Business operations

Redefine and Reorganize for Business Post COVID-19

 

Stephen Redwood has published a series of articles that draw from his experiences over a long career in consulting to help respond to the implications of COVID-19 and build strategies for the future. 

In the face of huge upheavals with the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have few reference points on which to base decisions about how their organizations need to adapt to changing circumstances. Clients have asked me for my thoughts on how to frame their thinking. It’s early days so, as Winston Churchill said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” 

Organization design is too often seen as a narrow set of considerations about roles and reporting relationships. This is way too reductive. The design of an organization should consider all the elements that affect how it functions. Particularly now, when so much outcome uncertainty exists, attention needs to be given to culture, metrics, and development opportunities to drive appropriate behavior change in people. From my conversations with clients and a variety of other sources, here are some early thoughts as we learn to respond to the implications of COVID-19 for how companies operate.

 

Included in this article:

  • Planning for the future
  • Redesigning processes
  • Redefining leadership
  • Long-term transitions

 

Read the full article, How will organization design be impacted by COVID-19?, on LinkedIn.

 

This Is the New Norm – Or Is It?

 

Diane Mulcahy explains why the current model of the office worker is difficult to change despite the evidence of increased productivity from the remote worker.

No one expected (or wanted) remote work to scale because of a virus and subsequent global pandemic. But, here we are. 

The battle for remote work has been ongoing. Employees want the choice and flexibility to work outside the office at least some of the time, but many companies and even more managers resist it. Will this short-term (at minimum) and large-scale experiment in remote work change that?

It’s hard to argue any other outcome. Once companies have the processes and tools in place, and the results of weeks, or even months, of remote working, it will be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. 

That’s a good thing. The notion of mandatory daily employee attendance in the office is already obsolete. Not one – not one! – study suggests that working in an office eight hours a day, five days a week maximizes employee productivity, satisfaction, or performance. In fact, any data that exists on work in an office reveals that most employees aren’t engaged, waste a lot of time in the office not working, and that employee underperformance is a persistent problem, despite the omnipresence of management. Even worse, the direct costs of maintaining the traditional office-based workplace are high. CBRE estimates that the typical company in the U.S. spends upward of $12,000 per employee per year for office space. It’s hard to find a return-on-investment case for office space, and much harder still to find any company that makes a compelling one.

 

Included in this article:

  • Links to studies on remote workers
  • Key drivers of daily office attendance
  • Quality of work

 

Read the full article, Remote Work Is The New Norm. Will It Last?, on the Forbes website.

 

Applying Structure to Problem Solving

 

Davide Gronchi provides two simple tools that can help collect answers to powerful questions.

Advanced analytics and machine learning are some of the ready-to-use technologies that help discover correlations and drive conclusions out of complex data sets that often describe our business and production processes. This is very helpful to take decisions aiming to prevent something unwanted to happen e.g., set process parameter to X in order to obtain product spec within tolerance.

There are many other opportunities to eliminate “waste” out of business processes that don’t require complex tools and data scientist skills but “just” common sense and good leadership. Solving problems should always start with a clear definition of “what is the problem?” Often we mix up the symptoms with the root causes, by doing so we look for solutions to the symptoms but don’t eliminate the root cause. Guess what? The problem will be back very soon…

Following a structured problem-solving approach is not difficult but requires discipline and asking the right questions, what we call “powerful questions“. These are questions that make people thinking, typically open questions that require an articulated answer, not just a binary yes/no.

Asking powerful questions should be one of the core skills of good leaders: not solving problems themselves but helping their teams to do so. I believe many have forgotten this and risk to lead teams in endless problem solving rounds without sustainable and substantial results.

 

Included in this article:

  • Fishbone diagram
  • Pareto chart

 

Read the full article, The Simple Art of Problem Solving, on the Growing Operations Advisors website.

 

How to Prepare a Pandemic Playbook 

 

Boris Galonske offers direction on how to navigate the effects of COVID-19 in the form of a detailed outline of a playbook. 

The coronavirus exposes critical infrastructure to a risk environment which is unprecedented in recent history. In order to maintain resilient operations establishing a playbook how to run critical infrastructure these days is key.

Situation today

A pandemic has been part of risk inventories of large corporations for several years. However, the accelerating speed with which the coronavirus spreads across global regions comes as a surprise. Research organisations and networks uncover new facts almost on a daily basis.

Medical researchers fast-track efforts to come up with medical interventions which in the best case will be available by year end.

Politicians and financial experts carve out policy mechanisms targeted at coping with the economic consequences of the pandemic – short-term and longer-term.

Although corporations also need to review their exposures and identify mitigation mechanisms, maintaining robust operations of critical infrastructure (e.g. IT, chemical plants, utility assets, power plants, chemical plants & sites, …) today is critical.

