Winning in the new normal
19 May 2020
The latest data, as I write this blog, shows how the growth of the Covid 19 virus is having a dramatic impact on society and the global economy. The effect will be long lasting.
In its short existence, Covid 19 has exposed a number of our frailties and has brought about fundamental changes in the way that we live and work. The speed of this pandemic has forced us to live in two space simultaneously: the space in which we have worked traditionally, the office, and the digital space, remote working. It touches on the question of what type of world do we wish to live in. The currently imposed restrictions have blindsided Governments, organisations, educational institutions, healthcare providers and individuals alike. Few people living in democracies have experienced such stringent measures as those currently imposed.
These measures highlight some of the issues of trust and identity that exist in virtual teams. Barriers that impede effective and efficient working in areas such as relationships, locations, collaboration with staff and customers must be addressed and overcome if businesses and teams are to reach a satisfactory level of performance.
Many of the problems are founded in misconceptions of how to operate within the duality of the new business landscape where a relationship between the physical environment and the digital world challenges us to live in an electronic world of virtual team working. The challenges are centred around: people, location, customer interactions, collaboration and the tools employed to aid it. All these come at a cost. Companies will need to find ways of reducing costs through greater effectiveness and efficiency. Placing technology at the centre of company operations will be the single biggest gain.
Synchronizing technology to the need
In computer science, synchronization refers to one of two distinct but related concepts: synchronization of processes, and synchronization of data. There are many tools available from email to conferencing to natural search tools. Communication tools vary considerably from those that provide verbal and non-verbal information exchange to those that provide data and insights into brand activity, consumers’ thoughts, and actions.
Tasks also vary widely in complexity, in particular when understanding different viewpoints, cultural differences and rapidly shifting attitudes and trends. In this new Covid 19 world, the dynamics of change are dramatic, so it is important that the signals and data from platforms and devices used are interpreted with insightfulness rather than on face value. The purpose of the task should determine the delivery mechanism.
Often, information is disjointed, sending false and conflicting signals that create poor business decision-making. So, when team members are not working face to face there is a risk of getting out of step with each other. Staying in sync is crucial in remote working, so using platforms that produce daily in-depth data, combined with actionable insights, can be the difference between confusion and clarity. Actionable insights are the launchpad for ideas sharing that can lead to better decisions.
During this crisis it is important that a company as a whole remains responsive to its customers. One of the best ways to do this is to stay open on-line, creating a dialogue with customers and providing re-assurance. Also, by continuing to monitor content on-line and your competitors, you retain a voice in the market and come out of this downturn in a better place. The PiDatametric‘s platform provides up to date information to help guide you through what is really happening in the search environment.
With remote working, trust becomes a huge factor because when teams are working in close proximity daily, they get to understand each other’s verbal and non-verbal communication. As co-workers, we become more sensitised to the feelings and quirks of others and use our emotional intelligence to good effect, making friendships and forming strong team ethics. This becomes more difficult whilst working remotely.
Mental health becomes more of an issue whilst working at distance. Strong evidence exists that individuals and teams that share benefit from improved mental wellbeing, greater collective trust, and stronger bonds. Trust is not a given, it needs to be earned. People need to prove their trustworthiness by continuing to be engaged, be on time for virtual meetings and deliver projects that meet or surpass what is expected. So, using tools and platforms that provide reliable data with trusted insights, is an important way to overcome these hurdles as they allow for greater idea generation, collaboration, and team decision-making due to the confidence and trust that they inspire. The unintended consequence of this is that teams and their members become more open and liberated, becoming co-authors to decisions rather than having them handed down from on high.
The key to team engagement
One of the benefits post-Covid 19 could be a higher degree of decision-making autonomy. Democratising decision-making at the cross-functional level will allow for speed of thought and action. To enable this collaborated decision-making, data needs to be decentralised with tools and platforms that capture market sentiment, brand performance and the social landscape, whilst enabling teams to do something incredibly incisive and powerful: look into the minds of consumers.
