Developing a future-fit company that can navigate times of volatility, uncertainty and crisis is top of mind for most business leaders at this time. Covid-19 is all of the above and is bringing about global innovation and acceleration of business trends that would otherwise have taken 3-5 years to take hold. Here are seven ways a leader can build a future-fit company and team.
Why future-fit teams?
Companies able to build resilience and prepare for unpredictable change not only chart a course for today's crisis but are also positioned better for future growth.
Future-fit teams are required for longevity, agility and ultimately, sustainability. Organisations that are adaptable, resilient and innovate quickly are more likely to survive and thrive in unknown future economies.
1. Give your team a purpose that inspires
Millennials, Gen Y and Gen Z, are more concerned with the environment and positive social change than any previous generations. They thrive in situations where the work they do has a higher purpose by doing good towards others. A clearly defined purpose gives teams an overarching reason for being, and when times get tough, it is a compelling motivator for why employees would instead stick around rather than jump ship to another company.
2. Empower future-fit teams through clearly defined company values
Empowering teams through lived-out company values is highly effective, especially for remote-based employees. Company values are not a poster on the wall or a feel-good intellectual exercise; values are behaviours and attitudes that permeate throughout an organisation whether intended or not.
If correctly defined, clearly communicated and continuously supported through management and employee behaviour, values can be one of the most empowering tools for agile future-fit teams.
Company values set out the rules, by which the business plays the game. They lay out the boundaries in which a team can safely perform the game without breaking the rules. In South Africa, we have seen the destruction that corrupt and greedy values can have on companies and state institutions alike. However, when company values are ethical and well-intended, they empower teams to be agile in their decision making and problem resolution, enabling them to serve clients better and deliver high-quality service.
It is a fact that a business leader and founder is often the embodiment of an organisation's values, which is why when a business-leader moves on, the incumbent can, without being conscious of it, change the values of the organisation. An intentional change of company values can be a good thing when the values are destructive and not in the interest of the greater good.
3. Foster trust by measuring output not presence
The sudden move towards remote working has exposed gaps in leaders' ability to manage remote teams well. Micro-managing, controlling behaviour and nanny-minded management techniques do little to build trust in an organisation.
Remote working can no longer be considered for those less serious about their career or designated to flex-workers and freelancers. Covid-19 has made it possible for CEO's and junior staff alike. The evidence and research are clear that the bottom-line and productivity increases gained by allowing work-from-home when employees are given a choice to do so. So how do you build trust with a remote-based team?
The answer lies in measuring output and not presence. Ensure that all employees have a clearly crafted job description, work plan and measured output that they are required to deliver.
By focusing on deliverables and production, undergirded by purpose and values, managers can step back and allow employees to get on with their job without being micro-managed, thereby fostering a culture of trust.
Using the tools above, a manager can conduct a regular check-in on output and feel comfortable trusting that their employees are performing their duties well.
4. Foster closer relationships
Relationships are built on trust. Trust helps better collaboration with teams which fosters creativity and innovation. To build trust, you need to be intentional about building relationships amongst team members. Whether in office or work-from-home, the principles of connection remain the same, although the execution may differ.
During the Covid-19 crisis, teams have creatively engaged in dinner hangouts, pub quiz nights and family meetups to foster closer relationships.
Look for ways to celebrate victories, no matter how small.
5. Build a structure of modularity for agility and faster decision making
Modular teams enable fast decision making and the ability to learn quickly from what isn't working and change fast. Many companies are switching away from the old-fashioned top-down linear structure or teams functioning around a job title and department, towards more modular units created around diverse skill-sets coming together to complete a project.
Faster decision making allows you to take advantage of fast-changing landscapes and opportunities.
Modular teams have a clear mission and reporting line, which makes their communication highly effective. This type of team structure helps when onboarding remote workers as the recruit need only meet the team members and not the entire organisation. Their sense of belonging, ability to build relationships, trust and contribute to the mission, is clearly defined around the close-knit team's objective.
A modular team structure enables you to move people with the right skills into a different team with ease, as the reporting structure lies within the unit and not within a department.
If you are envisioning having a remote or hybrid remote working team, then complex integrated systems within an organisation slow you down.
Once modular teams are in place, it is vital to develop mechanisms to get the learning out of the teams to share with the rest of the organisation.
6. Map the communication flow
There is a myriad of digital and other tools available to assist agile teams to be able to communicate effectively and timeously. Figure out what works best for you and your organisation by mapping your workflow to and from your team. You can hire a remote-based skilled project manager from RecruitMyMom's pool of independent contractors to map this flow.
Then decide for each communication channel, which digital tools will work best for the company, taking into account the below:
Task Management Tools
7. Identify who's in the war-room
Leaders can plan for a worst-case scenario by preparing a war-room. Identify critical individuals with mutual trust, and that will form the members of your war room. Ensure that they are adaptable and open to change. This modular team will be responsible for vital decisions and dissemination of communication in a time of crisis.
Be practical. What's the plan to replace key people in the organisation should they get sick? How do you physically keep key individuals separate in times of a pandemic, so that your entire management team is not ill? Who steps into who's shoes if a critical team member is incapable of working?
No-one is accurately able to predict what the future holds. One can, however, plan to be as future-fit as possible, placing one's company in a much better position than a company that does nothing. As the saying goes "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail."
Work-from-home and remote working is here to stay, and the benefits for both companies and employees are evident from several research studies. These seven steps will better equip you to get your company future-fit, for an economy we can only imagine.