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Two Weeks In - What Have We Learned as Ops Leaders?

Main topics

  • What had to change in your company? How did you handle that?
  • What are you still working on?
  • Is fatigue setting in? How do you keep the energy up and focus on that one north star?
  • Are you doing scenario planning or forecasting at the moment?
    • How are you measuring what success looks like now?
    • Short-term goals and success in a marathon of insecurity
  • What are the things that you’ve had to deal with that you didn’t predict?
  • Response frameworks
    • Is that something you’ve built in your company?
    • Something you’ve been considering?
    • Have people asked for one?
    • What did people want to know about most?
  • If you can name one learning from this, what would it be?
  • What is your silver lining through this all?

Meeting notes

Hello world! :)

Marta @ Qatalog:

  • Fairly small team, pre-launch
  • Used to working with shared documents that outline everyone’s goals and what they’re working on anyway
  • Before: Monday team meeting with what everyone wants to do for the week; then Friday check-in on what’s happened
  • What changed: added a daily 11am check-in on top of the Mon/Fri meetings. Scheduled for 30mins but lasts shorter depending on how much there is to share
  • Procrastination is tricky to deal with
  • Good opportunity to put all the information that usually lives in our heads on paper (e.g. for new joiners to use) - e.g. write down what you’re doing from ops side, etc.
  • Daily Slackbot checkin (Geekbot) on what’s everyone worked on the day

Leo @ Cuvva

  • Rolled out WFH earlier than gov suggestion
  • Has 24/7 support team so used to working remotely anyway
  • Nice to see how customer support was supporting engineers and everyone else who’re not used to working from home - super positive vibe
  • Initially lots of hope/positivity
  • Then going through furloughing process
  • Operations hardly hit; first asked for volunteers to furlough. Needed to choose a couple of people who didn’t volunteer - tough decision.
  • Lots of questions on who’s in what situation - furloughed, laid off, what’s happening
  • Ops role now focused more on people and wellbeing
  • In process to rolling out Lattice (performance tool)
  • Having an update from every individual in the company is really good; gives more perspective on what everyone’s working on
  • Quiz at 5pm every day that the whole company is free to join
  • Discord (?) Slack - e.g. “coffee machine” area etc. that makes work more social
  • Team goals were successfully set before pandemic so it’s now good to have them to work towards

Fun stuff:

  • Google Hangout named by local pub/coffee shop to which people can always jump in
  • Daily challenge/task each day (e.g. sharing baby or pet pictures, piece of art in their home) - allowing to maintain micro-interactions that you normally have in the office
  • How do we make daily challenges as a long-term engagement?
  • Important to keep everyone laughing and continue getting to know your colleagues
  • Pub hangouts: tell everyone what they’re drinking, tell a highlight from the week, do quiz, etc.
  • Random scavenger hunt e.g. “find a word and take a picture of it”
  • Have one person share trivia or something that they’re interested in - it changes the mood quite a bit from the COVID topic. Nice to hear a different topic!

On furloughing:

  • Interestingly this isn’t even in UK employment law and more common in the US
  • Furloughing: having never done it before, it’s always better to start it “softer” but it will remain challenging. How to keep in touch with the people who have been furloughed?
  • Furloughing: get as many people on the call as possible - possible to be more forthcoming, have made the process more smoother, if more information was given before the process - organise FAQs, etc.
  • COVID response team that meets 3 times a week depending on how the situation is changing. Send any updates to everyone straight after the meeting (e.g. forecasts).
  • Important to have as much communication/transparency as possible. Even if it’s hard info to digest, it’s better to have it rather than not have it.
  • Even if it’s not “good” certainty, it’s still better for your team to have.
  • What do you do with people who’ve been furloughed? Do you encourage them to be involved in certain things or do you just leave them be? Are they allowed to if they do that, what’s the criteria? What does count as work and what doesn’t?
  • Putting a calendar together for those furloughed.
  • Assumption that it might be similar to parental leave: have keep-in-touch days, email every now and then with company updates
  • Should people still continue to have access to their work email/Slack? E.g. limit to social channels only on Slack, still access to email (but not sure if it’s right).

