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Posted by Sarah Brown on 27 Jun '20

Three tips to help you avoid destroying your organisation as you come out of lock down

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Now is a dangerous time for corporate culture and your organisation. As we respond to the Pandemic and start coming out of lock down ways of working will change and some of your fundamental values may be threatened.

Times of crisis mean that we set short term goals. What these are and how we rank them can have serious and unintended consequences.

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Values and goals are often very closely connected. The mantra of the UK government said over and over again was “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”.

This appeared to rank protecting the NHS above saving lives and in the first weeks of the lockdown 23,000 hospital patients were discharged into care homes most without being tested for Covid 19. On March 19th NHS guidance stated that, “Unless required to be in hospital, patients must not remain in an NHS bed.” Then on April 2nd advice stated “Negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home”. There was lots of pressure on care homes to take patients very quickly. Potentially infectious people were sent into homes with the most vulnerable members of the population. The result, from the 10th April to the 19th June, was over 12,000 deaths related to Covid 19 reported by care homes to the Care Quality Commission.

Protecting the NHS was meant to save lives but I cannot believe that the consequences on care homes and the old people that died were intended.

Similarly, the general population has taken the mantra as meaning don’t call/bother the NHS. This meant a friend of mine’s 82 year old stepdad didn’t ring with a urinary infection for 4 weeks, then the doctor prescribed over the phone antibiotics and only after another 2 weeks did the GP take a blood test through a car window. Meanwhile he got sicker and sicker.

In April 2019 almost 200,000 people were referred to a consultant for suspected cancer by their GPs. In April 2020, only 79,573 were instead of the 210,000 that Macmillan Cancer Support has estimated should have entered the system, i.e possibly 130,000 people who would ordinarily be referred to a consultant have not been. About 7% of these patients would usually require cancer treatment, meaning approximately 9,000 people might not have had their cancer diagnosed in April. 

The organisation said that around 2,500 people who should have been referred for their first treatment after a cancer diagnosis will not have received that treatment.

The fears for the NHS pushed saving lives down the scale of importance.

So, if you have to adjust how you are working what is the relevance for you? Well, you could end up getting unintended consequences as well.

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Here are some things to think about if you have just reopened or about to, which could help prevent this:

1 Shaping your new behaviours to keep your core values alive

What are your core values that make you special and how will you behave now to ensure they are still kept alive? For example, if a great customer experience is your top value how can you stand out from the crowd in masks and behind screens? Get ideas from your staff, it could be as simple as drawing a smile on the mask or as in a shop we go to, a check out girl writing I love history on her head band of the mask which has got an on-going conversation going.

2 Avoiding behaviours that undermine what you stand for

The reverse of above, think about what you are now doing because of the Pandemic that might threaten some fundamental values. Have you always focused on face to face customer support, if you are consultant or offering training, and now you are trying to offer on-line? Is this the right thing for your organisation if it is not your passion or skill set?  What is the most important element of what you offer and are you undermining it with your changes?

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For me, I have worked remotely from clients long before Covid 19 as I offer ideas, strategy and lots of experience, all of which is as valid at a distance. I prefer face to face, but our top value is about creating an impact to help organisations grow successfully and change the world and this can be achieved in lots of ways from video conferences to mind-maps.

3 Setting and ranking clear goals

Have you adjusted your goals? Maybe the focus is now on making money or saving money because of the impact of the lockdown. Is this your top goal now?  How will behaviour change to make this happen? Make sure you avoid unintended consequences i.e. the equivalent of sending sick old people into care homes to infect staff and residents? Staff will make assumptions if you are not clear about how to behave in this new world. If they think you are worried about money they may act in a different way because they think this is what is needed. You may rightly be focused on economic survival, so think through how you can operate in a way which will still keep the essence of what you are as an organisation.  Remember what you measure is what is focused on.   

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These three steps and communicating clearly with everyone in your organisation what are the ways they should behave, are the key to ensuring that people can act with confidence, customers and users get a consistent service from you, and staff feel able to show their initiative because they know what the rules are now.

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Here are some more blogs about corporate culture you may find useful:

How to create a business full of super heroes

Why values are the key foundation of a strong corporate culture

Can you guess VW’s values from the way they act?