From Pajamas to Productivity: 5 Ways to Create a Collaborative Environment for Remote and Hybrid Work

Many organizations are now embracing remote and hybrid work models as a permanent part of their workplace. This can positively impact work-life balance for employees, improve mental health, and save costs of operating a large physical office. However, there are new challenges that come with not having employees face-to-face on a daily basis. Collaboration can be more difficult in a virtual environment, and spontaneous collaborations are in short supply in hybrid or remote formats.

With this in mind, how do we create a collaborative work environment for remote and hybrid organizations? Leaders and HR professionals can no longer presume that this will happen on its own, and they need to be very intentional in creating and supporting a collaborative workplace.

To support you on the journey of creating and maintaining a collaborative work environment, here are five building blocks of collaboration.

1. Trust Comes First

My Grandpa used to say, “Trust is not a present but a hard-earned payment.” He was a brilliant guy, and for a long time I believed this statement. But my experience as a coach and observations from many of my clients suggest that the opposite belief is what we need. Trusting others without any proof might make you feel vulnerable and exposed, but it creates a strong reciprocity effect that motivates others to go the extra mile and do their best job.

Trust your team to choose the days they will be in the office. My experience shows that given a choice, people usually make the right one, and if being in the office can produce the best results, people will figure this out. If you decide to assign mandatory office days, please do not spend half a day checking the attendance and demanding a three-page “parent note” about why they didn’t show up. Allow people to use their innovative thinking to improve the business, not to devise elaborate reasons why they couldn’t come to the office.

2. Principle of Interdependency

While independence is often emphasized as a desired trait for leaders and employees, interdependency can lead to stronger bonds, fosters better communication and improves outcomes. Erik Erikson, a prominent German-American psychoanalyst and the Pulitzer Prize winner, once said, “Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.”[1]

If your team works in a hybrid format, people on site will primarily communicate and collaborate with others in the office, leaving the remote part of the team out of the loop. It happens due to a cognitive bias called proximity bias, which creates a faulty belief that people physically closest to us are more skilled and helpful. The company can create an illusion of physical presence to mitigate this bias. There are various virtual office apps based on augmented reality principles that help stay connected in real time and can be very fun to use.

One of my clients established “teamwork hours.” All team members, on and off-site, for a few hours a day, are connecting to the audio app, allowing them to talk to each other as if they were in the same room. A few months ago, they started with only 2 hours a day, and now people prefer to spend most of their work hours connected to this app. (The investment in high-quality headsets is very encouraged, though.)

3. Purpose and Belonging

According to Gusto’s report, more than half of the employees stayed at their current workplace longer than it was in their best interest because they appreciated the sense of belonging, community and a common mission.[2] Rules of social isolation and working from home made us accustomed to working in silos. Regularly talking about the company’s mission and goals, inviting everybody to participate in the conversation, creating a space for “small talks” and “water cooler discussions”, all of that helps bringing back the sense of community and connection, which in return will ignite a much higher level of collaboration.

Working in the hybrid format can sometimes feel like watching a movie created by randomly stitched together coloured and black-and-white pieces. You still get the plot, but the experience is not optimal. Regularly reminding people why the business exists in the first place, whom we serve, and how we improve other people’s lives can help to see the bigger picture.

My neighbour works as an industrial designer at the manufacturer that builds patients’ hospital beds. A few weeks ago, management organized a trip to the local hospital for engineers and designers, most of whom are working in the hybrid format. They had the chance to talk to nurses and support staff. They heard so much positive feedback about the quality and functionality of the beds and how it makes the hospital personnel’s job a bit easier. My neighbour swears he saw some tears.

4. Transparency and Vulnerability

I have always considered technology a blessing and a curse. On one side, it allows companies to hire employees from all over the globe, it is always available, and everyone is only a click away. On the other hand, remote and hybrid work forces us to rely mostly on words, taking away the whole universe of human interactions – facial expressions, body language, and behavioural clues. And it leaves too much room for interpretation and misunderstandings. That is why transparency and vulnerability is so important – it brings depth and humanity back to our communications.

