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3 Things to Measure as We Head Back to the Office

I had a really great conversation with one of my best friends a few weeks ago that has been percolating in my brain. She works for a large national company in a leadership role and has grown through the ranks over the last 10+ years. She’s a bright, competent woman who knows her stuff.

In our discussion, we were talking about how quickly organizations have had to make the shift to remote work given the COVID-19 pandemic, and how amazing it has been to see people and systems adapt out of sheer necessity. She spoke of how quickly the organization had transitioned to using new software for meetings and collaboration. What was expected to take over a year to roll out was done in less than four weeks. She also talked about how decisioning was being done much more rapidly than in the past because of emerging needs. Decisions that used to take months or even quarters to be taken, were being taken in hours or days.

Here was her fear... She said, “It won't last.” As we start to transition back into a hybrid or workplace setting, we will not just go back to the office, but go back to our old ways of doing things.

My question back was, “Do we HAVE to go back?” What if we could use this experience as a catalyst for a more innovative approach? How?

Here are three things we can each do to help our organizations apply the learning from this experience to maximize a more innovative approach to our work:

  1. Zoom 'out' of our day to day and look down using a systems lens. Identify processes and systems that had to adapt to meet the current situation. Make note of the impacts of those changes (positive and negative). Identify whether any benefits from those changes would continue or even grow post pandemic. Look for ways to maintain or build on the benefits while addressing any challenges that emerged based on the changes.
  2. Where possible, quantify the impacts. Engage others as necessary to calculate dollars and cents or social outcomes resulting from those changes. Rightly or wrongly, talk of money and outcomes gets attention. To really drive ‘bang’ from this process, also do the calculation on the 'old way' to further demonstrate value.
  3. Identify the pain associated with ‘going back’. Where there is additional cost, training, or restructuring to go back to the old way, make that clear. Sometimes it may appear easier to go back, but it isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

We’ve learned a lot from our collective experience over these last months. We’ve had to be more innovative in a tighter timeframe than ever before. Now is the time to leverage that way of thinking to move forward rather than push back. We each have an opportunity to be part of a positive movement—don’t let going back take you back.


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