If we’ve learned anything from the past two years, it’s that agility is a necessity. When the only thing we can count on is uncertainty, and things constantly change on a dime, what more do we have than our ability to quickly adapt? Thinking on your toes has long been a necessity for all organizations, big and small, but has only recently become the absolute forefront of the business world.
Let history be a lesson
When COVID first became a reality back in 2020, it took some time for the shock to set in. It seemed that everyone thought it would pass in no time, but we’ve since come to realize that we may never go back to “normal” again. We now know that it’s likely COVID is here to stay indefinitely, meaning that we cannot continue to wait to resume our lives. Things must go on, which means we’ve got to find a new normal rather than trying to get back to the old norm. Adapting to a new norm isn’t just about changing a few things here and there. In order for the new norm to actually work, we’ve got to have a complete overhaul. The only way forward is to alter our entire approach, because if we just try to tweak bits and pieces then we’re doomed to fail. For example, if an organization chooses to implement the option of remote work, but doesn’t also adapt communications and visibility, then people working remotely will fall behind. The entire system needs to be revamped in order to be fully functional. Trying to shift to a hybrid model while still designing processes around face-to-face interactions is the equivalent of trying to design the sustainable vehicle of the future with plans to continue relying on oil and gas. It’s time to plan for the long-term, rather than trying to implement quick-fixes to a problem that is clearly here to stay.
Communicate clearly and constantly
In such dynamic times, communication is key. While we may like to think we have things under control, the truth is that things are changing too fast for any plan to be truly stable. Frequent communication with your team as things evolve is the only way to keep the ball rolling in the right direction. Complete transparency is always appreciated and is necessary to keep everyone on the same page. Clear communication is difficult when team members are scattered between in-office and at-home, but try to stay consistent across digital and in-person channels. Having a meeting with your in-person team and sending an email recap to your remote employees can leave room for things to fall through the cracks as well as create a culture of exclusion. Instead, choose one method and stick to it. If you prefer to have a meeting wherein people can actively discuss, do it over Zoom so as to include everyone. If you’d rather just give a one-way update, an email blast is more effective. Whatever method you choose, stay on top of it. No news is still news, and your team members deserve to know what’s going on behind the scenes, even if things are just at a standstill.
Prioritize flexibility above all else
When it comes down to it, flexibility is the most important attribute for a business to have at this time. This means leaders, processes, structures, and team members should all be ready to adapt at any given time. Strategizing for the long-term is essential, but even more important is understanding that plans change, now more than ever. Times are highly unpredictable right now, so no matter how hard we try to stabilize a plan, the truth is that the only way for a plan to be truly stable is through flexibility. We’re talking flexibility of work models, hiring/onboarding tactics, review processes, collaboration strategies, and so on. All things business strategy are up in the air right now, and everything we knew as “true” before has been turned on its head. That may feel scary, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, this can be an opportunity for a reset, which is usually far too rare. Adapting this heightened form of flexibility is forcing businesses to accept the future with open arms.
The future of work is here, and while the transition period may feel rocky, things will ultimately be changed for the better as we continue to adopt modernized business structures. Leaders are tasked with the burden of navigating the way, but through acceptance, communication, and flexibility, the odds of success are heightened.