Hence, as vulnerability of operations increases, stabilising the management response and reducing complexity is key in order to maintain operational resilience.

 

Information provided in this article:

  • What stakeholders expect
  • How risks materialize
  • Staying in control
  • How to proceed

 

Read the full article, Weathering the storm – Establishing a playbook for critical infrastructure operations, on the Silverberg website. 

 

Contagion Dynamics and the Economic Impact of COVID-19

 

Martin Pergler shares a couple of files on understanding COVID-19 contagion dynamics, and some of the tradeoffs of managing spread vs long term social/economic impact.

People seem to be increasingly internalizing and accepting efforts prudentially required to slow down COVID-19s exponential infection rates. And hopefully we’ll converge even more from the poles of “barricade ourselves behind hoarded toilet paper” and “what me worry, I don’t see a problem yet” behaviour. However, given differences in, and evolution over time of, testing and reporting around the world, we also need to get ahead of monitoring the evolution of the outbreak and its containment in different geographies. We’ve all seen the “buy time to flatten the curve” graphic many times by now, but I think we all hope we can minimize the area under the curve, not just flatten it.

With this in mind, I’m happy to see a paper on statistical time series modeling applied to localized contagion dynamics cross my desk, from Italy no less! Pretty technical in nature, and frankly there isn’t truly enough data to draw any actionable conclusions yet, but we’re going to need analysis of this type to be able to extrapolate sensibly going forward, and to judge to what extent containment approaches — including different intensities of social distancing — are working.

 

Read the full article, Coronavirus: monitoring change in contagion dynamics, and access links to the files on the Balanced Risk Strategies website. 

 

Tough Time Strategies

 

In this timely post, David A. Fields provides ten strategies consulting firms can implement to help navigate through difficult times. 

You’re swimming in a vast sea of stressful news and, given today’s reality, you’re well within your rights to feel anxious, nervous and uncertain about how your consulting firm should proceed.

Clients are shutting down their operations; workshops and meetings are being called off; in fact, the entire economy appears to be headed for an abrupt, if temporary, halt. What does that mean for your consulting firm and how should you respond?

I pulled together a couple dozen “to dos” for my consulting firm clients. Nine of them are presented below, leaving a space for you to fill in your recommendation for your own consulting firm and for other readers.

 

Areas covered in this article include:

  • Client relations
  • Budget management
  • Partnership opportunities
  • Remote work and delivery

 

Read the full article, 10 Tough-times Strategies For Consulting Firms, on David’s website.

 

How to Make Every Meeting Productive

February 27, 2020

 

Jared Simmons provides three meeting strategies to overcome stagnation.

We’ve all been there before. It took you three weeks to find a time on everyone’s calendar. You found the perfect room and showed up early to make sure the previous meeting didn’t run over. You’ve spent countless hours working on your agenda and slides and even reading articles like this on productivity. And then it happens–the conversation gets stuck. Your time is rapidly dwindling and you’re still on agenda item one. You simply cannot afford to have this group disperse to their thousand other priorities without covering these items. So what do you do? Here are a few techniques that can help you get your meeting moving forward again.

 

The strategies explained include:

  • Restating the point
  • Recapping the options
  • Identifying the key factors

 

Read the full article, Three Meeting Strategies to Overcome Stagnation, on the Outlast website.

 

Read the full article in the https://outlastllc.com/three-meeting-strategies-to-overcome-stagnation/

How to Avoid Falling into the Email Communication Trap

February 25, 2020

 

Jesse Jacoby taps into a common pain point in today’s business operations — the vague or misunderstood email — and provides an easy solution to overcome the problem. 

Connecting with coworkers, clients and customers has never been easier. Gone are the days when we had to drive across town to chat with someone in a different office. When we run into a challenge or have a question regarding our work, we have a plethora of communication tools at our fingertips: email, text, instant messaging, and the list goes on.

Yet, how many times have you received an email response or stared at a text feeling more frustrated and confused than when you started. In today’s fast paced world of electronic exchange, messages can easily be misinterpreted, and emotions can escalate quickly as a result. A curt interaction, even when softened with a cheerful emoticon, can really strike a nerve. Now, not only do you still have that lingering challenge to face or question to answer, you also have to manage the mounting frustration and annoyance attached to it.

 

Read the full article, Assume Positive Intent, in the Emergent Journal.

 

Facts and Data – Spot the Difference

February 12, 2020

 

Dan Markovitz identifies the difference between facts and data and why you need both to make a fully informed assessment. 

Taiichi Ohno said, “Data is of course important in manufacturing, but I place the greatest emphasis on facts.” You can leave out the word “manufacturing,” and apply the concept to anything in your company or your life. Facts are more important than data.

When he talked about his preference for facts over data, he was urging people to go and see for themselves. Gathering facts comes from close observation of people, of objects, of spaces. 

