Businesses Can Thrive, Not Just Survive, In COVID-19

By Andy McCarthy

New Virtual Paradigm is Allowing Teams to Deliver Even Better Outcomes

There is a legion of business articles about how to “keep the lights on” in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of necessity, people are working virtually, which has bred uncertainty about how to advance transformative strategy during this time of change. But there are companies who are finding a way – companies who have a need to drive forward and a capacity for creative problem-solving, who are using the virtual environment not only to their advantage, but also for the better. 

Forging Ahead on Transformation

Many companies, while knee deep in developing multi-year IT strategy or refreshing strategic roadmaps, are being faced with the tough decision of whether to move forward with the work with internal COVID-19 restrictions in place. There’s also the question of how to move forward amid the required participation of extended leadership throughout the company, especially when in-person workshops are involved. However, what we’ve experienced is with the right expertise and the determination to advance the company’s transformation efforts, that forging ahead has proven successful because of – not in spite of – the new virtual paradigm.

Virtual Workshops, Online Tools Net Multiple Benefits

Especially in situations that benefit from heavy participation, like strategy work, the success of virtual tools goes beyond knowing good manners in video calls. Intentional design, choosing the right tools, and a universal commitment to and recognition of the importance of the work are key. We’ve recently seen this play out in a client’s experience.

In the middle of an IT strategy and roadmap initiative, the client had to revamp their approach –  from two full-day, on-site workshops with thirty extended leadership participants to a virtual format.  The workshops were modified from all-day sessions to 90-minute hyper-focused sessions that kept participants on task, prioritizing the opportunities generated by senior leadership, and surfacing viable tactics for each pillar of the strategic plan. Cohorts, designed by senior leadership, ensured participant groups were made up of cross-functional team members to provide equitable perspective during workshop exercises.

Anonymous ideation within the virtual environment resulted in better outcomes as well. Without their names being attached, participants felt emboldened to provide new ideas and challenge the status quo. As a result, this exercise uncovered leadership and organizational team blindspots that would have been missed in face-to-face workshops.

In addition, an interactive digital tool allowed participants to vote on over 600 ideas across five strategy pillars in real time, which garnered not only a significant time savings compared to a full day in face-to-face workshops, but also, and most importantly, demonstrated the power and value of using voting to tackle difficult subjects, focusing the discussion on the idea, not the person who brought the idea forward. Similarly, the ability to update the tool based on feedback in real time meant that information was available for reference much more rapidly.

However, while these digital tools enabled progress, they are not the full solution. On their own, the tools are not effective if they don’t meet the need. Collaboration with a partnerwho is removed from the day-to-day and who has the skill set to conduct effective workshops – specifically in a virtual setting – proved essential. 

Key Learnings: Virtual Workshops & Online Tools Can Outperform Conventional Methods

Workshop Structure is Critical
Unlike full-day workshops, hyper-focused online sessions keep participants on task; 
Designing cohorts made up of cross-functional team members provides balanced input during workshop exercises.

Anonymous Ideation Brings Better Outcomes
✦ Without their names attached, participants feel encouraged to provide new ideas and challenge old ones;
Bold opportunities for change are uncovered;
✦ Consensus-building and decision-making is accelerated.

Use the Right Online Tools
✦ Interactivity and engagement (beyond webinars and video calls) are critical to success, so choose wisely;
✦ The tools need to be purposefully configured to meet the needs of the situation and culture, simply using a pre-built template will rarely yield success;
✦ Allow for activities such as ranking, categorizing and voting in real time, which creates efficiency, and captures the value of team building through consensus;
✦ Multiple facilitators allow for real-time updates to information to advance decision-making.

Deciding to Thrive, Not Just Survive

The result: The outputs far exceeded those which would have resulted from conventional, in-person workshops, and their strategy has not slowed down, but rather accelerated. This isn’t an exceptional case; companies can benefit and realize success through close collaboration, creative thinking and thoughtful use of technology tools to rise above the uncertainty and forge ahead. Seeing success can drive teams to be more open to trying new ways for both today and in the future. And the companies that do that will thrive, not just survive, during times like this, while better positioning themselves for quicker recovery when our next new normal arrives.

If you’re seeking a partner to help facilitate and advance your IT strategic vision, contact Lexico.