STRATEGIES! in the world. We are globetrotters. We earn our living by travelling around the world and gathering people together to plan, think, learn, solve problems, create, share and so on.
With the spread of Covid-19 across five continents, everything happened so quickly: closing of borders, sharp slowdown of economic and social activities, closure of schools, universities and training centers, imposition of measures for “social distancing”.
What an incredible crisis for us!
A few key words describe how STRATEGIES! consultants are working amidst and despite the Covid-19 crisis, three months in.
STUNNED: An unprecedented impact on mass transport and travel
In our wildest imaginations, we could not have imagined that a disease would cause all commercial flights worldwide to be suspended overnight, causing the temporary closure of airports, train stations and subways, as well as thousands of hotels and hospitality facilities around the world.
As consultants, this meant we could not travel, we could not work.
Or could we?
PROACTIVITY: A need to adapt, adjust and plan as never before
Faced with this sudden global paralysis, we had to understand, adjust and plan both for ourselves and for our clients. It was time to truly test the proactivity which is one of the fundamental principles of our brand.
Understanding the disease –
We had been following COVID-19 and wondering about its impact on our clients. In early March when the first case in Cameroon was confirmed, reality hit home. We did what consultants naturally do. Gather information (there was so much of it, yet so much was uncertain), analyze and make decisions. After a series of initial analysis and meetings with our team, we made quick decisions.
- We had to keep everyone safe and healthy. This meant shutting down the office and working from home.
- We were extremely lucky to have work that could tide us over the next six months, on condition that we adapted quickly and found solutions for our clients.
- We had to determine the equipment, methods and tools that would enable us to make this adjustment within about 10 days in order not to lose contracts and enter a company financial crisis.
The shift to teleworking –
We had always prided ourselves on remote work, 98% of our business is done outside Cameroon. However, having everyone shift to remote work and delivering from start to finish at a distance was a whole different level. We realized some people needed equipment; everyone needed stable, strong internet connections from home, a whole new type of methodology needed to be developed.
The frequency and timing of meetings in the first week was absurd. Meeting after meeting, brainstorming after brainstorming, almost everyone at STRATEGIES! was online from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. We were thoroughly exhausted and luckily figured out in the following weeks how to pace and space online meetings so we could get offline work done and so we could rest.
METHODOLOGY: Figuring out how to do full workshops online
The crisis hit 15 days into a 58-day consultancy and two weeks before we had the first workshop to deliver. The consultancy included three in-person workshops. The client was at project closure. STRATEGIES! was determined to meet initial contractual deadlines despite the crisis.
Using a combination of WhatsApp, Skype and Google Suite tools, we figured out how to work as a 6-person team to deliver three virtual workshops with participants from 15 countries.
Zoom was our very best friend as we wrote the first draft of a Youth Agribusiness Strategy for Africa with five consultants in five locations.
Today STRATEGIES! has a clear methodology not just for 1-2 hour webinars, but for 2-3 day workshops online to do problem analysis, work through solutions and develop strategic plans. STRATEGIES! can do research, analysis and report-writing using a team of consultants working 100% virtually. We can deliver what we did in-person, online.
Developing this methodology has enabled many of our clients to stay on course and deliver their own work on schedule. In a world economy that is faltering, keeping our clients, our suppliers and ourselves working is an achievement we are extremely proud of.
HOME: The pleasures and inconveniences of working from home
Working from home of course has at least as many advantages as inconveniences.
- All of us are appreciating more time with family and especially with children. Both enjoying the moments and discovering various anomalies that time at the office made us blind to.
- Recipes, menus and cooking – almost all of us are enjoying food more.
- Reduced travel time. For those who live far away from the office, the reduction in travel time means a significant reduction in stress.
- Exercise – with a few exceptions, most of us have been able to maintain our exercise (STRATEGIES! provides exercise sessions for staff at the office). Some have renewed with the pleasure of long walks.
The demands: Needless to say, working from home means more distractions and interruptions. We have gotten used to the noise of children, construction work and traffic in the background of online calls.
Here are a few practical elements that have enabled us to maintain our productivity at home:
- Choosing a corner of the house that is conducive to work.
- Being strict about the hours dedicated to work.
- Maintaining continuous contact with laptop and phone during working hours to stay permanently connected with the team.
- Remaining focused even when distractions are present.
Three months into living with COVID-19, STRATEGIES! has negotiated what we hope will be the sharpest turn. However, we remain alert and continue to track the disease and adjust our working methods. Unfortunately, it seems COVID-19 is here to stay and that we in Africa may have the longest curve. Unfortunately, STRATEGIES! is based in a country that is not doing a very good job of managing COVID-19.
Within STRATEGIES! we are still stunned, struggling to be proactive and working to adapt methodology. However, it is also clear that we as a continent and as a globe, shall surmount this disease. At STRATEGIES! we intend to stay at the forefront of those in Africa and in the world who are doing so.
By STRATEGIES! Team | Led By Joel S. Sosso Njanga, Consultant