t just happen.
5. Communication is way more important than it ever was.
6. Do important stuff on video – body language doesn’t lie.
7. Hard wire your internet connection – PlayStation can ruin a Wi-Fi connection when the kids are playing Fortnite!
8. In your meetings collaborate around something – a PowerPoint that records decisions, a white board or something that makes sure everybody has the same interpretation.
9. Make notes, make lists, double check, cross off – it’s easy to leave actions behind and miss stuff.
10. Remote working lends itself to short sprints (like in Agile) – break the work down into bite size packages with a defined end and iterate.
11. Microsoft teams, OneDrive and other tools are actually quite good – collaboration doesn’t need lots of fancy applications. You can: create a white board with your iPad; share and collaborate on files in Excel, PowerPoint; and, work over video/audio reasonably robustly. Zoom even lets you create break out groups.
12. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good!
Much of this was always true, and working this way we can get 90% of the solution to a problem, with buy in. Which is way better than 0% of a solution because you won’t work remotely.
We continue to work with our clients to solve difficult problems – I’m not sure how long it will be, if ever, we get back into offices, but if you have something you are struggling with please get in touch and we can help you solve it remotely…
Article by John Riley, Partner at ConsultAvila. At ConsultAvila we are a team of experienced professionals who work closely with our clients to solve complex business problems. We have a track record of delivering SUSTAINABLECHANGE at pace in manufacturing companies. Our principal offerings are: Business and Operations strategy - from design to delivery; Business turnaround and programme recovery; End to end supply chain restructuring and cost reduction; and, Integrated business planning and inventory optimisation.