Another Dining Room Table Comment: 

I have been having some interesting discussions with our hard-pressed federal HR professionals recently and one point that everyone is saying is how well things are going – much better than expected. This is good news and a credit to all their efforts when a number of agency leaders had reservations on the viability of telework. Now in a few short months telework has become the new normal. The issue though in this revolution is “what next” and as we have discussed before what happens when the office doors open. How will business operations be organized? What about the older generation who do not want to return? How about the surge then in retirees or a different type of workforce and workplace? Is planning being done for the new year? IS there a Plan B and C. What about a new mobile workforce? I am sure the data is already accumulating within agencies as people begin to start assessing their benefits. Making decisions on their future? Who from the agency HR is planning this and the workforce implications with the associated talent management?  Working hard now on the things of today is great and I am glad that in the new environment that things are going well but we are in a revolution where a myriad of different impacts are coming to the fore and need to be thought through ahead of  probable consequences such as severe talent shortages. 

In this vein, with the HR organizations “hunkered” down in semi-isolation almost over focused and working I came across an article by   MICHAEL ARENA - Innovation Erosion in a Virtual Working Environment.  He also concurs with a number of studies finding that productivity levels have increased as a result of the shift to virtual working, and that it would be easy to leap to the conclusion that we are ushering in a new work-from-home model. However, according to network science, as Michael Arena highlights in his excellent article, this could be a mistake.  

FIG 2:  Example of how removing 30 bridge connections causes a healthy network to decay and become fragmented (Source: Michael Arena)

Creativity and innovation are stymied with virtual working as bridge connections, the key nodes and links are rapidly eroded. This is especially so when it comes to generating new ideas and then scaling these innovations across organizations to gain broader support. As Michael concludes: “As HR professionals, we have a responsibility to help our organizations see the whole picture. We need to help them resist the temptation to leap into a new normal of working-from-home without first considering the downside risks to long-term innovations.   

Working hard at today is great. But leaders and managers have to plan for tomorrow. This revolution and the new normal which is being formed. Certainly, in the private sector there is a push to move become more digital. But to do that you have to first understand your busines and service delivery model and all its components. Your internal processes and data flow and your communication and governance networks. 

But to plan maybe start simply with building or identifying villages or small communities and communicating how to link these networks and then reinforce village to village based upon need and map your networks to governance and processes then layer diversity across other organizations. It should simply be recreating and reinforcing what was there and using the new media platforms in a more conscious way. But also, it could be an opportunity to develop and plan a more agile transformation for the future. 


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