Crisis management:

  • Lots of people haven’t yet recognised that they’re in a crisis. There are different level of crisis, and not many know how they’re going react/what the expectations should be of what they can achieve in the first week. Worth sharing the article (Scott will send) with the rest of the team.
  • Initially the expectation is that it’s BAU but everything else should continue as normal. It’s not realistic.
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Mindshift that it’s not gonna be 2-3 weeks but rather at least a couple of months.

Forecasting:

  • What’s your runway? How much can you flex your marketing budget? How do you think about furloughing?
  • Just closely monitoring the situation now and will be adjusting in the coming weeks; try to play to our strengths
  • Hiring paused
  • Weekly meeting to keep an eye on situation and reassess quickly

Taking care of your team:

  • Recognising as an organisation that the personal and professional is going to be completely blurred for the time being.
  • Put the structure in place first so that you can support your team
  • Empowering line managers to speak with their teams; recognise that everyone’s gonna be in a different place (e.g. at home struggling with kids, in financial trouble, etc.)
  • Organising a financial resilience coaching. Sometimes enough just to give them a website.
  • Really important: don’t give advice, just facilitate a conversation (e.g. what it means to prepare your home and your family for a potential civil unrest; e.g. what are you escape routes, etc.). It’s not about giving advice because people/situations are so different. Don’t assume that someone might know something.
  • What will keep people from their productivity is everything that they’ve got going on in the background (e.g. financial situation, wellbeing, family, etc.) Important to acknowledge the situation all the time.

Main take-aways:

  • Companies that manage to use the situation as a major culture shift are going to survive. If you didn’t have trust before, you realise now that it’s not easy to keep going through this situation. However, if you learn how to trust each other more, what doesn’t break you makes you stronger
  • Company culture makes so much ground; selflessness is emerging
  • The words and communication of the leadership means SO MUCH. The trust in leadership is so important. By saying certain things/doing certain actions you can achieve so much. You have to spell out exactly what you mean. You can’t expect that people are just going to understand.
  • Recognise that your employee is a whole person (personal + professional).
  • Having “agile organisation” in place is useful, including “domain owners” (will enable lower level employees to be in charge if they’re normally looking after this particular area)
  • Knowing where you are financially all the way throughout is so important - will allow you to know what’s the situation is at any point in time.
  • Recognising that this is a global crisis. No precedent - this hasn’t happened before; everyone’s new to this.
  • Important to keep sane and level-headed!
  • Excited to keep all the fun things in place even in this situation
  • Things can change really fast and you’ve got to be ready! Really good stress-test how resilient we are as a company
  • All misunderstandings on email/Slack can be resolved via phone conversation :)
  • Having autonomy as a value in organisation is incredibly helpful at this time
  • Amazing to see how well people perform when there’s a need (comparison to 5-people startup and early days to current situation)
  • Personal and professional development is 10-fold
  • What are the opportunities that come out of this? We will stop the way that we used to do the work and look for the new ways. Maybe the opportunities aren’t there yet but it’s about building the relationships and infrastructure in place; getting ready and into the right position as you now can have the time. Looking towards the future.

Tools:

COVID-related Volunteering opportunities:

Reading:

ACTION:

  • Can we share more information on furloughing - what are the guidelines, can they volunteer, can they stay involved in the company, wth is going on? What’s allowed/not allowed? How do we provide guidance around volunteering that they can do etc?
  • Are there any external partners to coach internal teams e.g. on the financial resilience, wellbeing (Sanctus)
  • Sharing random stuff in Ops Stories just for fun! 5 mins trivia, etc.
  • Doing the meetups more regularly!
  • Organise another catchup on COVID: Looking into the future as Ops Manager!
  • Any bots, tech, etc. for dummies :D that we can share to enhance the virtual component of the work
  • Ops Stories members who’re currently looking for work to help other with short projects if there’s a need so that the brain isn’t idle - there’s only so many fiction books you can read!
  • Scott to tell us more about crisis management :)
  • Marta to tell us more about tools that companies are using!