Covid-19: An organisation design perspective

This is not exactly the transcript of the webinar I am facilitating on 9 April, Covid-19:  An organisation design perspective,  but it is the sketchy outline of the discussion we’ll be having if things go according to plan i.e. technology holding up, people registering,  I log on at the right time, I don’t press ‘end webinar’ in the middle by accident, etc.

Real time webinars are a bit scary.  Mine is using the Webinar Ninja platform and, fortunately, they have a very comprehensive ‘complete guide on how to plan, create, and run a successful webinar’.    Its author says: ‘Let me be absolutely clear. (Their emphasis). This is a total game plan. It’s not a simple blog post, listicle, or collection of tips. This guide includes all the essential information you need to plan and execute your webinar from start to finish.’   Ok – I hope I’ve taken the point and assimilated the guidance, here’s how I’ve worked with it.

I turn to the section on presentation slides and learn that,  ‘Your presentation slides are not your workshop script. These are visual aids that supplement and guide what you’re teaching. If everything you say and do is on the slides, then why can’t your attendees just read the slides on their own? There has to be more to your workshop than that.’   Right, good.  I’d already planned that attendees will participate via the chat box, Slido, or similar.

The guidance then says ‘Begin with a title’.  I’ve got that.  It’s the title of this blog, The instruction is ‘Create a title that sounds irresistible, and create a webinar that fulfills its promise.’  Well, I didn’t think of the title, it was given to me as a suggestion by the organisers.  I’m not sure it is ‘irresistible’, (how do you measure that?), but it must be down to me to create the webinar that fulfils its promise.

The next requirement is to ‘have a learning outcome’.  Good point.  I created the presentation and then read the guidance.  I found I’d not got learning outcomes stated – but now I have:

By the end of this webinar, we will have

  • Recapped on what organisation design is
  • Looked at what we are noticing as Covid-19 impacts organisation design
  • Considered some critical questions we need to immediately ask about the design of our organisation
  • Started to discuss some actions we can take now to design our organisations for the ‘new normal’

Then comes the ‘About’ slide, I’m warned, ‘This is where many hosts run into trouble. It can be very tempting to blather on about oneself, listing your accomplishments and “sharing your journey.” Keep this part short and sweet’.  I’ve bucked the instructions by putting ‘About me’ before the learning outcome, but I have kept it short, in fact the older I get the more I trim down my bio.

The next slide is supposed to be a ‘before and after’ slide: ‘It’s important to show your attendees what life looks like with and without your solution implemented. This indirectly shows how important the workshop is, and how much their life will improve because of it.’   Oh dear, I decided to leave this slide out.  I don’t have either a solution to covid-19 or a solution to how to design organisations in the light/wake of it.  I also can’t guarantee that attendees’ life will improve because of the workshop – that seems like a bridge too far at this point.

I can’t even guarantee they will be listening to the webinar, even if they are logged on and attending. Someone sent me a delightful zoom meeting attention span pie chart (Actual meeting time attention 2%, removing of kids from bedroom 10%, etc), which seems pretty accurate in my two weeks or so of Zooming.

‘Then comes the meat of the presentation’ I’m told to ‘Break down your instruction into 5 steps/ tips/ strategies that move your audience toward the learning outcome. For each step/tip/strategy, provide 3 sub-steps, details, or important clarifications’.  OK – I’m fine on this one.  My years of teaching and instructional design seem to have made me unconsciously competent at this. But wait, I have only 3 steps (although each set has 3-sub steps).  Will this work or shall I somehow introduce two more steps?

I’m using the ‘What, So What, Now What’ model.   In my zeal to attribute it to someone, I got side-tracked by trying to find out who to attribute it to.  The choices I’ve found so far are, separately: Driscoll, Rolfe, McCandless, Borton.  The best discussion of the origins of this model, that I came across is in Chapter 2, Practising Clinical Supervision: A Reflective Approach for Healthcare Professionals, 2006, ed John Driscoll,  Elsevier (I read the chapter by ‘looking inside’,  But he doesn’t mention Keith McCandless, who has a workshop outline using it.)  Anyway, I’m not really sure how much it needs attribution.  Does it take academic brainpower, research and theoretical underpinnings to think up ‘What, So What, Now What’?  They’re pretty simple words in common usage.

Well the meat of my presentation, begins with the ‘What’ – ‘The forced move to remote working as a response to COVID19 is arguably one of the biggest organization design shocks to have hit with such rapidity and scale in our lifetimes’, says the ODC and is followed by my discussing the impact of the ‘What’:

We are considering, often for the very first time, why we have worked the way we do.  We are being forced to confront the delta between our assumptions, our beliefs, and our reality.  We are starting to ask:  Why does this process or policy exist? Is what we say what we do? Have we considered this before? The shock is provoking a conversation. That conversation is provoking change. We will not go back to ‘normal’.  (This section is adapted from Aaron Dignan’s blog on the operating system canvas).

I then move onto the ‘So What’ three critical questions that covid-19 is forcing us to ask:  What organisational values, strategies, decisions have been made or changed so far through this experience? What are the critical organisational design factors that are currently maintaining a level of business continuity?  What of our before covid-19 organisation design may continue to serve us and what may we want to discard/change/do differently?

And finally onto ‘Now What’ with five actions taken from the excellent Covid-19 Briefing Materials, McKinsey.  Oh – I just realised that it should only be 3 actions if I am following the 5 x 3 approach.  No – it’s ok. I’ve already slipped that leash.

Almost home and dry then?  I have a recap slide.  But I don’t have the suggested ‘my offer’ slide – I’ll think on that one, and perhaps slip it in when I’ve decided what to offer.  I have got the Q & A slide and (not suggested in the guidance),  and a further resources slide.

If this sounds like an irresistible webinar and you want to register for it you can do that here, and if you can’t attend, it is being recorded so if you register, you can listen to it after the event.

How do you think covid-19 is impacting/will impact organisation design?  Let me know.