By Leon Lodewyks, Chief Delivery Officer, Inspired Testing
The global pandemic, resultant shutdowns and major changes in workplace dynamics have all had a profound effect on our service delivery mandates.
Even before Covid struck in March 2020, we were working towards five principles ingrained into everything we do on a day-to-day basis in the delivery space: predictability, visibility, collaboration, responsibility and prioritisation.
If anything, the pandemic has made us move even closer to these principles, and you could argue they’ve each become more important because of, rather than in spite of, the changes it enforced.
Overcoming the challenges
Before I break out the five principles in more detail, it’s important to consider the challenges we faced as an organisation, but more specifically, that our staff were faced with at home.
Working from home in and of itself wasn’t as big a challenge as you’d expect, because many of us were already working a hybrid office/home schedule before the pandemic. But Covid made working from home the norm, and on a much larger scale. In our line of work, that meant ensuring all our staff had fast and reliable fibre broadband so they could communicate by video link as and when required, and also had access to their clients’ networks 24/7.
A second and more specific challenge in South Africa is load shedding. It doesn’t matter how fast the broadband link, it doesn’t work without power. So making sure staff were aware of load shedding schedules and planned accordingly was the first step, and then equipping key staff with UPS protection so they can work through load shedding was the next.
Once we overcame these initial challenges, we could then shift the focus to ensuring that our productivity didn’t drop as we shifted to working from home.
The five principles
Predictability. In simple terms, you can think about predictability as being online when people expect you to be online. It’s about making your availability predictable. Working from home, we’re faced with countless distractions: kids, family responsibilities, unscheduled visits, deliveries, and so on. Often times these distractions are quite unpredictable, and need to be carefully managed, if not mitigated.
Visibility. Predictability goes hand in hand with visibility. Since you’re not at the office and not sitting next to a colleague or working in a common area, it’s difficult to gauge visibility, so it’s important to set expectations for both work output delivery, and being available – and visible – to clients, as mandated by our service delivery agreements. A lot of the nervousness from clients that project work would suffer with everyone working from home can be mitigated by creating visibility not only through the planning we did as a company to overcome the challenges, but also from a project perspective, creating visibility of our deliverables and constantly reporting on how and what we are working towards.
Collaboration. Both predictability and visibility are tied in to collaboration. With everyone working in virtual silos, collaboration becomes the glue that brings us back together. One of the most effective collaboration tools is reporting, which takes on an added importance in the dispersed workspace of the ‘new normal’. Another visible change to the way we collaborate is video calls. In many ways, Teams and Zoom have become the de-facto ‘new normal’ workspace, and that’s where most of our ‘physical’ collaboration takes place, even today.
Responsibility. This is a less tangible principle but possibly the most important one of all. responsibility. Working from home implicitly means taking on much more responsibility for making sure that our productivity doesn't drop, that we can work uninterrupted, that we’re predictably available online, and that we consistently attend scheduled meetings and video calls. But it also means taking responsibility for not letting the team down, and maintaining our collective performance as if we were still at the office.
Prioritisation. The key to taking responsibility, in my experience, is learning how to prioritise, and keeping a strict prioritisation regimen to everything we do. It’s not just about prioritisation in the workplace, but also how and where we prioritise everything we need to do, from family errands, chores, exercise, and everything else we have to fit in to a day. This is not as easy as it sounds when we’re working away from a work environment, and where dozens of things call out for our attention around the clock. It takes discipline, dedication, and the support of your family and colleagues, but once mastered, all the other principles will click into place.
Making the change
The five principles are the bedrock of our service delivery philosophy. Applying the principles to maintain and improve our service delivery in the new normal was a challenge in and of itself. This will be the topic of the second part of this article series, so check back soon for more.