The widespread drive to accelerate digital business initiatives has meant big changes in the way work gets done and decisions are made, but as hybrid workforce models persist, leaders are finding it critical to keep up digital momentum.
“There may be a return to behaviors that are inconsistent with the digital plans”
That means ensuring that non-digital behaviors and practices don’t creep back into processes and decisions that were transformed during the pandemic response.
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“You most likely have a list of your team’s amazing accomplishments as part of the pandemic response,” says Christie Struckman, VP Analyst, Gartner. “It feels as though organizations can keep the momentum going and escalate the digital plans they have been strategizing for. But as organizations work toward their own version of hybrid working, there may be a return to behaviors that are inconsistent with the digital plans.”
Take a three-step approach to counter the pull of old ways: Pause, evaluate and teach.
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Stop and assess how the organization is doing by conducting an intermortem, a mid-transformation assessment during which leaders gather insights from team members and peers and evaluate performance data. Similar to the postmortem exercise teams conduct at the end of a project to capture lessons and best practices, intermortems occur at an inflection point mid-transformation instead of at the end.
CIOs can use an intermortem template to document the changes that took place as a result of pandemic digitalization, the hoped-for outcome (for example, to drive the business strategy, improve cost optimization or increase productivity), and whether CIOs want the change to retain, be reinvented or return to the way things were before.
- Involve stakeholders from across the enterprise.
- Assess practices for sustainability. For example, employees working more hours from home than they did at the office is not a sustainable business model and shouldn’t stay in the “retain” pile.
Once you have identified which behaviors you want to retain, reinvent or return, evaluate the systems and technology that are in place to assess whether they support desired behaviors or discourage outdated ones. If your organization needs to change systems, processes or practices, develop a plan to design, develop and implement them. Justify these changes by documenting what you have now (from), what you want to replace it with (to) and what the change will accomplish (because).
For example, organizations have learned that employees can be just as productive from home as in the office, leading many to consider recruiting people who live far from the organization’s physical offices as a way to address talent shortages.
Recruiting, hiring and onboarding remote employees requires investments in geographic outreach, video interview processes, remote onboarding assets, and so on. The “evaluate” step in this case would involve documenting and justifying the changes the organization needs to make from on-site hiring of local talent to remote hiring of non-local talent, because the organization can access a deeper pool of talent.
- Prioritize between one and three practices highlighted in the intermortem template.
- Identify the changes that need to be made, why and how the business will benefit for each priority change.
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After you’ve identified the changes needed to retain, reinvent or return the priority behaviors, document them, assign responsibility for overseeing and implementing them, and define what those people need to do — and by when. Socialize this plan with all affected stakeholders, and have regular meetings to assess progress, remove roadblocks, provide feedback or redefine timelines.
- Develop concrete action plans for each priority set of systems, processes and practices needed to avoid digital backsliding.
- Assign responsibility with clear expectations to ensure the changes are made.