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How to keep the best of us

by | 26 Jul, 2020 | Company Culture, Covid-19, Leadership

The Covid-19 crisis has propelled us to achieve some great things. As a nation we rallied to defeat this virus. As individuals we became Zoom experts and found new rhythms (and comfy socks) in our working week. As organisations we discovered that the unthinkable became possible – we got things done faster and with less friction than ever before.

Some parts of the world seem to be going to hell in a hand-basket. But the crisis brought out the best in us.

It would be a shame to lose that. I now sense an anxiety that we may return to business as usual. We had a glimmer of a different way of working, but now we’re going to lose it.

There’s no doubt that crises can galvanise action. Never waste a good one, people say. Across my client group I see people buoyed by the success.

Some examples.

  • Digital access: in education, retail, health and government our organisations created digital solutions that would previously have taken months or years to deliver
  • Homelessness: how long have we been talking about providing the homeless with safe, warm temporary shelter? In our major cities we did it in days
  • A Bay of Plenty client created a crisis team that included health, iwi, council, welfare, business, energy providers and justice (in itself an achievement) that would meet for an hour each week, share information and resolve issues right down to the front door. It cut through layers of bureaucracy that amazed and delighted everyone involved
  • We saw people transcend their boundaries: millionaires flew in PPE and collaborated with government to buy more; one client used their Pacific Island staff as ambassadors for getting the right messages back into their communities; fashion brands made facemasks; parents became school teachers

But it’s one thing to respond to a crisis. It’s another to maintain the momentum. How do we lock in these gains?

It’s us, not Covid 19

I think it’s important to realise that Covid 19 is not the answer. Yes, Covid was the stimulus, but it was us that chose to respond. We call them Covid gains but actually they’re our gains.

So, what has Covid demanded from us?

  • Frequent updates and intelligence: we let the facts speak, and we listened. Remember the daily briefing at 1pm? It was compulsory viewing. We had a hard measure of success and we believed it
  • Clarity of purpose: whether it was at a national or organisational level, it was clear what our task was and the role we had to play
  • Short, focused meetings: nothing shortens a meeting like clear purpose, quality data and presence
  • Diversity of representation: we couldn’t afford to interview our typewriters. We had to listen and collaborate to be effective
  • Flattened structures: the ‘permission settings’ were changed. Leaders could lead
  • Flexibility: working from home, working at night, working on different tasks – it didn’t really matter so long as the job was done.

Will we lose the gains? Well, that’s up to us. What happened wasn’t magic. It was people doing their best. That can happen every day, any day right?

So, ask yourself what did you do differently? What would you do more of? Less of?

If this is was war effort, then let’s not get nostalgic, let’s be thoughtful. We can do it again and again.

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