The lockdown forced many of us to ditch habits built over a lifetime—and adopt new habits instead. As offices gear up to reopen after two months of lockdown, we asked some of our faculty about the new habits they’ve adopted during this period. More specifically, which of Harappa’s five Habits—Lead, Solve, Collaborate, Think, Communicate—did they rely on most during the lockdown? And will they stick to the new habits after the lockdown?
Next in our series of faculty interviews, Harappa’s Senior Curriculum Specialist Sanjay Deshpande speaks to Dr Shalini Lal, an organizational development consultant and founder of Infinity OD, a consulting firm specializing in organizational transformations. She talks about the importance of using this time for personal growth and about how organizations are likely to adapt long-term to this crisis. Read on for more.
Q: What is the one Harappa Habit—Think, Solve, Communicate, Collaborate, Lead—you relied most on in this lockdown?
Definitely Collaborate. I am setting up a new business, and that means new partners, new associates, and new colleagues. So before anything else, it’s about us being able to work together really well. And then the next one—Solve. Solving the many, many problems that starting something new comes with. But for me, if I have good collaboration, solving the problems is much easier and much more fun.
Q: What one Habit would you recommend young professionals should hone during this period and why?
Stepping outside the Harappa framework for a moment, the one habit that will stand all of us in good stead right now is one of personal growth. I think the best days are those where one goes to bed knowing that one has done one’s best, and grown one's talents just a bit further.
Q: What is the one most exciting change in this period for you professionally?
Well, less travel time means more thinking time. And I quite like that. I like solo thinking time. So I like the fact that this period of relative quiet has given me time to think and work deeply.
Q: Did you have any specific setback while working from home? If so, what was it and how have you overcome it?
The one setback has been the lack of opportunity to really get to know the many people I am working with. I think it is the informal interactions that act as the glue that helps you understand each other better. So that I definitely miss.
Q: What are some of the big changes your organization has made during the lockdown?
We are thinkers, educators, and consultants in the future of the workspace. And one of the big ideas we are working with is that the best future organizations must be liquid, taking the shape of whatever environment they find themselves in. So for starters, we are living our own advice. All that we were planning to do in person, we have had to find a way to do virtually, at least for much of 2020.
Q. How do you anticipate the world of work will change in the near future?
Work from home or work from anywhere will definitely see a rise. There are so many tech companies that have rather unsurprisingly already announced that they will allow working from home through 2020 or even indefinitely. Once people have experienced this at such a large scale, it is never going to go back entirely to the way things were. What I hope leaders succeed in doing well is understanding how to have space for both face-to-face and virtual working. Virtual work, of course, works best when there is at least some intermittent in-person connect. That's where the relationships get built.
Some leaders who have had to consciously practice building human connection may take those lessons learned into their day-to-day jobs as leaders. That will be a good outcome.
There will be a fast-forwarding of digital technologies for customers and for internal working. This is partly driven by the fact that many familiar and old ways of reaching the customer have been completely disrupted. So we will see much faster adoption of digital technology and a lot of innovation. As a colleague of mine says, the future has just been fast-forwarded.
I do worry that the very rapid adoption of digital technologies will make recovery from the slowdown much harder. For instance, if very few people are hiring, how much bargaining power will individuals actually have? And I really am concerned about how that will play out with existing employees. Will this make them more hesitant, for instance, to voice their views? I wonder.
For at least a few organizations and individuals, this may prove to be an opportunity for a large-scale reboot as old ways of working don’t seem likely to return any time soon. That can be good or bad depending on how that reboot works.
I worry that organizations will search for more ‘contract’ or ‘flexible’ term employees so that they do not have to go through the pain of layoffs. So that might fundamentally change the way organizations get structured. With a small core of very committed full-time employees and a larger circle of employees on other flexible arrangements.
On the other hand, organizations may have also realized that some ways of working just have to go for them to be adaptive for the future. For instance, the quickest responses have been from organizations that were very fluid in their response—informal, experimental, action-oriented, with much more open communication. So they may have discovered that if they want to be able to deal with other shocks in the future their culture will benefit from many levels of openness.
So in a nutshell, how things will change will depend so much on what lessons have been learned. There will, of course, be the pressure of the pandemic and economic recession which will definitely drive the immediate response of rapid digital transformation and focus on cost efficiencies. But then there are the longer-term responses that depend on learnings during this period.
Dr Shalini Lal was interviewed by Sanjay Deshpande who is a Senior Specialist in the Curriculum Team at Harappa Education.
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