Author: Lauren Croucher
It’s the summer of 2021 and many of us are vaccinated and ready to get “back to normal”. You may have some employees back in the office; held a few in-person meetings happening without masks; and real lunches with other people are popping up all over your calendar. I’ve been so anxious to be around people again that I feel like I’ve been constantly looking over my shoulder, backward to 2019 and what my work life was like then. It’s only in the last few months that the fog started clearing and I began asking myself: why am I fighting so hard to get back to it?
We’ve been given an opportunity to re-examine all of our sacred cows, our true north, our guiding principles, and our strategies. You’ve heard the quote widely credited to Einstein that says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. So why would we, as leaders, want to miss this opportunity to do things differently? It’s time to ask ourselves some questions, so we don’t miss the goodness that came out of the last 15 months. It’s easy to let the pendulum swing back to how we did things pre-COVID, but our people have changed. Why pass up this chance to go “back” better?
Where should you start?
- Take stock. What did you learn about your business, your people, and your customers over the last year? What can you “keep” for the future that may be a differentiator for your business?
- If you believe you had an “office culture,” what about that culture maintained last year and what suffered, in the absence of four walls? What are the characteristics of the culture that are important? Are there different ways of maximizing those positives while creating flexibility?
- What does your data tell you about changes in your business? Have you built a data and analytics strategy based on what you’ve learned and where you want to now go?
- Do you understand what and how your customers want to work with you? Have their businesses changed? What do you need to know to better serve them?
- What are your employees telling you? Your people have been pushed and pulled in ways they never anticipated. People who touch the problems most frequently are truly the best equipped to solve those problems. Are you really spending time listening to their ideas and improvements?
- Are your technology and digital strategy ready to enable this future? It’s highly likely that your digital strategy or execution faced significant changes in 2020. What needs to shift? Do the tools and solutions you chose previously fit what you need for the (now) future?
In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Churchill paraphrased the famous Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana when he said, “those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it”. This quote resonates powerfully because it is in the nature of humanity to reject change. People will often prefer to remain mired in misery and frustration rather than to head toward an unknown. Change jolts us into consciousness, sometimes in uncomfortable ways, and makes people feel like they’ve lost control, especially during times of crisis or major disruption.
Change is a departure from the past, and that’s exactly how we need to approach it. The best leaders will push themselves to ask what should be done differently, done better, done away with, and (most importantly) what was done well?
We spend a lot of time studying what’s going wrong in our businesses – how our employees are struggling, our numbers are below target, our tools don’t do what we need them to do, etc. We rarely study the bright spots: the people or experiences that shine despite everything else going on around them. Innovation, improvement, improved employee morale can come from implementing the strategies of your bright spots. You have those bright spots in your organization. How can you make more?
Major disruption is difficult and annoying. It’s also an opportunity. Asking these questions and challenging your prior beliefs doesn’t negate the hard work you did to create your strategies and plans, quite the opposite. You have the chance to go back to work better. Who doesn’t want that?
Lauren Croucher is a senior manager at RevGen Partners specializing in process improvement and change enablement. She is passionate about the human side of business and partners with clients to help measure, evaluate, understand, and improve the employee experience.
Chrissy Winkler is the Vice President of Client Services and leads the business development team at RevGen. She is passionate about driving true business value for clients and selling services that matter.