Now that the ‘New Normal’ has arrived it is easy to feel overwhelmed or that we all have quite a bit of adjusting to do. Many of us have been talking about the ‘New Normal’ for some time but which of us knew what it might look like. One of, if not the defining characteristic of the ‘New Normal’ is its dynamic nature. Knowing that might help us navigate through this current storm although doesn’t really help to establish a firm foundation for operational planning or clarity of strategic thought.
As we emerge out of lockdown and into what may become the ‘New Normal’ for business and industry one thing we can be certain of is uncertainty. Will the handshake that closes the deal be a thing of the past? Will all of the members of the board ever again sit around that highly polished and imposing table? Will the business suit, currently hanging in the wardrobe be selected for another outing, and if so will the trousers still fit? Will my home become my permanent place of work? Are corporate office blocks destined to be restyled as the next wave of hipster homes?
COVID19 has most certainly transformed the thinking of many. For some businesses, working from home has emerged as the champion of increased productivity and streamliner of overheads. Who knew that what many considered to be the easy way of putting in a working day would become the model of choice for global corporations, as they see productivity rise and offset that against the expense of a central office.
Figuring out how to maintain that personal touch in business meetings, customer and client exchanges and transactions while maximising all the lessons and benefits that the virtual and remote way of working has given us will be a significant challenge. Of course the adjustment to a socially distant method of business has been a steep learning curve for most and absolutely devastating for some, but those that can see the silhouette of their future business emerging against the light at the end of the tunnel now face the challenge of identifying, establishing and unravelling what that looks like.
The lessons and benefits may not be immediately obvious, but virtual team meetings have helped us to avoid group think. Support or opposition to an idea or concept can often be immediately established by the nonverbal response it gets in a meeting room. Many ideas may never have received the courtesy of a fair discussion just because an individual influencers response through their body language alone, drained any potential enthusiasm or acceptance out of the room even before the initial idea could be built upon.
We have been forced to rethink how we structure and conduct meetings. Virtual meetings eliminate travel time and expense, but they also demand a new economy in how we communicate. Those proficient in being succinct, clear and unambiguous in how they get their message across will thrive in a virtual world. Those of us that struggle with this new economy can find some comfort in the knowledge that these skills can be learnt and that practise will bring a more accomplished delivery.
Attending meetings that we have no business in attending or can offer zero contribution to have a more limited impact on our time and productivity. Past negotiations with line managers and team leaders as one frantically tries to manoeuvre oneself out of attending yet another unnecessary meeting may be inappropriate to mention in polite company. Possibly the worst kept secret of the ZOOM generation is that of a muted microphone and disabled camera assuring a meeting organiser that he has nothing less than a passive participant. Turning off our laptops eyes and ears while we get on with something more productive may breach the virtual etiquette that we are gradually coming to terms with but it means virtual multitasking can at least be productive.
The implementation of changes that have been forced upon us cannot be avoided. Their permanence may remain precarious but applying the positives and implementing the necessities of what this pandemic has brought us must be at the heart of the organisation that will prevail in the ‘New Normal’.
The single most important factor for the leaders and influencers in your organisation as you lay the foundations for commerce in the future is not only to implement the positive aspects of what this pandemic has taught us and to make the necessary changes but it is of to identify that which must never change. What identifies you, what sets you apart, what makes your organisation unique. Establish this as the key fundamental aspect of your organisation, build from there towards a more productive and lasting future.
Jonie Graham – July 2020