Finding Work & Life Balance in 2020
Now in third full week of #stayhome except for essential #socialdistance shopping and outdoor exercise.
Friday – Sunday, April 3 – 5
Work: Which waves of “new normal” are here to stay, and what does that mean for tech?
Spent time with the Twitter tech community as we begin to think beyond the scrambling, crisis-driven “now” of expanding work-from-home and other business continuity immediacies to the technology opportunities and requirements of the years ahead. I take the following as givens when considering potential strategies.
- The technology largely exists to support the new normal, however often is not ubiquitous or affordable enough for many organizations.
- Technology is amoral (still); it is what people do with it that makes it good or bad.
- Technology cannot implement, configure or expand itself without some degree of human intervention.
- Technology by itself will not solve problems, create revenue, or make people happy.
As true leaders start to figure out what the new normal might be both soon and longer-term, they need to realize the following:
- The primary IT executive role (CIO, CDO, whatever the acronym) has become more critical and important than ever, and the person in that role must be capable and valued at the table with the CEO and other top executives.
- Multiple, end-end, business models of potential new normal must be developed. Since so much is unknown, lots of ideas should be thrown on virtual white boards. IT can be instrumental in developing tools to quickly model the product, talent, process and financial implications.
- The prior formula or rubric used to evaluate new models that was used to make decisions about technology investments is no longer valid.
- Just like talent, manufacturing and supply chain, technology sourcing must become more geographically diverse, redundant and resilient.
- Last but not least, is not sustainable to have technology haves and have-nots. There must be better models and options for individuals, non-profits, NGOs to have a baseline of resilient technology.
Life: Rain finally ended in the wee hours of Saturday morning. As the “Annie” song promised, the sun did come out tomorrow. Until the ultimate Sun of a vaccine happens, we’ll take as much as we can get of every sunny #stayhome day.
Thursday, April 2
Work: Are the choices of project management playbooks and systems (Agile! SAFE! PMBOK! Teams! Jira! MS Project!) enabling too much diversity of methodology, process and tools amongst IT teams and projects? While being able to match the playbook to the team and project is positive, IT leaders should watch for a balance between sensible choices that enable agility and delivery, versus a non-value added polyglot of tools and approaches that make it difficult to manage and measure.
Life: Day one of two days of solid rain & wind. Playing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” from the musical Annie on endless loop.
Wednesday, April 1. April Fools Day.
Work: For decades work most often meant leaving home, traveling by some means, being elsewhere for a period of time to conduct the work, and returning back home. While remote work has become more common, the phrase “I’m going to work” most often meant a loop of home-travel-work-travel-home. The Covid 19 pandemic impact on that familiar loop will be profound and multi-variant.
- Public transportation including buses, planes, boats, trains. Consideration of volumes, density and safety parameters. For example, fewer passengers farther apart. If I were a major airline CEO, I’d be thinking about acquiring or starting a “jet share” business unit and considering how to get a pricing model that would at a minimum attract erstwhile business travelers. (Cruise ship CEOs, I have no ideas for you, sorry.)
- Distributed workforce. For work that does not require physical togetherness, will default be work-from-home which greats tremendous opportunity for employees and companies alike, as location will matter less and skills matter more. Digital collaboration skills will be at the forefront. For work that does require physical presence, companies may consider smaller operations & more partners in more places, as part of greater supply chain redundancy. In-person work will have a higher focus on health-related safety.
- Real estate. The trend has been for younger people have been shifting towards urban areas, liking the convenience of work & leisure with little or only public transportation commuting. Even in suburban areas like the NH seacoast, “stay-work-play” complexes with retail, office and living spaces are popular. Will people now move away from high-density living options? Rural or quasi-rural settings, where being outside with safe social distance and within reasonable driving distance of services, may become more attractive.
- Retail. In person retail was already materially disrupted, and this pandemic will hasten that disruption. Goodbye, malls. Goodbye, crowds on “Black Friday.” Hello, increased online shopping and limited, needs based in-person. Grocery stores are already limiting amounts of customers and spreading checkout lines further apart. Farm stands are seeing increase in volume.