  • You can start by encouraging remote employees to turn their cameras on. To stretch our boundaries of vulnerability, we need to have a safety net – to see team members’ faces. It is tough to feel safe while staring at the black hole of a faceless screen. We need to see smiles, slight nodding, and other facial cues to read the social temperature correctly. And it should start with the company’s leaders championing this approach.
  • To support transparency, managers need to pay special attention to creating clear expectations for team members: what the preferred communication channels are when working from home and in the office, what are each team member’s responsibilities, and what the most desired outcome looks like.
  • Promote a “no holding back” policy by encouraging people to speak up with feedback and ideas, ask questions, and request help when needed. Remind everybody that each team member will succeed only if the entire team will.

5. Leveling the Playing Field

This aspect is mainly relevant to hybrid work. Fear of missing out and feeling like “step-children” compare to the on-site employees is real for remote team members. A few changes to the day-to-day operations will help:

  • All important announcements are made via electronic channels first, before it’s circulated in the office.
  • It’s best for on-site employees to join meetings from their computers even if only one team member connects remotely.
  • While considering someone for a promotion, manager needs to have a list of all the employees and their achievements in front of them to mitigate a proximity bias.
  • Schedule “small talks” with your remote team members, and don’t use them to discuss work. Focus on the person instead.

It’s important to know that the ability to collaborate is not a personality trait we are born with. It is a skill that can be learned and mastered with training and support. And an admission like “I am just not a people person” is not enough to declare someone as “a lost cause.” It just means that the right approach hasn’t been found yet.

Creating a collaborative workplace takes time, patience, planning and a try-fail-pivot-try approach. But when done with full buy-in from the front-line employees and consistent support from the C-level executives, it can take the company to the next level of success while keeping people happy, energized and excited about their work.

And with 86% of employees naming lack of collaboration as a main source of workplace failures[3], I believe investing human and financial resources into developing and maintaining the culture of collaboration within your company will bring impressive and consistent ROI.

About the Author

Jenny BarkanJenny Barkan, ACC is a certified business coach, specializing in leadership skills development and creation of employee experience. Her educational background is law and psychology, but her passion has always been to help people to live better lives while they are at work and outside of work. Jenny is a big supporter of science-based coaching and often shares the latest developments in neuroscience during her workshops, facilitation and coaching. In her spare time, she is a devoted dog mom, a bit of a bookworm and a wine lover.

 

 

References

Employees cite lack of collaboration for workplace failures. Fierce. (2011). Retrieved August 16, 2023, from https://www.fierceinc.com/employees-cite-lack-of-collaboration-for-workplace-failures/#:~:text=86%20percent%20of%20respondents%20blame,will%20impact%20bottom%20line%20results

Erikson, E. H. (n.d.). Erik H. Erikson quotes (author of childhood and society). Goodreads. Retrieved August 16, 2023,  from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/31652.Erik_H_Erikson.

Gusto Report: Community at work. gusto. (2016) . Retrieved August 16, 2023, from https://go.gusto.com/rs/110-WOX-868/images/Framework_Community_at_Work_Survey_final.pdf

Kellogg Murray, J. (2023, February 16). Five things people miss the most about the office. Indeed. Retrieved August 16, 2023, from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/covid-19-what-people-miss-most-about-office-work

 

Footnotes

[1] Erikson, E. H. (n.d.). Erik H. Erikson quotes (author of childhood and society). Goodreads. Retrieved August 16, 2023,  from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/31652.Erik_H_Erikson.

[2] Gusto Report: Community at work. gusto. (2016) . Retrieved August 16, 2023, from https://go.gusto.com/rs/110-WOX-868/images/Framework_Community_at_Work_Survey_final.pdf.

[3] Employees cite lack of collaboration for workplace failures. Fierce. (2011). Retrieved August 16, 2023, from https://www.fierceinc.com/employees-cite-lack-of-collaboration-for-workplace-failures/#:~:text=86%20percent%20of%20respondents%20blame,will%20impact%20bottom%20line%20results

Organizational Transformation: Why it’s So Hard, Why it Matters, and Why You Should Start Now!

If there is one thing we’ve re-learned over the past few years, it’s that change is constant, whether we like it or not. The COVID-19 pandemic has often been credited for being the catalyst of changing the way we work, but it was only a reminder of how quickly people can adapt when they need to—and how resilient they can be.

Today, adaptability and resilience are required on a regular basis. Market volatility has made strategic transformations essential for some industries to survive. Critical and topical initiatives like equity and inclusion, digital transformation and building a future-proof workforce represent massive shifts, particularly for organizations where culture has remained unchanged in decades.

