Thursday, March 31, 2022

Has Covid-19 boosted Business Agility?

Written by Nawel Lengliz and Mario Moreira

Economists might argue that the Covid 19 crisis caused a lot of disruption to companies. I strongly believe the pandemic has helped companies improve the way they collaborate, especially via remote work, which boosted their business or, more precisely, their business agility. Let me explain how.

First and foremost, remote work has helped teams in democratizing information sharing. In effect, by using digital tools, it has become easier to have access to information, to briefings of decisions or to digital white boards in the sense that people do not have to be physically present in meetings to understand the meeting outcomes.

Democratizing information sharing has paved the ground for a natural transition to something we believe in a lot in the Agile community: Visualization of the work. This technique, borrowed from lean manufacturing, consists of using a board that shows all the work being done via cards representing each piece of work, is simple and very powerful. Besides creating a shared understanding on who is doing what within the team, using boards helps to visualize problems in the system of work. For example you may find there is too much work in progress (WIP), work with competing priorities or tasks that have remained stagnant. Therefore, by making problems visible, it becomes easier for teams to discuss problems and try to overcome them by continuously improving their system of work. 

Another advantage to the transition to remote work is the ability to have worldwide access to talent. I remember when Covid 19 broke out, I was part of a global company and we wanted to create an Agile community of practice for the french speaking region. Thanks to remote collaboration, we were able to include skillful people located in francophone Africa. This cross-border collaboration allowed very creative ideas to emerge and spark new perspectives. We were all energized by the diversity of our backgrounds and experiences.

Finally, using digital tools during retrospectives or feedback sessions makes it possible for teams to write notes and share their ideas while building trust. This ability to speak up without fear helps to improve the Psychological Safety climate within teams. According to Amy Edmondson, a famous psychology researcher, creating psychological safety is the number one condition for creating high-performing teams.

Nevertheless, people working remotely sometimes miss face-to-face collaboration (I am among them). In fact, being in the same room creates energy as people communicate not only with words, but also with their body language. However, as food for thought, according to some research, flying generates an equivalent of ¼ tonne of CO2 per hour. Is it really worth generating such an amount of pollution to attend a couple of meetings over a day?

In summary, the Covid 19 pandemic urged companies to try or improve new ways of working remotely with such results as democratizing information sharing, making work visible, accessing talent everywhere and using digital tools to foster psychological safety. These techniques have helped companies move faster, be more inclusive and promote collaboration that helped employees to become happier and to our planet being more ecologically healthier. 

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree! I have seen much higher rates of adoption of agile thinking and collaboration in the last two years! Keep up the good work! -Mac

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