How well did your firm or department cope with the snow? (Or how well are you coping? I realise it’s still very much there for some of you.)
That’s not just a polite enquiry – though of course I do care – but I actually think it is a worthwhile exercise to do a structured no-fault postmortem on how you performed as a team. The postmortem would show where the team is really good, and also where culture, resources or procedures need to change.
That’s because, as a disruptive event, the snow tests all sorts of things about a workplace – working practices, trust, honesty, resourcing, communication, and teamwork – and it does it all without charging a consultant’s fees.
Most obviously, one could start with remote working. Is the team well set-up for remote working? If stranded staff and partners were able to work from home, with email access set up, and documents available, then they were well-placed to carry on meeting clients’ needs and deadlines. That’s hard to improvise on the spot if only jackets on the back of chair count in the office culture.
Communication may also have been tested. If the team were able to get hold of each other and make practical accommodations that took account of both travel problems and the demands of everyone’s home life, that is a strength worth appreciating.
In terms of resources, the disruption may also have shown up where you try to wing it as a practice – over-relying on some people, and having no back-up plans. Clients may have had their personal or business plans put on hold when it was impossible to adapt because the margin on resources was too slender.
I find what the disruption says about trust within teams interesting too. Did you feel able to trust people who were working remotely? Do you suspect some team members lied about their inability to work, leaving an unfair burden on others?
Finally, it’s worth taking a close look at the management style that was used when it snowed. Did management lead by example when it came to expectations? Or was it one rule for those in charge, and another for everyone else?
A truly valuable exercise to review management style would be to print off general emails sent to staff, and check them for tone. Would staff feel trusted and appreciated from the style of the email? If not they will have resented it, and their loyalty will be diminished.
Those emails will also tell you something about the author’s management style – is the first instinct to just externalise stress, or is what comes across a cool head that inspires confidence?
Up and down the land, the snow shone a bright white light on our workplaces. It’s worth capturing and acting on some of the lessons to be learned from that.
Eduardo Reyes is Gazette features editor
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