I’m already starting to see articles about how important it will be for organizations to do some sort of debrief once everyone is back in the office with a focus on what’s taken place (or not happened) over the past few months of remote work and physical distancing.
It reminded me of a presentation I heard a couple of years ago with Kat Cole, former president of Cinnabon. She shared three questions that organizations can ask themselves as a way to create focus. What I like about these three questions is that they can be examined on a regular basis to help organizations create a new path for themselves.
- What do we need to stop doing? I understand this question is easier to say than to do. But it’s a question worth asking. Organizations might want to break the answers into two categories: physical items and non-physical items. The physical items could include a product that has been underperforming or reducing the amount of office space. Non-physical items might focus on a policy, procedure or guideline that doesn’t bring value anymore.
- What are people telling us? When we think of people, we need to consider both customers and employees. Organizations want to know what it will take for customers to spend more dollars with them. If the company doesn’t know, they will want to find out. On the employee side, it’s the same thing. Organizations want to know what it takes to hire the best talent and keep them. If they don’t know, then it will be important to start asking questions to find out.
- If the organization could only change one thing to make work better, what would it be? Candidates and employees will say it differently but look for the trends in their comments. It could be better onboarding, more defined career paths, or improved benefits to achieve work/life balance. The comments could also focus on delivering a better customer experience. Organizations that create better work environments could have greater employee productivity which leads to better business outcomes.
The answers to these three questions will help the organ establish priorities. The answers become the big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) that teams need for high performance. Again, what I like about Cole’s questions is that organizations can regularly go through this focus exercise. This might be something the company wants to consider as everyone is coming back to the office. But then do the exercise again a few months later as the company is increasing their operational levels. The plan can be revised regularly.
There’s one more thing that Cole mentioned during her presentation that is essential. As we spent time checking-in with customers and employees, don’t forget to check-in with yourself. These three questions can be used for individuals as well as organizations. What should I stop doing? What are other people telling me (about myself)? And if I could change one thing to make my work better, what would it be? In fact, it might be interesting to ask employees to come back to work with those answers. And what would that tell the organization?
There will be a time in the future when organizations need to do a debrief about what’s happening now. I don’t know that the time is today. But it might make some sense to start noodling how that debrief will take place and the questions that need to be asked. Because the answers will help the organization and its employees focus on being more successful moving forward.11