In these past few months, you’ve probably learned a lot about how you, your loved ones, and your work colleagues manage challenging times.

Baking Won’t Cut It

That first week of quarantine captivity was PHASE ONE: THE DENIAL. Some of us became pointedly productive, creating lofty to-do lists:

  • Read Great Expectations
  • Remodel the basement
  • Learn French

Some of us kept a mental calendar with just one item:

  • Put on pants. Every day…

And the rest of us baked. Banana bread, anyone?

As it became clear we couldn’t just bake our cares away and Zoom was not as fun after the seventh meeting of the day, we quickly moved into PHASE TWO: THE PLAN.

In this phase, we needed a strategy—one that was flexible enough to meet our moods and had some futurizing built in to maintain hope but keep things real.

We also realized we needed other humans. The words of English poet John Donne come to mind here:

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent; a part of the Maine
(Excerpt from Meditation XVII)

For XPLANE, these first two phases looked something like this: 

  • Week One: Redesign all work and facilitations for remote capability.
  • Week Two: Recalibrate how we work together. Realize we miss everyone.
  • Week Three: Develop resiliency plans for various future scenarios.
  • Week Four: Take a gut check. How are we doing mentally, physically, emotionally, and organizationally, one month in?
  • Week Five on: Repeat and rejigger the last four weeks, but do it a few times a week.

Facing the Fear of Planning

Now, with everything starting to show signs of life again, we’re moving into PHASE THREE: THE REOPENING.

We need a plan for an unclear future but we are kind of afraid of it, as well. There’s a word for that—teleophobia. Before the pandemic, we used it to describe people who couldn’t make definite plans. Now, it describes most of us.

Assess, Evaluate, Envision

At XPLANE, we decided to face our very palpable teleophobia head-on with curiosity and experimentation.

First, we got really honest. What were we missing, or in some cases mourning, about our old ways of working? One thing we missed was our office kitchen. As one person put it, “In our kitchen, we could be at work but not work. We could commune.” Others missed the XPLANE artifacts, from sticky notes to posters, that colored our office space. All of us missed the spontaneity.

Next, we thought about what we needed to move forward. How could we pivot to this hybrid way of working? What was NOT working well with remote collaboration? How did our Ways of Working need to change to flex with this new reality?

And then we looked into the future. If we were successful, what could that look like? When we work with clients who are trying to move from a challenging current state to a better future state, we sometimes ask them to visualize the change as a magazine cover in the future. Here’s what we came up with:

In these conversations, we realized our Ways of Working needed to be re-evaluated on multiple levels—kind of like an atom or an onion or a set of Russian nesting dolls, from the inside moving out, each part supporting the next.

Lean on Core Principles

From an organizational standpoint, we knew that any plan XPLANE implemented needed to be guided by core principles. So, we opened up our curiosity a bit more by revisiting those values through our Ways of Working worksheet. Some key values bubbled up:

  • Innovation/Creativity/Experimentation
  • Versatility/Adaptability/Flexibility
  • Teamwork/Collaboration
  • Transparency/Open Communication/Feedback
  • Empathy/Understanding
  • Honesty/Trust/Respect
  • Proactivity/Effectiveness/Initiative
  • Individuality
  • Learning/Curiosity/Sharing
  • Visual Thinking

XPLANE’s “Future of Working” Ideas

Which brings us to today and the experimentation part of PHASE THREE.

As XPLANE considers our different onion layers—from the individual to the community we serve—we want to bring our community into the conversation.

Over the next months, we will experiment with updating our Ways of Working, using our values and the layers of the onion as guideposts. Here are five ideas we are testing out:

  • Reinventing “the kitchen” for spontaneous visits
  • Repurposing our weekly Lunch & Learns to explore areas of experimentation
  • Redesigning our Ways of Working worksheet to better serve XPLANE’s project teams’ needs in this current environment
  • Rejiggering our daily work schedules to allow for more “thinking time” and buffer time between Zoom meetings
  • Evolving and pivoting our thought leadership to match the needs of the greater XPLANE community

Our Challenge: Develop Your Own “Future of Working” Ideas

As members of our community, we would love for you to join our experiment.

Start by being curious. Use the Future Magazine Cover and the Ways of Working worksheet to open up conversations with your own team. What do you value? What are your Ways of Working? What do you need to keep or change in the future for your organization to work harmoniously?

Let’s Continue the Conversation

As we try out our five ideas over the next month, we’ll be taking stock of what’s going well and what needs tweaking. And we’ll check back next month with an update on our experiments.

If you have any comments, feedback, or suggestions—or are willing to share your “future of working” ideas—please reach out to us.

After all, if we have learned anything these last few months, it’s that none of us is an island to oneself. We need each other.