The Road Ahead: Diversity, A Change Of Mind-Set

Posted by Neil Davidson on May 12, 2020

It was in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that Dumbledore very aptly remarked “The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.” And the world is more unpredictable than ever now, as forecasts have been overtaken by unforeseeable global events. The human loss and tragedy that has stemmed from the pandemic and its growing impact on the lives of millions of people and the global economy, is having a profound impact on the livelihoods of so many. Everyone from governments, enterprise and small to medium businesses are rethinking the ways in which they do business and revising their 2019 assumptions.

We must be prepared for a global slowdown but, importantly, be hopeful, for recovery. It is going to require heartfelt, collective strength and speed to prevent irreversible damage. One thing is for sure, a change of mind-set will be necessary.

Shifting to a new way of working at a time of high anxiety

Because we are in uncharted territory, none of us have a level of control that can ascertain the impact that we will face, but the foremost important thing we can do as companies are acts of kindness towards our employees, clients and communities.

We are already seeing so many of our own customers doing some amazing work to neutralize and defeat this virus. Mott MacDonald have done a tremendous job supporting NHS England and NHS Improvement, delivering the NHS Nightingale Hospital in London. The consultancy has been providing technical, engineering and project management services. As part of this, Mott MacDonald has also been working with Transport for London in delivering mission critical transport for NHS staff and contractors. Similarly, BDP has described the ‘unprecedented’ challenge of helping convert the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London’s Docklands into a vast temporary hospital. BDP said the NHS Nightingale Hospital was a ‘monumental team effort’ between clinicians, consultants, contractors, the ExCeL team and the British Army.

And as we all grapple with these unprecedented times many of our employees will be working remotely whilst taking care of elderly parents and or home schooling children and for the foreseeable future, the workflows of all our jobs will have to change to reflect this.

Prithwiraj Choudhury a Professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at the Harvard Business School states that “Remote companies have well-established processes where no one is feeling isolated and falling through the cracks. That’s really important right now”. And as a company that already has their remote-working simplified we agree with the advice that “Working remotely is very effective if you can also restructure the organizational processes for how communication happens, how socialization happens, and how coordination happens”. Human connection emerges as the most important thread and getting back to the use of regular Skype or Zoom meetings, and checking in with team members on internal messaging is paramount. Now is the time to embrace the opportunity to experiment with new digital formats to engage employees, clients and audiences via compelling online experiences.

 

"Remote companies have well-established processes where no one is feeling isolated and falling through the cracks. That’s really important right now”. And as a company that already has their remote-working simplified we agree with the advice that “Working remotely is very effective if you can also restructure the organizational processes for how communication happens, how socialization happens, and how coordination happens."

Prithwiraj Choudhury, Professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at the Harvard Business School

 

Decentralise without losing commercial control to empower employees

At a time of crisis, our speed of trust will be remarkably important, and by giving critical employees the chance to look for ways to innovate, be creative and share their knowledge will be paramount, and pay dividends when all this is over. Of course there will be some decision making that cannot be decentralised, but many employees will relish the opportunity and feel valued and engaged. And if we can generate ideas from a larger pool of the business we may just give ourselves a better chance of survival.

It will be the responsibility of all of us in leadership positions to do everything we can to ensure the wellbeing of our employees and clients. And whilst some of our perspectives in this blog may fall rapidly out of date, given the constant shift in global events, loyalty and trust from employees and clients will speak volumes when the time comes to embrace the long-view.

Taking a long-term view

According to Deloitte “any period of volatility can create opportunities that businesses can leverage if they are prepared. […]Organizations that take a more assertive and longer-term approach can spark innovations that will define the “next normal.”

Our immediate responses matter but our longer-term dimensions will also be critical. This might be structural changes we face in the future or new business models that will emerge and redefine organisations and industries in the years to come. It may be learning new ways to serve customers, new ways to create value for stakeholders, collaborating differently with partners or simply encouraging our teams to spend time building new skills. We at Deltek are extending trials of our products to assist creative agencies working remotely, with their approval processes at no cost.

In the face of a crisis such as this it’s important to consider how we as organisations can regain some power, reinvent how we do things and adapt in this rapidly changing world. As Punit Renen, Deloitte’s CEO states “Once you discover that you can do things differently, you may want to consider whether you should continue doing so.”

 

"Any period of volatility can create opportunities that businesses can leverage if they are prepared. […]Organizations that take a more assertive and longer-term approach can spark innovations that will define the "next normal."    Deloitte

 

It’s who you are, not what you are

During a time of crisis, it can feel hard to find unwavering faith but our core company values must guide us into the future. This is much bigger than corporate responsibility, this effects everyone equally. And the way in which we speak and treat one another will show how progressive we really are. And millions of people are proving remarkably courageous, looking after parents, neighbours or children of key workers, helping their wider communities and still getting their jobs done. It has been humbling to see and be part of the WhatsApp forum for my micro local community, rallying round in small ways to help elderly neighbours in enforced lock down. It all makes a difference.


 

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As our priorities change permanently and we find new ways to serve those around us, what I am seeing is that even in a time of crisis we are emerging as stronger, well-rounded individuals. And staying well informed with each other and doing what we can for our communities in this common cause, must be supported. Change is the only certainty we have, and we will see this come to life in different forms, be that cultural changes such as in China for example, where the so-called Wuhan shake, tapping shoes together emerged in the face of this crisis. Or perhaps we will embrace the hands together, Namaste as our new global greeting. We must dare to hope, and match these extraordinary times with extraordinary efforts. As Dumbledore once said “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”