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Forced into the future: Seven executives debate the post-COVID future of management.

Yikes

Top line:  Changes we’re forced to make for many months will become habits that won’t revert.

On May 14th, the Center’s Workgroup #2 discussed how our world will be changed forever.  We invested this time to make sure we’re not just enduring but adapting.  Our facilitation technique was to start by asking what would be different outside of work.  That framed the 7 conclusions.

Bottom line:  The patterns are obvious and enormous.   Has your organization systematically thought things through?

Participants

  • Susan Dineen, Director of Marketing Director, ACS
  • Mike Markiewicz, Director of Executive Programs, the Lubar school of Business
  • Bill Mitchell, Director of Corporate Practice Development,  Michael Best
  • Ed Purcell, President, Vertical Greenwalls
  • Grace Redovich, Director of Business Development, Henneman Engineering (scribe)
  • Tim Stewart, Partner, Dewitt LLP
  • Pete Vogel, President and CEO, Vogel Brothers
  • Derrick Van Mell, CEO, The Center for Management Term & Practices (facilitator)

How is life outside of work going to be different?

  1. Fundamental changes to our fundamentally consumer economy.  There was no question consumer behavior is being forced into new channels.  People are confronted with choosing between wants and needs.  People shopping less often and driving less.  There’s a surge of private label brands.
  2. Travel will never be the same.  One Workgroup member returned to the US via O’Hare just as the pandemic hit.  Seeing O’Hare virtually empty was a powerful image.
  3. Social interactions are changing in dozens of ways.  Some people are finding new and enjoyable ways to interact, others more isolated.  Generational differences are emerging. 
  4. Telemedicine will revolutionize healthcare.  Again, forced to change and forced to see benefits. Most health plans will have to get good at it. A physician learns so much about his or her patients with a peek into their homes.
  5. There will be few large gatherings.  While Packers fans will return to Lambeau Field once there’s a vaccine, during that time we’ll get used to alternatives to large gatherings:  church choirs, performing arts, school sports, festivals, conventions, political rallies.

How might things change for the better?

  1. We’ll find joy in simpler things. But how will that effect economy? 
  2. We’ll value being together.  Learning limitations of online communications.
  3. We’ll value our time more. Making sure every meeting has a clear and important purpose
  4. Some introverts will become extraverts and vice versa.  People are learning that they’re either less introverted or extraverted as they thought they were.  One of the group works with engineers, who often think themselves more introverted, but they miss being in the office. One Executive Director of a non-profit who had spent a lot of time at local events has learned she values her solitude. 

How will work change?

  1. Learning what can and can’t be online.  One CEO had been opposed to telecommuting but has “done a 180” and is reevaluate his office needs.  Everyone is finding there are some tasks, teams and times that are better done remotely.
  2. Culture shifts will be big.  Better appreciation for the personal relationships that we have at work.  The structure of online interactions might in fact help otherwise difficult relationships.
  3. Long-term construction slump?   On one hand, builders are still on site now and the need to redesign buildings might be high, but other projects might be in serious trouble. Real estate landscape is going to change dramatically. Telecommuting is a very viable way of doing business, so what will happen for the need for workplace amenities or anything else superfluous?
  4. A wake-up call for academia. 65% of US students want to come back in the fall. The rapid change to online learning might have left a bad taste in students' mouths. But online options are here to say.  The question is what’s the right blend?  Universities must trust their students and staff to do the right thing.  Faculty needs to change, too.
  5. Business models cannot be so leveraged with staff or debt:  Service firms with non-professionals on staff have taken a big hit.  In future, they’ll need to be organized around core competencies.  Firms that weren’t leverage can reassure their staff about the future, which helps retention. The stigma of working from home has been eliminated.
  6. Every building will need to be redesigned:  Buildings will be very different, given intermediate need for social distancing, shared spaces, more remote work.  Some staff now want to work from home all the time (all of Twitter), some never again, but most will be a dynamic mix.  Each design will have to be different to suit each organization’s new culture.  Also, much more interest in HVAC systems:  how clean is our air?
  7. Great communicators will be rewarded:  Without being able to really see body language and subtle facial and tonal expressions, communications will need to be more personalized and compelling.
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