Working from home exposes process weakness
With crisis comes opportunity
Covid-19 will forever change the way we think about work.
By forcing people to work remotely, the pandemic is going to rapidly expose weaknesses in every organization’s business processes. The winners will be those companies that have perfected the efficient movement of work across their companies regardless of where workers and systems are and who is doing the work. Those that have not will need to scramble to ensure the movement and tracking of work is not disrupted.
The most critical issue will be the management of work transitions
Points of work transition are hard to see. As a result, they typically don’t get nearly enough attention. But, with the need to significantly increase the virtualization of work and the workforce, effectively managing the transition of work becomes a critical success factor. It’s like a relay race where the fastest team loses the race because the baton is dropped during the baton exchange. And even when the baton is finally picked up in business, it is often missing some key ingredients for the next person to be successful during the next stage of the process.
In remote work, problems with weak hand-offs become points of failure. The most critical areas that need to be addressed include:
Clear definition of work dependencies
Monitoring thresholds that ensure nothing falls through the cracks
End-to-end visibility of work status
Process agility (the ability to change based on changing circumstances)
Automation of rules to reduce the possibility of error when the transitions take place
Management monitoring of hand-offs is critical
The management metrics for successful remote work are different than face-to-face work where issues can often be corrected with in-person conversation.
Successful remote work needs real-time answers to questions like:
How do I know when you are done with your task so I can start mine?
How do I know that you completed everything you were supposed to do before I get it so I don’t have to go back and forth to get what I need?
How do I know I have the right information so I can make the best decisions and take the right actions?
How do I know you are working on something, or if something is running late, without having to call or email?
How do I know the status of all the dependencies that need to be completed before that I can begin my task?
Context provided for every task
Most importantly, the new face of remote work must provide the ability for work to follow the worker. Workers need to be automatically notified when they need to do something, and this notification needs to come with everything they need to do to be able to complete the work – without having to go somewhere else to get the information and data they need.
Better work transitions are the KEY to the future productivity
It is going to be a differentiator that accelerates time to value and creates a competitive advantage. So when the next crisis comes along – pandemic, plagues of locusts, earthquake, wildfires – work can continue to move across the organization without hampering the ability of the company to seamlessly get things done.
The companies that come out of this crisis stronger will be those that are able to build bulletproof processes that sit above employees, customers, vendors, and systems where work can flow freely regardless of where people and systems reside.
Jonathan Sapir is the author of Thriving at the Edge of Chaos and founder and CEO of Work-Relay, an enterprise application designed to accelerate time to value by removing barriers to the rapid transition of work across the organization.