Spaulding Ridge is actively engaged in helping its customers move existing business systems to the best in cloud solutions as part of digital transformations, that often reshapes their business and operations. As part of this new blog series, we’ll examine various aspects of those efforts. In Part 1, we plan on discussing the role of Innovation. However, with the challenges we currently face with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the impact it is having on each of us personally and to the businesses we work for, we’re going to come back to that topic in the next blog. Today, we want to talk about something even more fundamental: the role of the Human Spirit in digital transformation.
“May you live in interesting times”
Often attributed as an ancient curse, “May you live in interesting times” is a phrase that suggests that peace and tranquility can only truly exist in “uninteresting” times — those not marked by war, disaster, famine or, as today, pandemic. The truth is that throughout human history, very few times have been “uninteresting.” Routinely we face both human-made and natural challenges at the local, national, and global levels. Each has its tragedy and suffering, and we weather these storms because of a tie that binds us all: the hope for a better tomorrow. We raise our families, work at our jobs, and participate in volunteer, community, and political activities because we believe we can have a positive impact on the people around us and in the future. As humans, we are called on and compelled to make this world a better place to live.
Each of us has a role in making our world a bit “less interesting.” Today there are hundreds of thousands of scientists, health care workers, government officials, and others around the globe attempting to treat, cure, or help navigate the way through the current pandemic. We admire their calling and hope for their success. But truthfully, the rest of us don’t have a direct role in that outcome — other than following their guidance and helping to contain its spread. But this is a passive role. Our active role is something entirely different altogether. While they are fighting to protect us, we must fight to hold up the rest of the world — as it was before the pandemic and as we hope it to be after. Our challenge is to provide stability for our families, our communities, and the economy by staying focused on the hard work that it takes to keep our world a livable place. We cannot be frozen in place. While omnipresent in the news, this pandemic is not the only thing that defines our world. The essential truth is that the rest of us must continue to do the hard work of our daily lives. We must continue to focus on the projects and work that will allow our businesses to weather the current storm and emerge as effectively and efficiently as possible. As individuals, working hard every day is what will lead us to find some semblance of normality and stability in these extraordinary times.
“All businesses is personal”
One of our channel partners recently emailed us and said, “Everyone wants to work with Spaulding Ridge!” We know why. Consulting is not an easy business. The challenges our clients bring are ones they can’t solve themselves. They commonly require expertise and knowledge they don’t possess in-house. The people here at Spaulding Ridge revel in that complexity. They do this kind of work, in the words of John F. Kennedy, “not because it is easy but because it is hard.”
And our clients work just as hard alongside us. In most digital transformation efforts, businesses cannot stop what they are doing as they are transforming. As these new solutions are designed and built, their staff must continue to do their “day jobs.” They work with us to gather requirements, validate designs, test, and train their organizations to use these new systems, this work is often added on top of their existing responsibilities. The personal commitment required to sustain organizations through this change is significant.
Jay Laabs, the founder of Spaulding Ridge, established “All business is personal.” as the first (and I believe foremost) value of our company. My father-in-law used to express this in a slightly different way. He would say “Do the job right and put your name on it.” It is the very essence of personal pride. It’s a timeless value. Whether it’s your byline on a PowerPoint deck, your signature in an email or your name written in comments in software code likely only to be seen by another developer months or years in the future, the very essence of putting your name on something is the act of committing yourself personally to the quality of the product and the outcome it produces. It makes business personal.
When I see relationships with clients that are the most successful, it’s because both the leadership and the staff involved on both sides exude that same personal commitment to success. Equally, we want the project to succeed. And it’s that commitment that allows the work to continue, even when times get tough. And times always seem to get tough at one point or another. Whether it’s a new requirement that surfaces during the build cycle or an unanticipated technical challenge or external influences (like a pandemic!) that pull minds and hearts in different directions, personal commitment to success can be the constant in that sea of change. Routinely I see clients and peers at Spaulding Ridge going above and beyond during those times. And that kind of work ethic is infectious. You rarely see a single member of a team labor into the night alone to meet a deadline. It’s not unusual to see entire groups having conversations on Microsoft Teams that stretch well past midnight. I believe people show this commitment because it gives us meaning. It gives us purpose. It gives us hope. It allows us to achieve things together that we could never accomplish by ourselves. It helps us keep the commitments we’ve made. And inside that accomplishment is the satisfaction of a job done right. An acknowledgment that we have delivered value that will move the needle. It is the essence of our human spirit.
“Hope springs eternal”
So how can organizations continue to be successful in the coming weeks and months? First, we will look to our leadership to coordinate and prioritize our activities to make sure that we are focused on the most important things that will enable us to endure through today’s challenges. Successful leaders will provide the frameworks and resources that will allow their organizations to adapt daily to emerging challenges. Secondly, however, we need to look to ourselves — to ask ourselves what we can do each day that will help us stay the course. I believe that there are a few necessary actions we can take that will help.
1. Keep it simple. Technology projects can be complex, so keeping it simple is going to be an essential aspect of success in the coming months. Take the time to prioritize the most critical elements of any project and break those deliverables down into bite-sized chunks that can be accomplished by teams more likely to be working together more virtually than in person. Don’t forget the less important things but allow the organization some wiggle room to get back to them when more normal times return.
2. Over-communicate. Many people are highly familiar with remote work strategies. Others will be quite new to it. As we pull back into our homes to accommodate social distancing, we need to be conscious of the fact that information that might have flown through a team or in-person to person conversations may now no longer flow at all. It is easy for people that work remotely to lose touch with the team. Adopting tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Salesforce Chatter, and jAAm (Spaulding Ridge’s platform for total project management) encourage ongoing dialogues that keep people in the know. Daily organized “standup” meetings will help people remain attached to work and knowledgeable about everything that’s going on. Encourage team members to share on every channel and stay informed.
3. Slow down. Consider slowing the pace of existing projects by extending project timelines to allow for the changes that people will go through both in their personal lives as well as their professional ones. Be patient as staff adapt to and deal with the personal and professional changes that are unfolding in real-time.
4. Maintain a positive outlook. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey suggests that we spend the vast majority of our time in our “circle of control,” a little time in our “circle of influence” and very little time in our “circle of concern.” It’s easy in today’s environment to invert these time allocations. Maintaining a positive outlook is essential to restoring this balance. Find a reason to smile. Keep a sense of humor. Appreciate the contributions people make and say thanks or give thumbs up. These tools help energize us and help us regain focus on the work that is in front of us.
We can’t predict what is to come in the days or weeks ahead. But each of us has a role in shaping its outcome. Carpe diem!