The COVID-19 pandemic propelled us into the largest work from home experiment, with close to half of the world’s population living under lockdown across 70 countries and territories for many months. Physical distancing as the norm, no matter what our earlier level of comfort or privacy concerns, we are adjusting to a digital-first ecosystem. One that includes contactless payments, remote work, digital education, online fitness, telemedicine, video conferencing and so on. CSC e-Governance Services India, which holds the license for providing internet services has reported that data consumption in rural areas have spiked post lockdown, increasing from 50TB/month in January to 155TB/month in May.
As the lockdown restrictions start to ease, leaders are faced with the mammoth task of adapting their organization to these changed human emotions, habits and culture. Agility will be the key to success. As Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said, “In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it's the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” Well more than speed, we believe agility will trump all in this new normal. Those that are able to adapt will gain employee trust, survive the crisis and emerge with a competitive advantage.
- Agile is essentially a project management methodology based on an iterative problem-solving approach. It focuses on delivering value fast with the ability to adapt to frequent change based on continuous feedback. As a natural response to the COVID crisis, Agile philosophies are already penetrating organizations to varying degrees. Three Agile capabilities that will help organizations prepare for the post-COVID world are:
- Foster an Agile Culture - Urgency of the COVID crisis has forced organizations into thinking on their feet. They are having to balance their long-term business plans with rapidly changing environmental threats and opportunities, while reevaluating parts of their business to remain relevant. In order to succeed, it will be necessary to permeate this quick-thinking, adaptable and flexible mindset through the entire organization. Leaders must become influential agents of Agile change to ensure a successful culture shift. They need to lead by example - pivot and act quickly, demonstrating agility to their employees. This will help boost team morale, steering them to become drivers of creating an Agile environment. They also need to provide their people with the right knowledge, training and tools, thereby enabling them to self-manage - a core tenet of Agile methodology.
- Embrace Power of Technology - To quickly navigate rapidly evolving business opportunities, ways of working, consumer and workforce behaviour, organizations have to accelerate development of their digital capabilities. With work from home, or rather “work from anywhere”, and physical distancing constraints, resistance to technology adoption is likely at an all time low. This is a great opportunity to focus automation efforts that augment quality of work, wellbeing and productivity. This in turn will empower the organization to act quickly and easily, responding to change effectively.
- Strengthen Sense of Community - Establishing a strong sense of community and trust is essential to an Agile organization. There must be focus on making sure employees feel valued and comfortable, as they are all reeling from the impact to their work and lives. It is important to react to changing situations with agility and transparency, while staying true to organization’s values. Leaders must not engage in false hope and promises. Instead focus on being genuinely helpful and supportive. This open line of communication gives the leaders a chance to hear what employees have to say and also humanises the leadership and makes them more approachable to employees.
These three capabilities only scratch the surface of what will be needed to shape an agile organization poised for growth in the new emerging world. In our Organizational Transformation series we will further explore what it means to become truly agile.