Today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies around the world have record numbers of employees working remotely. This presents company management with unexpected challenges as they seek to ensure that critical business functions continue to be executed in a cost-effective manner and that the total workforce is engaged and enabled to operate as they had never done before. Having a well defined and effective Management Operating System (MOS) is key to achieving these objectives.
A company’s MOS is the collection of management activities performed to run the business and achieve key quality, customer service, safety, and profitability objectives. At most companies, the MOS is a mix of formal, well-defined activities and informal activities that can vary by manager. Our experience is that companies with more structured approaches will fare better in the current environment.
To assist companies in providing more structure to their MOS, the following practices can greatly enhance a team’s effectiveness while working remotely:
1. Map all processes and define all interconnections
By far, one of the most critical aspects of having a successful remote MOS is ensuring business units and employees understand how each of their processes affects the outcomes of others withing the organization. During normal times, it’s easy to work day-today without truly understanding the intricacies of communication among different departments, the exchange of information required to make some processes work and the different hand-overs necessary for the flawless function of data and information.
Any time you have employees working remotely, it’s a great time to get a virtual interdisciplinary team together to work together to map or review existing maps of all critical processes within a business, the communication exchange during these processes, the data flow from one department to the other, the reports utilized to review outcomes, and the skills required to get the work done. By having interdisciplinary teams working on a project like this, leaders can encourage constructive feedback and gap analysis of the processes that may be partially broken and could be enhanced. It will also give supervisors a glance to the issues they may encounter while having their teams work remote.
There are many tools and techniques available to allow teams working from home to work together to virtually map a current process and develop a new operating future that can either be tested remotely or be ready to roll-out once operations return to normal.
Understanding how processes flow, from all angles, is necessary for leaders to manage remote work as they will then be able to set up employees for success while working offsite.
2. Set remote employees up for success
A key first step to successfully equip remote teams is to methodically identify the work that can be performed remotely. Managers usually find that, with a bit of creativity, many existing processes can be maintained with staff offsite. Once these activities have been identified, leadership needs to ensure that remote workers have the tools they need to do this work. Two areas that need special consideration are:
- Ensuring remote access to company data systems. Having enough bandwidth for large groups of people to interact by video and access with company databases is many times underestimated.
- Connecting with each team member to ensure available access to all the inputs needed to complete work. This includes making sure that all data is available by verifying the proper distribution is set up for all required reports. Leadership should look for creative ways to provide employees access to all the tools they need to complete their work.
3. Focus on a #HeadsUp culture that will promote the MOS
When dealing with the new reality of remote workforces, leaders must work harder to address fears, keep morale up, engage employees and lead to inspire. Organizations should promote #HeadsUP leadership, the type of leadership that develops leaders at every level, improving their capabilities through two concepts: The #HeadsUp High Five and Active Management. The High Five focuses leaders on five core principles: developing presence, sharing a clear vision, adopting technology, promoting coaching and enabling people to have true influence over outcomes. Active Management focuses leaders on how to influence people’s behaviors and results, at the point of execution. Together, they help people stay connected, productively and as humans.
A #HeadsUp leader is defined by five specific traits, the #HeadsUp High Five, which encapsulate just what it takes to be a true #HeadsUP leader in a disrupted, distracted world:
#HeadsUP leaders are visible, active and their presence is felt; even in a virtual environment. These leaders are available for their teams and they balance human interaction with technology and data.
#HeadsUP leaders have a macro vision and translate it into team objectives. They will utilize remote working to create an ecosystem to improve work and team behaviors, to stay connected and to better their team performance during remote work and after lockdown.
#HeadsUP leaders use technology and management tools to help people perform, collaborate and make decisions through realtime data monitoring and results achievement. They use data to lead teams to perform productive and meaningful work.
#HeadsUP leaders are mentors and coaches, and lifelong learners. They know coaching is the greatest gift to give to others. They give people the opportunity to learn, experiment and experience new and different skills and situations that enable growth; especially during times when everyone is at home and interacting with different business functions or units.
#HeadsUP leaders are networkers and influencers. They keep people moving forward. They are performance multipliers and idea incubators. By influencing in a virtual world, these leaders will promote the success of their teams and will keep everyone engaged and motivated during difficult times.
4. Institute a more structured and disciplined work approach through effective Active Management
Although working remotely may at first seem appealing, many people come to find they miss the interaction with others and the structure that a work environment provides. Many employees may find the solitude of working remotely demotivating, often they suffer a drop in productivity.
Remote work also usually results in less direction from management, greater difficulty in resolving operating problems, and a weakening of relationships. Consequently, effective supervision becomes more difficult and must be more deliberate.
Having worked with over 1 million leaders, at all levels, at some of the leading organizations around the globe, we have developed an effective supervision techniques model that we have found critical to ensuring optimal employee performance. The Proudfoot model below will provide guidance while we highlight a few tactics that should receive special attention when
overseeing remote employees.