Here is where organizational transformation comes in. As organizations coast to coast in Canada and around the world face external pressure to innovate and remain relevant, as well as internal pressure to improve workplace culture and nurture talent, leaders now find themselves at a crossroads. There certainly isn’t a dull moment in the new, redefined roaring twenties we’re currently living in, where organizations are increasingly defined by their ability to identify changing market demands, redefine their vision and execute that transition.

Why it’s So Hard

Any type of change is hard—that’s a fact. Among organizations, approximately 70% of all change initiatives fail.[1] If you are having trouble, remember that you are not alone. Here are some examples of change scenarios illustrating why strategies may not progress past the implementation phase:

  • The transformation is mentioned once or twice at an all staff meeting and never mentioned by anyone ever again.
  • This the third leader the team/organization has had in three years. Teams are too focused on trying to keep their jobs to get excited about this new vision.
  • There’s a high degree of comfort in established processes and relationships and absolutely no compelling reason for staff to make any changes to that.
  • The organization has identified a strategic shift in one direction but every single structural component (unit business plans, operational goals, employee performance metrics, incentive structures) are focused in another direction.
  • Staff are exhausted and have no bandwidth to lead, implement or even entertain a change of any kind.

Why it Matters 

Every organization faces the need for change at some point.  However, transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Whether your organization is looking at a complete strategic shift or the implementation of a new procedure, change is a long game. It’s about the collective commitment, communication, and collaboration to see it through until it’s done.

Reasons for Organizational Transformation

A great cultural reset can be mission-critical if you’re facing a number of challenges. If you aren’t sure if change is on the horizon for your organization, ask yourself:

  • Are employee turnover rates at an all-time high?
  • Are your revenue outcomes consistently underperforming while competitors continue to eat into your market share?
  • Are you still using legacy technology that is no longer being updated, with workarounds costing twice as much as implementing a new system?
  • Are the values of employees and other stakeholders evolving but aren’t reflected anywhere in your current organizational structure?

When done right, organizational transformation has the power to redefine a sustainable future, encourage a culture that supports it and usher you to a new era of growth and industry leadership.

Benefits of Organizational Transformation

If your organization is at a critical juncture, it’s helpful to consider the critical outcomes that can be achieved and continuously leveraged directly through organizational transformation initiatives:

  1. Your organization will have the necessary infrastructure to enable seamless collaboration among stakeholders who have all bought into a renewed, shared vision. Employees are not simply working for you, but with you, and are continuously encouraged to adopt a collaborative mindset.
  2. Multi-faceted priority growth areas are met as a result of adopting new processes, tools, and strategic frameworks. A “transformed” organization is increasingly agile and responsive to evolving market or sector demands, with flexibility and adaptability being core collective competencies that enable teams to achieve various goals and bridge gaps in current delivery of value to stakeholders.
  3. The “future of work” is achieved through a productive people and culture reset. Through a commitment to well-being and ongoing professional development, organizational transformation empowers teams to become champions of change. A highly skilled and resilient workforce can lead the charge in operationalizing strategy through high-performance execution that yields crucial results.

Before undertaking this process, it’s important to establish a solid foundation for change. Initiating organizational transformation begins with bringing all stakeholders to the table—beginning with leaders who typically start the conversation to frontline staff who will be carrying out this new mission. This process requires a 360-degree view of the organization’s current vision, work structures and results generated in order to deliver on shared goals.

Why You Should Start Now

The lessons learned from the last few years have illustrated how organizations and entire industries are now at a critical period. To evolve means to survive in an increasingly competitive market, with the support of the people that work to make it possible. Transforming the way our organization works is the key to achieving this, setting up for a successful future.

As you’ve seen, organizational transformation goes beyond initiating a change management strategy when innovating one process that affects how certain teams work. Rather, it’s a complete reset of everything we know about doing business and leading in the age of disruptive innovation. Leaders who recognize this need today and take steps towards transformation will be rewarded with: (1) low employee turnover and increased commitment to a shared vision, (2) higher revenue and an expanded footprint, (3) innovative offerings, (4) agile processes and technologies (5) and an overall stronger future.

If your organization is facing pressures to innovate or challenges in boosting employee retention and nurturing talent, you need an organizational transformation strategy to navigate this changing landscape. The Queen’s IRC Organizational Transformation program at the can help you prepare and equip you with the necessary tools, frameworks and approaches for transforming the way you work.

