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ADAPTING TO CHANGE

16-04-2020    By  First Contact  

Solving the Now and Shaping the New Normal

Yes. The crisis has hit. Could we, as individuals or businesses have done anything to avoid it? No. But how we respond to it is entirely up to us.

While there has been a level of settling recently (for now, at least), the first few weeks saw drastic changes daily to people’s working lives. Organisations made decisions to have entire workforces work from home, public despair was, and still is, two-fold – divided between the economy and health. Between the 13th and 29th of March, government restrictions were updated no less than five times – and businesses waited on bated breath as to how these would affect them, as once again, they could do nothing about what they were – but how they adapted was up to them.

Even before the pandemic, there was a growing emphasis on risk, and effective risk management. 12 months ago, how many organisations would have had ‘infectious disease’ as a high priority on risk management plans? Looking to a risk matrix, yes, consequence would have been potentially high, but likelihood? No way. This has brought on a surge of ‘adapting on the fly’ within organisations, impacted even further by the daily changes imposed by both the situation, and government response.

So, how does a service-oriented organisation adapt to the changing needs of the customer, brought on by multi-layered environmental pressures? Well, first, we take a deep breath.

Then we get to work. 

SOLVING THE ‘NOW’

Our response has mirrored, to some extent, an approach highlighted by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). They state it is important to have two teams in response to a crisis – Our Crisis Management Team is focussing on the ‘now’ – day to day response to challenges that arise. We have also created a second, smaller team, tasked with ensuring the company adapts its business model for BAU, because if you think things will revert to normal once this is over, you’d better think again.

“To achieve this, two teams are required. The main team focuses on crisis management. It is a central, delegated decision-making group whose focus is on talking with a single voice (with a single consistent theme), responding quickly… The smaller team focuses on where the organisation wants to be after the crisis and works back from there”.[1]

So, what have we actioned so far? Firstly, there is no one single right approach, and we have had to adapt our way of thinking for our two main stakeholder groups – our staff and clients. For our clients, this has incorporated everything from assisting large-scale work from home transitions, to advising clients on potential risk ramifications – financial, reputational and workplace health & safety. For our staff, it has been about two main areas – staying positive and connected with each other, but also reassuring them and providing resources and options should they feel ill at ease. The AICD also states that we shouldn’t be over-promising to our staff in these times. Tell them how it is, and what you are doing for them.

“Establish clear parameters for unified leadership communication; be calm, be firm, be consistent, be clear, be empathetic, be a trusted voice of authority, don’t be over-optimistic, don’t make promises that can’t be delivered, don’t be excessively pessimistic, don’t be afraid to say “I am giving you the clearest answer available at the moment and will keep you informed”.”[2]

On an operational level, we are assisting our clients on a number of new processes (to First Contact). With a number of clients having call centres, these have been inundated with concerned members of the public – our teams are now assisting where possible to help in this space. Other organisations are separating their organisation into zones – with no physical crossover allowed, meaning that if one zone is affected, other parts of the business can still operate. Our teams are integrated into this, and have helped organisations coordinate this response.

Make no mistake – we have had our staffing model challenged. But workplaces still need to operate – people still need access – whether this be the essential departmental staff that cannot work remotely, or maintenance contractors (servers, and mission-critical equipment still need to operate).

SHAPING THE NEW NORMAL

Through the day-to-day response of our crisis management team, our smaller, BAU team is taking note. Where can we add value or change our way of thinking that we couldn’t have before? The short answer – almost everywhere.

Due to the crisis, some processes and functions within organisations are not operating at the moment. Now is the time to sit down, and apply design thinking. By challenging the norm (in less than normal circumstances), you can apply new ways of thinking to processes, and with little to no ramifications while these tasks sit idle, you can test, fine tune and ultimately have your new ways of working ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Specifically, when looking to apply the expense ‘blowtorch’ to your processes, what do you have to lose? With no large investment (the opposite in fact – utilising your downtime proactively) into these new processes, you can simply revert if needed – but all the brainstorming, testing and analysis remains as valuable company IP to be continued with.

What the next month or two will bring is anyone’s guess. We can only work off the information we have now. But one thing is clear: Now is not the time to be discouraged. We should all be too busy for that.

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[1] https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/resources/covid-19/covid-19-effective-internal-and-external-crisis-communications

[2]  https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/resources/covid-19/covid-19-effective-internal-and-external-crisis-communications

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