by Nevo Hadas, partner at DYDX

We have been working remotely with international clients for the last 5 years. Lockdown for me (personally) has meant less travel, more time to exercise (zoom HIIT classes) and hang out with my kids. Unlike many other businesses that have suddenly had their world transformed and are struggling to adapt to a “no office” environment, our business hasn’t really been impacted too much.

The biggest business issue has been one delayed project, but we have grown during this period with new projects kicking off. The team at the moment is around 32 people, spread out between Cape Town, Johannesburg, UK and Netherlands. We have added 3 new “interns” (one is a reforming lawyer, one is a re-emerging educationalist, and one is a surf instructor/musician/organization psychology major) during this period.

Our systems are built for a digital-first organisation. We have very little email (which is a sign of digital maturity) and most of our communication is focused on projects in slack channels. There are almost no “meetings”. We don’t use video calls. Our work is done in collaborative workshops, and they are either really short (dealing with blockers in projects i.e. less than 30 min) or long workshops – where we collaborate as a team and complete key tasks. We have specific formulas for meetings and tools that we use which make our organization very efficient and ensure that nobody is dead-weight in the meeting.

This doesn’t mean that the period has not had its challenges and hasn’t created new opportunities. For example: In our design thinking and service design projects we normally facilitate physical workshops; day-long events requiring teams to work together in one room. That clearly could not happen.

As part of a 10-week certification course we co-developed with Red & Yellow, we had to deliver a full-day workshop for a group of 22 from Dimension Data. There were four teams, each working on different projects – challenging enough in a face-to-face workshop and even harder virtually.

We had to rethink and redesign the workshop process, delivering two fast-paced, highly collaborative workshops. Each was three hours long but because of the time pressure and interactivity, they felt energetic and engaging.

Similarly for Mediamark, in a Future Ways of Working workshop, usually delivered as a half-day physical event for leadership teams, we had to move it all online. We reimagined processes using Zoom, Miro boards and Google Docs, changed the agenda and had a successful outcome.

What has been interesting as a commonality for us, is even though organisations have all the tools (office365/ Gsuiite/ slack/ teams/ zoom, etc.), they haven’t explored how to use them. The organisations are hampered by a belief system anchored in the technology of eight years ago that influences how they see teams working together.

Four years ago we worked on a project with the Dutch government to develop and promote distributed remote teams. I expected a new-fangled intranet incorporating Slack and Asana, what we got was something very different. The realisation was that technology does not create successful teams, behaviour does.

This project, The Culture Canvas, was released as an ebook, downloaded thousands of times and led to us building our Culture and Future of Work Practice. In this lockdown, we decided to release another free eBook “me.we.us” to help team managers improve how they manage remote teams. We have seen it spread quite quickly already with some organisations downloading the ebook hundreds of times. We have also developed a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment designed to quickly measure remote working capabilities and quantify team effectiveness.

This has led us to develop a new training program that we expect to release at the end of May (it’s currently in beta with test organisations in SA and UK). So that is an opportunity that emerged from the lockdown.

My message to the industry and agencies is that this is a golden opportunity. You are thrust into change but it is beneficial pain. We have undertaken successful digital transformation projects with corporate marketing teams (such as Vodacom) and have spent a considerable amount of time in change management processes.

Agencies are sometimes arrogant and assume they know everything from a blog they read. The default approach is to get a new tool, come up with a new process and all will be well. This is not how it works! Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is easy. It just doesn’t work that way. Many are “too busy” to invest the time in transforming. Many great companies were too busy… until they weren’t busy at all.

 

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