By contrast, spreadsheets, reports, and anecdotal accounts are not facts. They’re data. They’re two-dimensional representations of reality, which makes it easy to jump to conclusions. 

Data tells you how often a machine breaks down on an assembly line. Facts—direct observation—show you that the machine is dirty, covered in oil, and hasn’t been cleaned and maintained in a long time.

Read the full article, Just the Facts, Ma’am, on the Markovitz website.

What Lean Means for the Work Week

 

Dan Markovitz explains why time management and a shorter work week is good news for lean.

 

In the space of two weeks, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both ran articles on the productivity benefits of reduced work hours. The WSJ introduced us to the workers at Rheingans Digital Enabler in Germany, who only put in five-hour days, for a workweek of 25 hours. The same is true of employees at Tower Paddle Boards (at least during the summer months) and Collins SBA, a financial advisory firm in Australia. 

Not to be outdone, NPR reported that Microsoft Japan moved to a four-day workweek this summer while increasing productivity by 40%. Of course, software firm 37 Signals has been operating four-day work weeks over the summer since 2008. And New Zealand-based Perpetual Guardian believes in the four-day week so strongly that the founder created a non-profit to promote it. Indeed, a recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management indicates that fifteen percent of companies offer a 32-hour workweek. 

 

Read the full article, It’s Not Time Management, It’s Lean, on his website.

Nine Signals to Flag Faulty Assumptions & Create Opportunities

David A. Fields explains why correct assumptions can quickly become wrong, and how to test the assumptions of your consulting practice to create new opportunities.

You throw your best efforts into delivering value for your consulting clients, improving your consulting firm’s marketing, and creating a rewarding consulting environment. Then you find your work was off by a bit. Or more than a bit. Or completely wrong. Pickles-in-peanut-butter wrong. That’s no fun.

Alas, I have bad news for you and me: we’re mistaken. About everything.

I also have good news: our mistaken assumptions represent a huge opportunity for our consulting firms.

 

The article identifies nine signals that could transform your consulting practice, including:

-Unexpected success signals

-Unexpected failure signals

-Closely held belief signals

-Two transformative questions

 

Read the full article, Signs Your Consulting Firm Is Operating on Faulty Assumptions,  on David’s company website.

Explaining the Need for Razor-Sharp Precision 

Luiz Zorzella moves beyond the buzzwords to explain how a razor-sharp vision, strategy, and plan inspires buy-in and achieves results.

 

If your organization is not delivering the results you expected, maybe one factor holding it back is a lack of razor-sharp precision.

Most business leaders would benefit from sharpening their strategies: employing more clear language (calling a sword a sword), more accurately defining strategic priorities and objectives. But few actually do it. For example, most financial services companies profess to be “client-centric”, but very few actually explain what that looks like. And if you survey the organization and ask how this principle of “being client-centric” applies to practical matters, you will obtain very different answers.

 

Read the full article, Your Business Needs Razor-Sharp Precision, on the Amquant website.

The Argument for Going to the Gemba

Dan Markovitz provides a reality check on the concept of management by walking around (MBWA); how the leaders at organizations embracing lean take a different approach, and why the latter is better than the former.

Theodore Kinni argues in Strategy + Business that leaders must practice management by walking around (MBWA), a concept popularized by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman in their seminal book, In Search of Excellence. That’s the best way for them to stay connected to their businesses and understand what’s really happening with their customers. As Peters puts it, “The real meaning [of MBWA] was that you can’t lead from your office/cubicle.”

I’ve got no problem with the concept—after all, it’s similar to the lean precept of genchi gembutsu, or going to the gemba.

But here’s the problem with MBWA: it’s essentially unstructured.

 

Read the full article, Please, Not Another Argument for MBWA, on Dan’s website.

The Potential Cost Savings with  BPO and RPA

December 9, 2019

If you want to know more about the potential benefits, scope, pros and cons of business process outsourcing (BPO) and robotic process automation integration (RPA), check out this article from the knowledge hub on David Burnie’s company website.

 

Both BPO and RPA aim to achieve the goal of streamlining processes, achieving efficiency and increased productivity, and yielding cost benefits.

BPO and RPA implementations allow organizations to perform back office, internal, and call centre tasks efficiently quickly. This provides enterprises the benefits of overhead cost reduction, improved productivity, better quality, and more.

Both RPA and BPO are most applicable for business processes that are:

  1. Frequent – consistent daily/weekly volumes
  2. Repetitive – e.g. data entry tasks
  3. Rules-based – the process is defined by precise decision rules
  4. Streamlined – stable, without redundant steps.

 

Read the full article, Business Process Outsourcing and RPA Integration, on the BPO & RPA knowledge hub at The Burnie Group website.