What a Snow Day can Teach You about Your Organization

Here in Washington, DC we woke up to a thick blanket of snow from the largest snowstorm of an already active winter season.  The federal government, schools, stores, etc. have all closed. It got me thinking about what a snow day can tell you about your office, agency, or company. It’s a good test that reveals a lot about how you are organized, your technology, and your culture. At my company, Corner Alliance, we regularly work across multiple client sites, at home, in our DC office, and in multiple states snow or no snow. Flexibility is one of our core values. So when a snow day hits, we just keep going. It’s not that different than any other day working from home except for the parents of young children whose schools are closed.

For many of our federal clients, the situation is more of a mixed bag. We’ve seen impressive new initiatives like those at GSA that enable employees to work almost anywhere and at any time. They are breaking down the traditional structures to create more flexibility and lower costs. They can also take on a snow day without missing a beat. GSA is showing that adjusting your organization to increase flexibility has a lot of benefits. It can speed decision making, improve productivity and creativity, and help improve your culture.

For many of our other federal clients, the situation is different. They have more traditional arrangements and a snow day results in a serious loss of productivity. This is a perfect time to think about how to move your organization towards increased flexibility and productivity. Based on our experience and those of many of our clients, I think there are 3 key areas to review:

1. Are we organized to maximize employee productivity and empowerment? Many organizations still hold on to complicated hierarchies that slow decision making and make front line employees feel like they don’t own their work. Think about how many reviews it took to get the last initiative you undertook signed off on? How many people reviewed the last deliverable you put out and how much added value did each review give you? If everything you do requires endless reviews and meetings about reviews, chances are you aren’t structured well and need to find a way to streamline decision making. Employees who can’t move forward without multiple approvals and meetings aren’t going to be all that productive at home.

2. Do our people have the technology they need to stay productive? This question is pretty obvious. If people don’t have laptops, mobile devices, etc., they won’t be able to work away from the office. Are you using cumbersome and outdated VPNs and barriers to accessing files that could be streamlined without compromising security? Giving more flexibility to your employees has a lot of benefits in improving creativity and productivity. GSA didn’t move to a more mobile and flexible workforce just to stay productive on snow days.

3. Do you have the right culture? How productive people stay on a snow day can also tell you a lot about your organizational culture. Do people take any chance to goof off out from under the gaze of their boss? How great can their work be at the office if that’s the situation? You want people who are committed to your mission and are finding anyway they can to further it.

What else are you learning about your organization today?