- Set Clear expectations on how to work together remotely: Clarifying how teams will work together up front is a critical first step as employees begin working offsite. This includes agreeing on the frequency and mode of communication. We have found a mix of both team conference calls and one-on-one sessions are necessary. Team calls allow everyone to hear how everyone else is doing, promotes collaboration, and helps to maintain team cohesiveness. The one-on-one sessions allow for the supervisor to better understand how each individual employee is performing and coping with remote work. One-on-one sessions also allow for focused coaching and training for each individual. Encouraging team members to collaborate without the supervisor present also helps address the isolation that some team members may feel.
- Make Clear Assignments: One concern with employees working remotely has always been how many hours they actually work. Rather than worry about the hours being clocked, supervisors should assign a proper amount of work for a given time period. The time period ideally aligns with the review frequency set up with the employee. So, if the supervisor and employee agree to touch base once a day, the supervisor should be assigning at least one day’s work in those sessions.
- Follow Up: The touch points between the supervisor and employee have several purposes. The first is to delegate new and review progress on assignments. More importantly, this time should be used by the supervisor to gauge how the employee is performing, identify opportunities for skills development, and provide coaching. Time spent one-on-one helping an employee expand their capabilities is a core responsibility of a supervisor. It is also critically important that the supervisor use this time to understand how the employee is coping with working remotely and with the turbulence in the outside world.
- Problem Solving: A key role of a Supervisor is to solve problems that are preventing employees from productively completing their duties. Unfortunately, when employees work remotely, the time before a supervisor is aware of a problem usually lengthens. Also, solving problems can sometimes be more difficult when doing so remotely. There are several things supervisors can do to mitigate these challenges. The first is to anticipate the types of problems employees will encounter and lay out in advance how to address these issues and clearly communicate situations when the employee should proactively contact the supervisor. Leaders should also anticipate the types of resources needed to solve a problem and seek to have these resources available; this includes lining up technology that may be helpful in the different scenarios.
5. Instate meeting effectiveness best practices
We have found that large groups of people working remotely usually results in more time in meetings. To that end, practicing meeting effectiveness techniques can help improve communication, productivity, and accomplishments during and post meetings. Meeting effectiveness best-practice techniques include:
- Establish agendas with clear objectives: While obvious, it is striking how many meetings lack written agendas that are distributed in advance; thus missing the opportunity to get all participants aligned on the session objectives and approach. Creating a meeting agenda allows the organizer to think through, in advance, how best to structure the meeting, participants required, meeting goals, and outcomes of a successful meeting. Meetings that lack structure and clear objectives waste people’s time.
- Keep meeting on-track: if it is not clear who is running the meeting, designating a chair should be the first item of business. A key role for the chair is to keep the group following and focused on the agenda. An excellent technique for addressing off-topic issues that come up is to maintain a “parking-lot” list of issues to be addressed either at the end of the session or at another time.
- Document action items & next steps: Always assign one individual to capture action items resulting from the meeting. The action log should include clear descriptions of what is to be done, who is to do it, and by when. Once all agenda items have been completed, the chair should review the action item list and distribute it to all members shortly after the meeting conclusion.
- Evaluate meeting quality: At the end of the meeting have all participants evaluate the effectiveness of the meeting. Did attendees receive and agenda in advance and understand the purpose of the meeting? Were the right people in the meeting? Did the group stay on track? Did the group have the information needed do achieve the objectives? Was time wasted? If so, how could this be avoided? Were the meeting objectives met?
6. Generate cross-functional teams to tackle special projects
With large numbers of people working remotely, it may not be possible to fully utilize everyone; thus creating the capacity to take on special projects that aren’t possible during normal operations. Creating crossfunctional teams to tackle these projects is a great way to facilitate relationship building across the organization and upskill employees while working on different items. We suggest taking a PMO/War room approach for these kinds of special projects; it maintains discipline and structured governance and ensures progress and scheduled attainment.
How can you upskill your supervisors and middle managers to lead remote teams? How can you ensure that your company stays CONNECTED with your teams and individuals? With Proudfoot you can!
We’ve spent over 70 years helping clients improve operational effectiveness. COVID-19 has shaken the core of how companies do business; the good news in this global crisis is the opportunity to completely reboot your organization by upgrading your Management Operating System and rethinking how to get work done with team members working remotely.
The COVID-19 situation creates an opportunity to review the organization’s physical location. If your business is in a remote area, it may be easier to find qualified staff in metropolitan areas. It also allows the evaluation of alternatives to the “all staff on site” standard.
With Proudfoot, you can reshape your organization and the way you work to fit the “new normal” that is going to drive who comes out ahead of this global slowdown.