Last week I wrote the first part of an article about how the covid-remote situation has influenced our core values and made them stronger. In that article I covered the situation B.C. (Before Covid) and went into detail about the values we have set. In this article I will discuss the effects of COVID. This would conclude the whole vision about our values - I hope you will find it useful.
So now that we know what the value are, let’s see which ones were actually influenced by this abrupt change,
To be honest at first i didn’t realise that. The transition happened so quickly and so smoothly (project-wise) that I just figured “Hey! It works! And I didn’t have to do much about it”. As time was passing by, the projects were still going as before but something has changed.
- The first thing I observed was the “office vibe” we used to have. Since everybody was on site before, it was really easy to have a good relationship with anyone. Chit-chats in the kitchen, lightning talks done on-site, watercooler talks about different things - the flow was obvious and good. But that was gone. So the first thing that was endangered was the community part.
- What came next - the growth. People were sitting in their homes, focusing on the task at hand and somehow it was more difficult to change the focus from client to self-development.
- Transparency was another aspect. I was used to the fact that I can talk to everybody about anything as they were in the office. The day-to-day business knowledge was flowing naturally and I did not have to put much effort into it. This has also stopped abruptly.
- Visibility - that word speaks volumes. Can you be as visible as before given you are used to being on-site?
- Communication - as most of you know written communication has its risks (especially in conflict-like situations). But video-chats are not a perfect solution either. They are really hard for our brains, as we need to put a lot of effort into analyzing emotions that are not as visible as in face to face contact.
- Impact on others - it’s similar to visibility. We were used to different reality, so a sudden change did not help in this aspect as well.
As you see the number of things that were influenced by a sudden change is impressive and touches almost every aspect of our culture before-covid.
Now let’s take a look at the elephant in the room (and sorry it took so long to get here) - how the situation made all those values stronger, even though we have encountered so many obstacles on the way?
There are two ways to answer this question - tldr one and a full one. TLDR is simply “focus”. And now as for the full one:
What really has changed when covid arrived - the amount of time we spend together and thus the amount of direct communication. Therefore, the thing we needed to tackle was one of our values - clear and direct communication. We understand now more than ever that this is a very important focus. We introduced remote coffees and integrations to make sure we can also have chit-chats. Bear in mind that good communication is not everything - remember the word “focus”. Since a lot of the messages are written those days, we have more time to figure out what we really want to say. This gives us the ability to be more mindful with our communication - and that’s a good focus. It also helps to make the right decisions.
Now that we do not see each other, we as a company need to be more involved in the growth of our people and organization. We need to make clear statements about our quarter goals and be precise about. This makes us think three times before writing them - and that’s a good thing. The remote situation is also naturally forcing us to figure out how people and teams can help each other in the process of growth - as before it was obvious people can just turn right and talk directly. In short words - now we are more aware of the knowledge distribution among our team-members.
Impact on others
We as a company need to give more means to present the knowledge among others. One of the examples of how to do it is involving PMs to announce this need within every project (basically what they do is remind their team-mates to have this in mind when planning their work). Another one is motivating the teams to do it through the OKRs and guiding people whenever required. The reason for involvement is pretty simple - as the covid arrived people went to “crisis” mode - focusing as much as possible on current projects and postponing the investment days. That’s why introducing those types of “reminders” is proven helpful.
Obviously it’s easier to support anyone with feedback when we meet everyday. Now that this has changed we needed to figure out the way to push for quality feedback (written one is harder - needs to be more precise and accurate). What we did here is the complete change of our 360 review system - but I will not spoil that much, as my friend, Zuzanna Wodyk will write an article about it (which i will share and link here). But spoiler alert - it’s all about the right focus in the process of gathering feedback. This is another place where Project Managers prove useful, as they naturally (through some routines like retros) support the culture of constructive feedback.
Having fun together
At this stage there is just a small percentage of people that actually visit the office, so we also had to figure out how to integrate everybody online. For that purpose we use ZING, a tool that we have created for our client, that helps us in this manner. It has a built-in groups mechanism (so it’s easy to divide a large group of people) but what’s most important - it has games that bring a whole new level of fun to the calls. As with time they are becoming more challenging, so having an element that integrates even those that are silent is crucial:)
I know that you probably expected some go-to strategies and easy tricks, but I seriously doubt it’s that easy. That’s why we took a step back and looked at our values to see what we can do to enhance them. The C-level commitment to those values is of the utmost importance - in my opinion - it’s impossible to enforce values in this particular situation without a clear communication and example coming from the top.
If you have other experience with dealing with culture in remote-situation I’m really eager to hear about it:) Just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.