Home working needs agility in decision making
Daniel Dumont Lead of Modern Workplace

Structural change and speeding up decision making for home working

The pandemic has forced many companies to make quick changes to the structure of their teams. Over these months we have seen how regular focus on customers, suppliers or colleagues has changed to adapt to new ways of working on a large scale. On this point there are two lessons to learn: the change in the team structure, and the need to speed up decision making.

Now more than ever, organisations need to follow two objectives:

  • The first is to foster a high degree of autonomy for the people closer to the confines of the organisation to make decisions.

  • The second is to successfully align groups so they do things right the first-time round.

One of the problems most pinpointed by leaders of large companies, is the “traffic jam” caused in the line of command overrun by circumstances, which has an impact on the multiple directions that team members take, leaving work flows to work correctly and with direct negative repercussions on the business. Managers have to discover how to lead teams virtually whilst maintaining the cohesion between them, and to respond efficiently to the business needs.

Leaders must focus on strategic decisions 

At these times of great stress, decisions take on more importance than ever before, and therefore, they become more critical. To make the right decisions, distractions should be minimal. On this point it is important for leaders to focus on strategic, and not tactical, decisions, as the first is accompanied by a high degree of uncertainty and difficulty in terms of assessing risks and benefits.

This is where a change in the single line of hierarchy to a network of virtual, multi-functioning, self-managing and skilled team members, for decision making and innovation becomes necessary. The teams operate outside of this hierarchy with a clear mandate but remain connected to leadership through a central axis.

Companies that have made a structural change to take on this model are realising that decision making is more streamlined than they ever thought possible, even without having all the information. “Right now, the time spent waiting to decide is a decision in itself, which a company cannot afford to waste”, points out one of our area leaders.

Virtual work and productivity 

Let’s start by considering one of the key priorities when discussing virtual work: employee productivity. Here the issue takes on complexity, and the response will probably vary in each of the circumstances in which the organisation finds itself. However, by addressing this point, companies must ensure they go beyond the impulse to monitor activity as an indicator of productivity. Metrics centred on inputs or activity volume, have always been a poor substitute for true productivity, which boosts results. Applying a home working model, counting the number of connections made and their duration can be wrongly interpreted as an increase in productivity.

In conversations held with a CIO from a large company, he clearly explains this position: “It is better to define the results expected of the teams, instead of specific activities or the time spent performing them”.

Aside from establishing clear targets, team leaders must guide employees and help them, providing them with the tools they need to undertake their activity effectively, and equipping them with the experience and skills required.

Once the teams and individuals understand their responsibilities in terms of results, leaders can focus on quantifying them; virtual employees offer better quality work, and therefore, higher productivity.

Introducing the technological platform and the right partner 

The crisis is reminding us of the importance of using employee experience, data, facts and knowledge to boost decision making. However, many companies lack the technology needed for these points, or do not have the right partners to help them analyse problems from different points of view. Some organisations are also facing complex processes in attempts to adapt old systems.

Faced with the change in work models and a shift to virtual workspaces, offering employees a maximum experience will be fundamental in order to achieve the productivity required. However, the ability to gather, analyse and act on data and analysis, will be the competitive differentiator that will help companies gain an advantage further down the line.

All companies have the support of a broad network of partners, suppliers and people. This concept must evolve to a level at which associations are an extension of oneself, embracing risks and opportunities together, forging links of trust to get the talent and capacities needed for all company requirements.

The work and business sphere will be different after the pandemic; companies and their employees will have changed as a result of their experiences of the crisis, which has pushed organisations into speeding up changes that were already in the pipeline. Amid a terrible expense, companies are discovering how working differently matches up to the change in circumstances. Even though no one can predict the future, it is clear that the companies that are learning and adapting their labour forces for the immediate future, will be the key players when the ‘New Normality’ takes definitive shape.