COVID-19: How to maintain operations during the quarantine?

10 March 2020 | Coronavirus

Within very short deadlines, the coronavirus outbreak could force companies, yours included, to make teams switch to remote work, while they are absolutely not prepared to do so. If some of your operations sitteam es are placed in quarantine, remote work stands as the only way to maintain your activities. But how to adapt your organization quickly, both on an IT and operations level? This is what we suggest to you:

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Phusis offers you a free 60-minute consultation by videoconference to set up this action plan.

Your top priority: the IT system

The first challenge you will have to deal with is IT. Even if, just like most of the companies, you have implemented basic tools such as a VPN or Citrix servers to give access to a “remote office”, your infrastructures are probably designed for a limited use as well as a limited part of your staff. Oftentimes, IT access is limited to the personal computers that belong to the company and is only available for few people in the organization. Internal procedures related to access and safety are also generally complicated and not well mastered.

Your IT department should be working on it already and should rapidly take care of remote IT access, communications and collaborations. How? By:

  1. Preparing IT access for the whole staff right away;
  2. Setting up – and quickly test IT access for all – of online remote working tools (Skype Entreprise, Zoom), but also more simple tools such as conference calls;
  3. Making safety and control procedures temporarily easier in order to enable the use of personal computers;
  4. Considering the use of additional collaborative online tools (such as Microsoft Team, Slack, Coda, Google Sheet etc.) as well as similar tools that allow teams to share information remotely while making sure they are not blocked by the organization firewalls;
  5. Communicating emergency procedures to each employee, by email to their personal address too, with all this information.

Your priority #2: operational efficiency

Body The second challenge you will have to deal with are your operational activities: how can your organization adapt itself to the radical changes implied by remote work when it is hardly prepared, nor trained.

Teams are usually used to constantly interact with their colleagues, in an informal way, or in physical meetings. From one day to the next, they must work from home, most of the time on the kitchen table, with their smartphone and a mere IT connection as main working tools.

  • How to maintain operational efficiency in these working conditions?
  • How to make sure that team members make appropriate and coordinated decisions despite isolation and chaos generated by the crisis?

In this kind of situation, experience shows that centralized and bureaucratic procedures are the weakest. In a crisis situation, elite corps from the best armies are trained to loosen hierarchical habits in favor of a more “agile” group dynamic where everyone gets more autonomous thanks to trustworthy relationships.

In order to maintain operational efficiency in your organization in the wake of an urgent crisis, it is paramount to prevent the reinforcement of control procedures that are going to disable your organization. Instead, ensure the autonomy of your employees, encourage them to show initiative in a simple but strict framework that they will contribute to design. Please find below key actionable items that will help you rapidly design a collaborative framework that will allow you to remain efficient.

  1. Rapidly and practically define an organizational crisis plan in addition to the actions that have already been taken by your IT and HR departments, in order to ensure your operational efficiency;
  2. Nail your organization key teams that are necessary to maintain the operational activities;
  3. Help each and every team to prepare its own organizational crisis plan, by quickly assessing the situation, their level of maturity regarding remote working while ensuring that each team is able, based on its profile and needs, to make remote meetings easier and to rapidly make decisions that are supported by all the team members;
  4. Provide remote personalized coaching to all the managers who would struggle in the implementation of the crisis plan.

To rapidly leverage these 4 actions, it is essential that teams are organized one by one but also to let them determine their own way of working during the crisis, based on a standard organizational crisis plan and according to their specific needs. Indeed, a highly operational team will not have the same needs as the marketing team.

A standardized organizational crisis plan could include the following actions:

  1. Create and share a list with all team members contact details, professional and personal data alike (email address, phone numbers, etc.) so that you can reach them anytime;
  2. Provide a clear definition of the team purpose as well as its key responsibilities during the crisis;
  3. Provide a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of each team member in the context of a crisis;
  4. Design operational communication systems, such as:
    • A conf or video call to deal with operational issues every morning (30mn max). And that might include the following activities:
      • Check-in: quick check-up for each team member > how do they feel? (3 minutes)
      • Check-list: very quick point about results or key items of ongoing projects or important operational processes (10 minutes)
      • Priorities: announce priority of the day for everyone (5 minutes)
      • Tensions: quick discussion about tensions or specific issues (as well as related solutions) through an inclusive, fast and structured decision-making process. If the discussion is too long or does not involve all the participants around the table, people who are concerned by the issue agree on another moment to solve the problems (10 minutes).
      • Check-out – how people feel at the end of the meeting? (2 minutes)
    • Conversations and catch-up during the day using communications tools that were chosen by the team (Microsoft Team, Slack or WhatsApp; Team members mailing list; Coda or some other collaborative tool to monitor ongoing remote working activities).
    • Once a week, schedule a governance conf or video call, on a similar format, but with different priorities (60 minutes max.)
      • Check-in
      • Assessment: fast review of the past week
      • Strategic priorities: review and adaptation of the team strategic priorities for the week to come;
      • Roles & responsibilities: if necessary, review and adaptation of each team member roles and responsibilities.
      • Communication channels: if necessary, review and adaptation of communication channels and tools that are used by the team.
      • Check-out

This organizational crisis plan is just the starting point. Each team will have to rapidly adapt it to its own needs and implement it. At Phusis, our experts fully master collaborative tools and can help you set-up reliable remote working conditions for your key teams. They can also provide some coaching to help increase their efficiency in this new working context. The coming months will be touchy for everyone of us. Let’s be united, connected, creative and proactive. It is vital.

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  • Do you need help to implement a plan that will allow you to maintain your operations despite the quarantine? You want to involve your teams in order to preserve their motivation and efficiency despite isolation? Book a free consultation.
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