Emergency global crisis response
Even a company such as Slack, which is focused on organizational agility, had never moved with such speed and clarity of focus as in March 2020. They realized that they are going to be exposed to challenges such as dramatically increasing customer demand and an extremely abrupt transition to working remotely. They knew that thousands of companies would make a massive, rapid transition to remote work and would be seeking for their help. In practice, Slack was able to demonstrate the agility that they aspire to bring to their customers.
Some of the key characteristics that were observed during the times of crisis are:
• A smooth employee transition: as an organization, Slack is built around and through a channel-based messaging platform and made up mostly of knowledge workers, which softened the transition to work from home. In addition, in the company everyone knows where to go to ask their questions, give their update, or catch up on decisions and results. They have always invested in a strong and disciplined culture of communication.
• A surge in customer demand: new customers wanted comprehensive proposals immediately. Existing ones wanted more training programs and more sophisticated features. On very short notice, organizations of all kinds, small and large, private and public, needed to transform the way they worked, all at once. However, they will have to be very careful when thinking about competing dynamics. On one hand there is a clear increase in short-term demand that could potentially be coupled with a murkier outlook for the future, which is also in a way the new reality for Slack.
• Transparent investor communication: the company had to decide whether to change their financial forecasts as the pandemic was almost certainly going to affect their business. However, even if they were badly hit, Slack knew they would be better off than many other companies. They tempered their first-half growth expectations and acknowledge the increasing market uncertainty, however presented the same case that they intended.
For the future, there is also some potential for companies if they follow the mentality to “never waste a crisis”. Every crisis represents a potential option to become more agile, to take on changes that once seemed daunting, to reimagine organizational culture, to rethink work plans and productivity, to learn from and rapidly correct mistakes, and to reposition for future growth.
In your opinion, which is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of working remotely? How do you aim to improve as a result of this crisis?
Butterfield, S. (2020). The Ceo of Slack on Adapting in Response to a Global Crisis. Harvard Business Review, 98(4), 30-35.
*Slovenian Research Agency, Program P5-0364 – The Impact of Corporate Governance, Organizational Learning, and Knowledge Management on Modern Organization, School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana.
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