- Broadband networks. Internet and more internet. No longer can there be debate that broadband is a necessary utility like power and water. It must be ubiquitous.
Even amongst the fraught and fluid current reality, CEOs and their teams must begin to model and plan for sustainable innovation.
Life: The origins of April Fools Day are debated. With thanks to a few internet searches and Wikipedia…..
- Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” purportedly has a reference to a character being fooled on “March 32nd.”
- New Year’s Day on March 25th in many European towns, with celebrations ending on April 1. January 1 wasn’t the official New Year’s Day in France until 1564.
- The Dutch defeating the Spanish in 1572, referring to the Spanish duke as someone who “lost his glasses” and ergo was a fool.
- An English reference to April 1, 1698, where people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to see the lions get washed.
Tuesday, March 31
Work: So many great online events to expand learning and collaboration. Particularly excited for virtual #CIOchat live on April 15. Encourage all CIOs to check out this *free* event.
Life: Experienced first virtual family birthday, my eldest grandchild (pictured here amidst the construction of a greenhouse, with her extremely agile cat). She’s read “The Long Winter,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and compares what we’re going through to the experience of the young Laura. Set in the early 1880s, the book details how the Ingalls family survived a bitterly cold and snowy Dakota winter. I think about those earlier Americans, without power, running water, GrubHub, or Netflix – trapped indoors fearing starvation for many weeks. Spring finally came, with trains bringing supplies. This spring is our “long winter,” and the supplies we await are downward curves, treatments and vaccines. If Laura Ingalls could twist hay to use for heating a woodstove day after day, we can stay home, social distance and do what we can to support family, neighbors, health care workers, first responders and others.
Monday, March 30
Work: With majority of people on 100% remote work, it’s a good time to check in on our “active listening” skills?
- Pay Attention. We all went from being in conference rooms or on calls when most other family members or roommates were at school or work. Now, even if we are used to remote work, children, pets, other adults in the same home combine for different distractions. Some of the distractions are welcome and encouraged – the cat who wants to sit next the keyboard, the child with a toy on a parent’s lap. It reminds us we’re all in this together and can bring a spark of joy to the day. However, we must also be mindful of the difference between brief, cheerful distractions and the inability to pay attention for an extended period of time – so shuffle the agenda or even reschedule! The key is pay attention when everyone can, flex with empathy when people can’t.
- Look at who is talking. Video conferencing is amazing, but only very few have premier audio-video set ups at home. The UX on most business solutions (i.e. Zoom) do give a visual cue to who is speaking; however takes more work to focus on a small face on a screen than watching a live person in a room. Also, there are many audio-only conference calls where “looking at” means “seriously listen to” the speaker.
- Visualize what is being said. Particularly in audio-only calls, visualize what the person is saying. If you know the person, picture their face in your mind. Whether you know the person or not, visualize their words. For example, if someone is describing a new process, perhaps picture a corresponding flowchart in your mind.
- Ask questions. Be curious. Check for understanding. “Sharon, I just want to be sure I have the 5 changes to this invoice correctly…” “Ben, confirming you got the approval from finance.”
- Do not interrupt. Interrupting in any situation is not advisable, even downright rude. Every meeting should have a leader and/or facilitator who quells interruptions, or if a topic is running wild, can politely interject & re-direct the conversation.
- Take good notes. If notes including action items are not taken, then the meeting didn’t happen. Notes are not just who attended and what they said. What decisions were made? What actions are needed? How will we know the actions were complete? Every meeting should have someone assigned to take notes – I most often use Confluence and Teams, and have the screen shared so that I or others can take the notes and actions live in the meeting. If that’s not feasible, make sure the notes and actions are sent out quickly following the meeting.
- Include everyone. Make sure everyone has a chance to weigh in. “Maria, are you in agreement with the decision on the network equipment?” “Karl, you’ve met with this customer before, do you have an opinion on how to handle this issue?” Again, the leader of the meeting should be accountble to ensure inclusivity.
Life: Monday was the second gray, dreary day in a row, very like Kansas before Dorothy and Toto get spun into colorful Oz. But for now, there’s nowhere like #stayhome.