About the Author

Carol KotackaCarol Kotacka is a results-oriented strategist, specializing in transformational change and strategy execution in local, national and international markets. Holding senior leadership positions in industry, healthcare and NGOs, her background reflects a deep understanding of the nuanced approach diverse cultures and stakeholder groups require, with proven results driving change time and again through work in North America, Europe, the Middle East and, most recently, South America.  During her career, Carol has had the privilege of co-creating strategic vision and system wide transformation with organizations, residents, employees, government entities as well as first responders. Carol’s undergraduate studies include Social Sciences and Public Affairs. Post graduate work includes Strategic Business Leadership from the Rotman School of Management and an EMBA from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

Carol is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Organizational Transformation program.

 

[1]Nohria , N., & Beer, M. (2000). Cracking the code of change. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from

https://hbr.org/2000/05/cracking-the-code-of-change

 

 

Leading Organizational Transformation

What is Organizational Transformation?

Organizational transformation is a fundamental, radical, ground breaking paradigm shift, such as re-imagining an organization’s structure and culture. It involves integrated, synergistic, aligned, system-wide deliverables for which all employees and leaders are responsible, individually and collectively.

For example, it is not about creating a new service, but reconceptualizing how the organization interacts with its customers; it’s not about continuous improvement, but groundbreaking innovation based on a radially different foundation and belief system. Organizational Transformation is about dreaming big, not tinkering with the status quo; shattering outdated beliefs and systems, not trying to adapt them to new realities. It’s like conquering the wild west or setting foot on a new planet.

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Team Effectiveness: From Pandemic to Promise in the Learning Organization (Executive Summary)

Team Effectiveness: From Pandemic To Promise In The Learning Organization (Executive Summary)This research on the effectiveness of teams was conducted in the early fall of 2020. It is largely supportive of, and consistent with, much of the thinking of others who were paying close attention to the experience of teams and leaders in a virtual environment. And the focus on teams also highlights the important relationship between teams and organization leadership and their interdependencies.

The research also highlights a number of important insights and ‘learnings’ that will serve us well in the coming months; while it is difficult to predict with any certainty, it is possible that new habits will emerge as teams continue to focus on their overall effectiveness in support of organization priorities.

Chief among the findings were the following:

  • The recognition that there is always a balance between Task and Relationship in any work setting warranted increased and active attention. The wellbeing of the team and its members extended to not only having the tools and support necessary for the tasks assigned, but also to the whole question of safety and security as teams looked to leaders for assurances and ongoing clarity. (In her book entitled Teaming, Professor Amy Edmundson refers to this important area as “psychological safety”);[1]
  • Leaders became much more aware of the need to bring elements of emotional intelligence into their active support of teams and team members; this included empathy and appropriate ‘blends’ of compassion and communication as their colleagues coped with balancing personal responsibilities in addition to work expectations, all in a virtual world. Moreover, the longstanding concept of ‘shared leadership’ assumed heightened importance in a transparent virtual environment;
  • Collaboration and Communication are not new concepts as essential elements in support of team effectiveness. What has become much clearer however, is the need for both leaders and teams to actively pay ongoing attention to both in order to have a finger on the ‘pulse’ of the individuals who are engaged in furthering organization goals. Moreover, the notion of collaboration  increasingly links to shared leadership in such aspects as greater participation in decision-making and joint problem-solving; and
  • Throughout the responses, often implicit, was the theme of how critical ongoing learning was as we ‘navigated’ the uncertainties of a COVID-19 world.

Looking forward, we can probably expect the mutually-supportive relationship between leaders and teams to continue in a more active way.  Expectations of continuing shared participation are now more the norm and reverting to an earlier way of working is unlikely.

Further, the research emphasized the importance of dealing with relevant questions, many of which are at an exploratory stage, but all of which will impact both teams and leaders in the weeks and months ahead.  Among these are:

  • As we move to the new reality in which virtual work will be a preference for some organizations and employees, with others preferring the surroundings of a safe office environment, how will the organization ensure that it mitigates any risk of the emergence of an ‘A’ Team and a ‘B’ Team?;
  • Performance Management in all of its dimensions will of course remain a critical aspect of organization life.  The question, however, is how it will be managed and how it will be measured.  For instance, feedback for developmental purposes has already changed and may continue to do so.  As we move forward, what will be the critical areas in which active attention will determine how successful feedback conversations will be?;
  • As one recent book –‘Virtually Speaking’ from Changemakers Books (2020)[2] – highlights, we will cease speaking of ‘virtual communication’ and simply refer to ‘communication’.  That said, with the ongoing imperative to continue to explore the integration of digital technologies in enabling strong two-way communication— often in close to ‘real time’ conditions—- what will the new models look like and how will we measure their effectiveness?;
  • What will become central to ensuring that there is continuous and shared learning across the organization, both within and between teams but also at and among other levels of the organization?; and
  • What models of ‘shared leadership’ will emerge to recognize the speed of change, the multi-faceted issues which challenge organizations and the heightened expectations of positive outcomes in a ‘less-than-certain’ environment?

