Strategic Flex and the Snowstorm—Will You Be Open for Business Tomorrow?

As we brace for the second wave snowstorm bearing down on the East Coast, I’m remembering an experience I had a few years ago at a major pharmaceutical company widely recognized for their work+life strategy. 

As I presented a series of Work+Life Fit seminars to the employees and managers, snow began to fall.  On that particular day, I was scheduled to facilitate one session in the morning and another after lunch.  Midway through the afternoon session, a few inches of snow had accumulated and you could tell people were anxious to get on the road.  Then the most amazing thing happened…Fotolia_1211653_XS(2)

A number of managers in the room stood up and asked their team members to meet them in a group.  As the various teams gathered, you could hear everyone sharing how they planned to work the next day.  Some would work remotely, others thought they’d wait until after rush hour and come in later, and a couple planned to take personal days if they couldn’t find child care for their very young children. 

As the teams reached agreement and dispersed, the managers gathered together and opened their laptops in a circle and began to coordinate with each other.  How would they conduct meetings that were scheduled?  Some decided to cancel meetings while others converted theirs to webinars.  One manager who oversaw a manufacturing facility sent emails to the plant foreman flexibly coordinating the staffing for the next day. 

I watched in awe.  Finally, the manufacturing manager saw my faced and asked me, '’Why are you smiling and shaking your head?”  At this point, all of the managers in the room looked up.  I responded, “Do you realize how much money you are saving by flexibly coordinating tomorrow’s work in anticipation of the snow?”  You could tell they were a bit confused. 

They didn’t see what they were doing as unusual.  It’s how they flexibly managed their business and in their culture.  So I pointed out, “See your competitor down the street?  Do they use flexibility as easily and strategically as you do to maintain operating continuity even if it snows?”  Another manager said, “No they don’t.”  I continued, “Okay, so who’s open for business tomorrow and who isn’t?”  Now they were smiling and shaking their heads, “We are.” 

This group of managers knew that their company supported flexibility, but it was the first time they consciously realized how they were using it to meet a business need--staying open when nature strikes!

What about you and your organization?  Will you be open for business, or not?  Are you having coordinated conversations today about how everyone plans to work tomorrow, or if they plan to work?  Or will you just take your chances?

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3 Comments

  • Dan Rockwell

    Cali,

    Love the way you put the power of UnLearning.. ."Change as full of challenges OR opportunities."

    I can always tell when someone isn't unlearning. They keep talking about how hard things things are...or how challenging their situation is. On the other hand, UnLearners are filled with enthusiasm.

    Regards,

    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell
    http://leadershipfreak.wordpre...

  • Cali Williams Yost

    Hi Dan,

    UnLearning is so critical especially today. As the world changes so rapidly the ability to UnLearn will determine if we see that change as full of challenges OR opportunities. If you will stay stuck in the rut (love the grave imagery!)

    Your fellow leadership freak,
    Cali

  • Dan Rockwell

    Cali,

    Great story... thanks for sharing it. We all get stuck in ruts. Someone said a rut is a grave with the ends kicked out.

    I think the ability to UNlearn creates an important foundation for adaptive organizations.
    http://leadershipfreak.wordpre...

    Thanks again for a great and encouraging story,

    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell