This has been a year of change. As 2020 began, we could not have anticipated the events that would ensue. We just could not have known. First we heard reports of a coronavirus in China, followed by concerns that the virus would spread beyond its borders. Then we were told it could get to the United States. Then we were told it was here.
The virus spread, and the United States shut down. By March, most companies that could change had changed, even if those changes were only reactionary. Offices were closed, and employees were told to work from home. The Zoom digital meeting platform began 2020 with 10 million subscribers, and in the span of just a few months grew to over 300 million subscribers. We found new office space in our apartments and houses. We got used to working while our young children attended school just on the other side of the family room. We stopped traveling, we stopped eating out, we stopped going to movies and plays. In the momentary blink of an eye, most everything we knew had changed.
Many people lost their jobs as unemployment rates skyrocketed to levels never seen before. Those who were fortunate to not lose their jobs looked around and saw a new working landscape and reality. People saw a need to not only change, but they also saw a need to accept change.
Much of the change was imposed on us. It was out of our control. We had to learn how to work from home, how to take our meetings on Zoom and other digital platforms, how to maintain connections with our colleagues, and how to maintain momentum on our projects even though we never saw anyone face to face. We could not gather in a conference room and brainstorm on a white board. We could not talk about our weekend as we got coffee on Monday morning.
And then there was the other change. Recognizing the new realities of our office, our organization, our economy, country and world, our business leaders recognized the changes they had to make in order to survive, and maybe even succeed. Beyond the changes that were imposed on us, we had to impose meaningful change ourselves.
We heard lots of talk about the need for better collaboration and communication as we pivoted to a new reality, but unfortunately, in many cases, the best we could do was talk. We talked about the need to work differently. We talked about using collaboration and communication tools, but we tried to use those tools while we worked in the same ways we always did. Many of us struggled. We found it challenging to do these things we could barely even imagine. We had to create a reality we had never known.
We have now spent an entire six months working from home, and what once felt unique and singular is now feeling regular and mundane. Now it is time. Now it is time move beyond the theoretical and into the actual. Beyond only talking about change, it is now time to make that change happen, and to create that strange, scary reality we had only imagined through org charts, Powerpoint presentations and endless strategy conversations.
But it doesn’t need to be so scary, and the changes we need to make are really as strange or foreign as we may have feared. There are some realistic, tangible and meaningful things we can do to bring about the change that will help our organizations survive 2020 so we can thrive in 2021.
Challenge 1, Move Beyond Meetings: I find that meetings are less necessary in the virtual world. Working in a common space, it was helpful to gather from time to time to be in the same room to talk and plan. Now, an online meeting represents less an opportunity to connect and collaborate than a reason to interrupt your day and stop what you are doing.
In the O365 environment, we can make better use of OneDrive and Sharepoint to create, store and then easily share our work. In Teams and Yammer, we can collaborate in real time with our project teams and larger organization. There is no pit stop that needs to be made or baton that needs to be passed. We can always be going on around the track getting work done as we are enjoy continual and transparent connections with our direct reports, our team colleagues and management.
Pick a day, and cancel those meetings. Create the task list, continue the conversation, but there is no need to stop what you are doing.
Challenge 2, Share Your Work in Real Time: Don’t wait until your work is complete before it is shared with your colleagues. Collaboration consultant Simon Terry from Change Agents Worldwide said it perfectly when he wrote:
“Sharing work as it develops enables you to reflect on your work. It brings stakeholders into work early to provide feedback and assistance. It encourages you to be purposeful and effective in your work. Importantly, it also enables others to develop a passive awareness of your work progress and to learn from how you do your work.
Talk about a challenge! We want our work to be perfect before it is shared, and to represent the very best of who we are and what we do, but there is so much to be gained through an enhanced level of transparency and openness. Use your Teams channel or Yammer community to share what you are doing right now. Ask for input, and provide feedback. Thank people for their contributions, and let their expertise and experience inform your work.
Challenge 3, Celebrate Everything: As we learn to work from our living rooms, family rooms and basements, we need to acknowledge and celebrate a lot. We need to celebrate what we have accomplished with our work and ourselves, and how we have succeeded. We need to acknowledge the frustrations we have had, and the failures we have experienced. Tomorrow, go to your Teams channel or Yammer community and connect with your colleagues about these shared experiences. Whether we are talking about a success or a setback, there is much to be learned, much to be discussed, and so very much to be celebrated.
We can talk about change, and we should. We can talk and talk and talk, and before we know it, the time for talk will be done, and the opportunity for change will have passed us by. I hope you take these challenges. Cancel a meeting, share your work, celebrate your setbacks. Every challenge we accept will bring us another step closer to a successful 2021.
You know why? Because before you know it 2020 will be over, and I for one can’t wait.