Finally, as leaders and teams continue to grow and adapt to changing realities, a number of topics will probably be central to the organization effectiveness  conversation. Such subjects as the following may become part of their ‘standing agenda’:

  • Building and fostering solid trust relationships;
  • Continuing to pay attention to the evolving and changing needs of teams
  • Making ‘resilience’ and emotional intelligence key organization priorities
  • Adapting a range of technologies to facilitate effective communications
  • Re-visiting the roles of leaders in areas of shared leadership, problem-solving and decision-making
  • Examining new approaches to managing change
  • Adapting organization design to be fully responsive to the need for collaboration and agile responses to current and emergent challenges

 

About the Author

Ross RoxburghRoss Roxburgh is a leadership coach and organization consultant with several decades of experience with a wide range of clients, both domestic and international across the private, public and para-public sectors. He has a strong interest in the effectiveness of individuals and teams in complex organization environments; in many cases he brings both coaching and consulting experience to client engagements.

Ross positions his client work in a deliberate way.  He works with his clients as opposed to adopting a prescriptive approach.  Initially he focuses on understanding where the organization is positioned today and what the key challenges are in realizing the preferred future.  Respectful challenge is central to his approach and he is committed to developing solutions with the client which meet current priorities and also position the organization for future challenges. He is a facilitator with Queen’s IRC on a range of programs related to Board effectiveness, Committee evolution and Performance Management. 

Ross holds the designation of Certified Management Consultant (CMC) as well as that of Master Corporate Executive Coach (MCEC).  He has been certified in the use of the EQ-I 2.0 instrument as well as the LEA 360. He has continued to deepen his learning through the globally-recognized graduate program in Organization and Systems Development developed by the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland as well as a number of related programs through the International Gestalt Centre in Wellfleet and the National Training Laboratories (NTL) offerings. Prior to his coaching and consulting career, Ross completed an interdisciplinary Masters Degree in Canadian Studies as well as an Honours BA, both from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

The full report can be downloaded at: https://irc.queensu.ca/team-effectiveness-from-pandemic-to-promise-in-the-learning-organization-research-report/ 

 


[1] Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy. Kbh.: Nota.

[2] Erickson, T & Ward, T. (2020). Resilience: Virtually Speaking. John Hunt Publishing.

Team Effectiveness: From Pandemic to Promise in the Learning Organization (Research Report)

As we move from the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic into the next phase of organization life, learnings from the first few months of the pandemic will serve to highlight behaviours and approaches which will serve us well as we continue to build effective teams. In addition, the experience of a virtual world, one which is here to stay, will also point to areas where we will need to develop new habits, modify earlier ways of working, and examine approaches that served us well in the pre-pandemic reality, but now no longer support us as effectively in light of the new reality.
This research captures how organizations are re-thinking the role of teams, the work they do and how they approach and carry out that work. This report is based on a survey of team leaders, organization consultants and leadership coaches, as well as research in the field.
The survey on the effectiveness of teams was conducted in the fall of 2020 with a goal to examine the following:

  1. What we have learned at the team level of the organization from the experience and challenges of moving through a pandemic?
  2. What has taken on greater clarity for leaders, managers and supervisors in terms of priority areas as teams strive for sustained effectiveness over the next period of uncertainty?

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Canada’s Pandemic Response: Key Learnings for Building our Future

 Key Learnings for Building our Future

What if the entire population becomes vulnerable due a pandemic? COVID-19 took the world by surprise, then by storm, compelling us to adapt to new realities which considerably impact our individual, social and professional lives. The Canadian Federal Government, responsible for leading the pandemic crisis response, had to take effective and swift action in a rapidly shifting environment, driven by a new and mysterious threat. Implementing a multitude of effective responses across the country during COVID-19 posed a significant challenge for the Federal Government with regards to speed, agility and performance, and they proved up to the task, using an action learning, collaborative and iterative approach.

