Gary’s January Gems – Are We Wasting Lessons Learned From the Crisis
Winston Churchill advised us that “We must never let a good crisis go to waste.” My reaction when I first came across this quote was that it was a cynical joke. He was a politician after all. Churchill is regarded as one of history’s great communicators. It was the essence of his power to lead people through the worst days of WWII.
“In challenging times one must question the accepted reality because things are going wrong, rapid answers are needed and the solution may well be found outside the usual compass.”
The disruption caused by a crisis demands that we find creative ways to make use of the lessons learned from that crisis. “Disruption is both the cause and the result of the change”.
What lessons have we learned from the COVID crisis?
The pandemic uncovered many problems like inadequate healthcare and income inequality to name just two. But it also forced us to rethink behaviour that we have taken for granted as the way things get done. I’d like to share with you a couple of examples of how disruption was a catalyst for change.
As you know, I am the President and CEO of i24 Call Management Solutions – a call answering service that has been in my family for over fifty years. For forty-nine of those years, our “call centre” operations were located at our main office on rue Jean-Talon. Everything happened there, administration, sales, marketing, programming and of course, call-answering.
The option to work from home was rarely given. We would make people jump through hoops for the privilege to do so. Now, 21 months into the pandemic, we are hiring new Customer Service Ambassadors (agents) to work permanently at home. COVID provided the crisis and forced the change.
To stay in business during the initial lockdown, we had to act fast and organize ourselves to enable our agents to work from home. We never anticipated this workplace option so had no template to follow. Nevertheless, in a matter of days, thanks to our ace IT team, the technology and logistics were set in place so that every CSA could continue to work. What could easily have been a catastrophe was barely noticed by our clients who were facing their own workplace crisis.
Working from different locations presents many challenges. Maintaining a positive work culture is one of them. But we discovered unanticipated benefits as well. The ability to hire remote workers gave us the opportunity to engage agents from a much wider geographical area. We continuously work at keeping our culture alive and video conferencing technology has allowed us to remember what our coworkers look like.
The COVID disruption also had me rethink the necessity of having a brick and mortar office. I’m planning to downsize our office footprint significantly once our current lease is up. This will give us flexibility in finding a more convenient location and reduce our carbon footprint. There are always plus and minuses with any change, the workers save hours in commute time and we have widened our recruitment pool.
Another personal lesson learned from this crisis is that I didn’t think I could let go of the ‘control’ aspect of having immediate physical access to everyone in the office. My lesson? The quality of work lies within the worker, not within the place they work.
It doesn’t always take a global crisis to bring about change. I remember a personal incident that happened nearly twenty years ago. Earl and I, being fervent art collectors, had a dream to open an art gallery. As we were researching areas, writing business proposals etc., we were also making regular hospital visits to a close friend of ours who suddenly became very ill.
It was especially sad to our friend, who also was an artist, lie in such a depressing place. Hospitals aren’t the happiest places but stepping into that part of the old Royal Victoria Hospital was like stepping back into the actual Victorian era. The ambience projected the antithesis of hope.
One evening on our way home from another visit, we shared the same thought. We decided to change our art gallery plans and use our art expertise instead to bring the gallery experience to institutions like the Royal Victoria so that patients, staff, and visitors could be surrounded by the healing properties of art.
A Phoenix arose from the ashes of our friend and the Art for Healing Foundation was born.
I’m someone who loves a good challenge. I thought that I embraced change. But like most, my default setting is “complacency”. Sometimes it takes a crisis to move that setting – to rethink the ways we do things. The cliché, “that’s the way we always did it” is especially useless when everything around us has changed.
Time and change are in constant motion. We can’t stop either. By embracing them, we move forward as well. By resisting, we move backwards – there is no standing still.
I wish you happiness, good health, and peace for 2022.