Who is responsible for digitization in your company? a) CEO, b) CTO, c) COO, d) COVID-19 This saying made the rounds on LinkedIn, with a true core: forced by the corona epidemic, many companies unintentionally became more digital and agile. What had previously been dismissed as a hype, unnecessary or inappropriate trend and then nipped in the bud with endless discussions about data protection and lack of productivity, suddenly changed from one day to the next. Thanks to Corona, suddenly the entire workforce is working completely independent of time and place. This is actually the right time to rethink working methods, to align structures in an agile way and to implement digitization measures sustainably. But this process takes time, as the didactic piece COVID-19 showed us clearly. The eternal mantra for digitisation is rather early than late - but by now at the very latest it is highest time.
But the abrupt change was anything but bright. Companies have noticed this, for example, when important documents are only available in physical form and the employees first have to go to the office early in the morning in order to be able to work at home afterwards. Or when employees are parents working in a small apartment in their home office and at the same time have to do homeschooling with two children. Or when cooperation suddenly becomes much more difficult because personal exchange and team building with work colleagues has been neglected.
Initial difficulties have levelled off over time, and overall, home offices across Switzerland have worked relatively well. Across the country, managers have found that the vast majority of employees are motivated to do their jobs well - whether they do so in a well-equipped office or in a home office that is far too small. For many, the corona crisis even led to a real boost in productivity, on the one hand because the commuting time was eliminated, but above all because many unnecessary meetings and interruptions were eliminated.
After the crisis: Seizing the opportunity for future viability
Companies now have basically two options for dealing with this situation: Either they are left with negative memories of all the difficulties during the corona crisis and try to get back to the old pre-crisis form as quickly as possible. Or they focus on the positive experiences that the company has made during COVID-19, what they learn from it and where they want to go from here.
The first kind of company misses the opportunity to position itself for the future and to increase its resilience. The next black swan or the next crisis will surely come - and whether these companies will then get off with a black eye is very unlikely, as the future will be anything but easy. Already today we live in a VUCA world, a term that describes today's world as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Companies would do well to adapt to this VUCA world by becoming more agile and able to react more quickly to changes.
Even if the discussion in connection with the corona epidemic is now primarily about home office, agility means much more than just quickly issuing a home office directive or handing out a few vouchers for electronic goods. Specifically, it deals with issues such as:
- Self-organisation and self-responsibility
- Work independent of place and time
- Decentralisation of decision-making
- Working without hierarchy
- Agile working methods
Creating the right foundation with an agile mindset
The crisis has shown that cumbersome and bureaucratic processes have to be thrown out of kilter as soon as it is necessary to react within days to globally collapsing markets and supply chains. Why should we now fall back into old patterns after the crisis? How much more innovation and shortened time-to-market could be achieved through more agility?
Future-oriented companies reflect their processes and structures on their agile suitability by asking themselves the following questions:
- What changes introduced during the Corona epidemic have made our organization more agile?
- Which of these changes do we want to make permanent?
- How are we gonna do that? §
What is already apparent: Agility is primarily a question of the mindset. If employees are to take on more responsibility and make decisions more quickly, this requires neither tools nor instruments, but a trust-based workplace culture. Vision, values and purpose are the guiding principles that enable employees to make the best possible decisions. Appreciative feedback and a culture of error lead to constructive cooperation, which enables new and disruptive thinking.
It is important for companies that agility is anchored at all hierarchical levels and that employees are also close enough to customers and the market to know what will influence and change their own business in the future. Agility can only be achieved comprehensively if all groups and especially the employees who are the experts in their field of activity have the opportunity to think things in a new and different way in order to develop new solutions.