In this paper, Francoise Morissette explores Canada's pandemic response, and how this fits into the Compassion Revolution Series. First, she looks at the pandemic response through the lens of the 4D action learning process – Define, Discover, Design and Do. Next, she explores how we are facing the storm in the present, how we have learned from experience and built capacity through past pandemics, and how a blueprint for the future is beginning to emerge. (Sections of this paper on the Past, Present and Future are also available on our website.)

The first article of the Compassion Revolution series explores a new trend: Why so many public and not for profit organizations are transforming their service delivery models to better meet the needs of vulnerable and at risk populations. These transformations require not only organizational and process redesign, but significant paradigm and culture shifts. While the organization featured in the first Compassion Revolution Series article (Peel Region), made a proactive and strategic decision to implement a new service delivery model (and could exercise more control over timing and actualization), this was not the case for the COVID-19 response. During a national emergency simultaneously impacting various sectors and population segments in different ways, multiple strategies are required, which must be implemented quickly and effectively.

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 3)

 Blueprint for Sustainable SuccessBuilding Capacity

A blueprint for the future is beginning to emerge: one that will involve greater use of interactive technology, system-wide collaboration, widespread innovation, improved systems thinking capacity, and stronger recognition and appreciation of the female leadership brand.

Interactive Technology

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, declared Greek philosopher Plato, in Dialogue Republic, and COVID-19 proves him right. Inventive technology applications are emerging in droves. Here are examples from various sectors.

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 2)

 Learning from Experience and Building CapacityThis is not the first time Canada has faced pandemics. What have we learned from past experiences? How can we leverage these learnings, now and for the future?  How can we continue to evolve and improve? Here’s a summary of our experience so far.

Overview

Pandemics: Definition

A pandemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects a large proportion of the population in multiple countries, or worldwide. Human populations have been affected by pandemics since ancient times. These include widespread outbreaks of plague, cholera, influenza, and, more recently, HIV/AIDS, SARS and COVID-19.[1]

Pandemics Response: Public Health

Initially, it was about defining Public Health, shaping a national vision for it, and putting in place infrastructures to deliver and manage services:

In order to slow or stop the spread of disease, governments implemented public health measures that include testing, isolation and quarantine. In Canada, public health agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels play an important role in monitoring disease, advising governments and communicating to the public.[2]

 


[1] Bailey, P. (2008, May 7.) Updated Marshall, T. (2020, March). Pandemics in Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 23, 2020, from  https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/pandemic

[2]  Ibid.

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 1)

 Facing the StormEmergencies and crises often create the perfect storm for transformation, as change is primarily driven by the powerful winds of Pain and/or Gain.

Not surprisingly, up to 80% of change is propelled by Pain, a wake up call that pushes us out of complacency, providing opportunities to raise the bar, innovate, shift paradigms, modernize, and make systems work better for more people. Pain compels us to face outdated realities and systems that we are otherwise reluctant to contemplate, infusing us with the courage to do so.

Preparing for the Future with Scenarios

Preparing for the Future with ScenariosOur lives, personal and professional, have been disrupted in a way that many of us may have never imagined. As schools and businesses close, people find themselves isolated from colleagues, friends and family, and sometimes facing this challenge alone. Everything that we took for granted seems to be upside down and inside out. And there is no definitive end in sight.

How do we plan for a future with so many unknowns? Even though your boards and leaders may be seeking concrete solutions, it’s simply not possible; no one has a crystal ball. None of us can accurately foresee how the next months will unfold, and quite frankly, that is not our work right now. As futurist Amy Webb so pointedly observed, our “goal right now isn’t prediction. It’s preparation for what comes next.”

One thing we can do right now is to actively contribute to what comes next. That means collaborating to find new ways of working and new ways of connecting. To support your planning, we offer an exercise from our Designing Collaborative Workplaces program. It can help you and your colleagues identify and see possible futures, so that you can pull out plausible scenarios, categorize them, and help your team stretch their thinking to develop strategies and adapt to a new way of working.

With so many unknowns, what people need to see from their leaders right now, is that they have a good command of the here and now — even as it changes hourly— as well as the capacity to think about the medium and longer terms. The Shaping Possible Futures exercise below, is a low-tech way to help your teams think ahead, to carefully explore alternative scenarios, so that you can prepare for what might be coming next.

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