And yet, a lot of us have succeeded with these changes, and many of them have even proven to increase productivity and job satisfaction within the company.
This is why it is so important that we now focus on holding on to the positive changes and not fall back into old habits. One efficient way to retain changes is the classic approach START, STOP, CONTINUE. This approach is a joint meeting in a given team/department/project with a duration of 1-1.5 hour. During the meeting, you review a limited period that could be the last month, and each participant shares his or her observations and experiences. These observations are then divided into the categories START – what should we continue doing, STOP – what should we stop doing, and CONTINUE – what should we start doing. Choose the most important initiatives, and make sure to delegate these initiatives to an employee with the mandate and ability to make them happen. And remember to follow up on progress.
One example of START could be to begin all virtual meetings with everyone saying something. This will increase the likelihood of people being willing to speak up again and contribute to the meeting. It will also give the facilitator a chance to make sure that everyone is ready. STOP could be that we should stop booking meetings shoulder to shoulder because we do not have time to get from one meeting to the other, neither physically nor virtually. CONTINUE could be to continue the morning status meetings virtually, even after everyone has returned to the office. This way, you won’t have to rush into the office to participate in the meeting if you have other meetings outside of the office, if you have to drop off the kids or you just want to avoid rush hour traffic.
Here are three examples of changes that have proven to make a positive difference. In these three instances, I would definitely vote for CONTINUE:
- Be ready to make tough priorities:
Capacity has suddenly been reduced, and you may have been forced to send home or lay off employees. So what should the remaining employees then focus on? In such a situation, you have undoubtedly had to make some tough priorities, and initiatives that were already started may even have been paused. Perhaps it also resulted in other initiatives being launched more quickly. We know that efficient companies are able to minimise work in progress. If too many things are going on at the same time, we never finish anything, and we do not add any value. We are inefficient when we keep going back and forth between tasks. My recommendation is therefore to limit the amount of work in progress in order to be able to add and create more value. In other words, be ready to hold on to the tough priorities and your strong stakeholder management with transparency in what will happen when.
- Only keep the efficient meetings
It may be challenging to have multiple agendas and a consequent endless line of meetings, some of which may not even be official and counter-productive to what has actually been decided. However, in these times, it has become quite clear that it is impossible to keep up the same meeting frequency, so many companies have cut down on the number of meetings and determined which were critical to keep. It is then at these meetings that decisions are made and nowhere else. This creates focus and progress.
My recommendation is therefore to hold short meetings (15-25 minutes) in which you ensure to identify impediments so that no one is blocked and determine whether there is a need for coordination. It is a good idea to have these meetings at a fixed time to create a rhythm and to make it easy to make the most out of the rest of the slots in your calendars. Other meetings should have a specific purpose with a task to be solved.
- Remember the flexibility of working from home
If anything, COVID-19 has forced everyone to test their home office. Most people have realised the benefits of the flexibility in this and acknowledged that it is in fact possible to work efficiently from home, and that it can offer more privacy and time to work without constant interruptions and chats by the coffee machine, etc. Being able to work from home is not least a major benefit to families with kids. But the benefits also apply to many others struggling to find time for everything in a hectic everyday life. I am not saying that the solution is to work remotely all the time, but keep in mind the flexibility that can be achieved by working from home. We have now learnt that we can in fact cooperate cross-functionally via the digital solutions available today.
The changes that make a positive difference in your company should be made a priority, and you need to ensure that you hold on to these changes. Also make sure to continue the START-STOP-CONTINUE meetings with a regular frequency. It is important to have dialogues with your colleagues, both horizontally and vertically, to determine how your new way of operating should be. The above recommendations may not be rocket science or groundbreaking ways of working. But they are still changes that we have been waiting for in many companies despite the fact that they can add value for everyone. Make sure that this value is also realised in your company, both now and going forward.
This article was originally published in InsideBusiness here.