In an article in MIT Sloan, this year, Howard Yu and Mark Greeven, wrote that this virus outbreak has exposed the problems with interdependent supply chains as they constrict flexibility and become vulnerable to delays in one part of the chain. They looked at several cases of supply chain delays due to relying on just-in-time parts from China during the virus shut down. Toyota in Japan, GM in the US, all rely on parts from China thus creating a source of severe disruption-you can’t complete a car without all its parts! Apple has also had supply chain problems due to a manufacturing shutdown in China. This rigidness is an expensive disruption to companies employing an interconnected business model. In short, they were unprepared for major disruption.
One Chinese company, Haier, was prepared for disruption, however. Haier organised itself as Yu and Greeven wrote, not as a top-down pyramid but as a swarm of self-managing business units that can make their own rapid adjustments to stay afloat in times of crisis. Haier CEO Zhang Ruimin is a contrarian, who is obsessed with breaking with bureaucracy, stating that “successful companies move with the times.” Around 2012 he issued an ultimatum to his mid-level managers: become independent entrepreneurs or be fired!
For those that remained, they had more autonomy and the ability to make quicker decisions. During the Covid 19 outbreak, due to this new approach and greater agility, Haier’s microenterprises increased their business and introduced several platforms to facilitate upto-date information. Zang likened the idea to an app store, enabling co-ordination but not directing it. In February at the height of the virus in China, Haier fulfilled 99.8% of orders, with 60% of the products being manufactured outside of China. By being prepared, Haier crisis-proofed themselves in arguably the sharpest and wide-ranging downturn the global economy has faced.
Doing the right thing. Doing the thing right.
As Zang Ruimin recognised, much time and effort are lost by using legacy processes and systems that are incompatible. During times of great disruption speed and clarity of decisionmaking are essential for building both effectiveness and efficiency: doing the right thing and doing the thing right.
Crisis management is aided by investing in the right tools, those that combine granularity of data with actionable insights, enabling dispersed teams to work with confidence that they all have the same information and insights. Additionally, if teams can’t directly observe other team members’ observations and ideas, disjointed thoughts and actions lead to diminished motivation and confidence.
More than ever, it is important to embrace new processes, tools and platforms to ensure that the long-term vision of the company is adaptive to customer needs in the new realities. One effective way to understand if you are obtaining accurate and authentic interactions with your customers is to continuously track and measure them. This is often done with confidence through social media and natural search platforms such as Pi Datametrics.
Choosing platforms, like Pi, actively solicit sharing of insights and actions, enhancing team openness and inclusion. Daily tracking keeps digital teams up to date with B2B and B2C customers’ attitudes and behaviours, generating a deeper understanding of the business landscape. Through deep-dive information, teams can delve into the mind of the customer and consumer. Search intent is not fixed. What customers are looking for changes according to the stage in their purchase journey!
Creating something new
The most common response to digital threats is create something completely new. Understandably, that becomes the driving impetus for strategy. Yet for most companies, the ability to execute their strategy, amid a welter of cultural crosscurrents, is what they worry about most. They recognise the need to develop a better field of vision for threats and a capacity for more agile action. So, they struggle over where to place their energies, placing game-changing bets or remaking the place. The fact is that strategy and execution can no longer be tackled separately or compartmentalized. The pressures of digital mean that you need to adapt both simultaneously and iteratively to succeed. Getting the balance right varies by company. Two principles apply: Be bold in your aspiration. Be highly adaptive.
Jim Collins in his book, Good To Great, explained the findings from his and his team’s half a decade of research in how to make good companies great. Collins wrote that at the core of great companies is The Flywheel. The Flywheel is a quiet and deliberate process of figuring out what needs to be done for best future results and taking those steps one by one, pushing the flywheel in a consistent direction until it achieves a breakthrough point.
At the centre of the Flywheel approach is the Hedgehog concept. This is about knowing one thing and knowing it well. One of the significant and early adopters of the flywheel was Jeff Bezos. To Amazon, the Hedgehog is the customer.
By democratising teams and providing them with digital tools and platforms that inform and enable, companies can become more agile, meeting the unexpected with informed and insightful decision-making and timely, effective, action. By providing teams with the right digital assets, tough decisions can be made with confidence and trust. In doing so companies will empower their teams to grow and outperform
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