It seems hard to imagine, but less than 3 weeks ago, the world-at-work was a completely different place. We had just signed on for a significant project effort with a client in the Midwest. All of our flights and hotels were booked for our content-packed, on-site kickoff meeting that we use to ignite momentum into the process of delivering a mission-critical platform. On the Friday before our Tuesday on-site, our client informed us that their campus was closed to all outside visitors, with no exceptions, due to the growing concerns surrounding what is now the Coronavirus worldwide pandemic. Additionally, we were told the project was still very much "on" and that we still needed to get things rolling as soon as possible to keep to a very aggressive timeline for go-live.
So, what were we to do?
After assessing the facts around what was happening in the world around us and the need to keep the project to the proposed schedule, we came up with a strategy to address all concerns. It was really rather simple, yet strategic in that we had always started these engagements on-site and felt clients valued the in-person interaction and ability to pivot conversations quickly to tailor to the most immediate needs. Being thrust into what is now being referred to as the "greatest work-from-home experiment in history" we broke our two days of eight-hour marathon sessions into easily digestible two-hour virtual meeting sessions spread over 4 days. This outcome of this format with a new-client wasn't entirely predictable, and being in-person is always more effective to build relationship trust and understand different personalities on the team (in my opinion, at least). Additionally, for those that are camera-shy, meetings online can be a distraction/hindrance to engagement that affects the productivity and effectiveness of the sessions due to a reluctance to be on-screen.
What was the result?
Fortunately, the client resources and those leading the meetings from Achieve Internet were more than comfortable using online meeting tools for video conferencing at kickoff and throughout the working/whiteboarding sessions during the week. Personally, I was impressed on how efficient and effective we were in all of the sessions, and I think the unspoken "camera-on" rule and the 2-hour limit was a big reason for that. Individuals stayed engaged and it was easy to tell when virtual meeting glaze began to set in. We were able to get through all content in a shorter span than we usually do and always had time to dig deeper into some of the problem areas the client was experiencing. As a team we set a path toward successful delivery all while allowing people to do their "other jobs" when not in session. We were also able to tailor materials for the next session during our off-time and further improve the content and flow, as well as set the tone for future interaction where the virtual pop-in for questions and quick answers is now the norm and the project continues to track on a rapid path to completion. This is going to be the only path for client interaction for the foreseeable future, and these mission-critical projects are not going away for many organizations, but from a productivity perspective, we continue to see significant upside.
Stay safe, stay indoors, and stay healthy!