Very smart people can make very dumb mistakes.

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Very smart people can make very dumb mistakes.
In this editorial we want to explore the certain traits that are exposing organisations ability to cope with COVID-19 or not.   Ask yourself – Which side of history do you want yourself, your team, your company to be on?

Six traits we’ve identified in companies making the right decision during this time.

In this editorial we want to explore the certain traits that are exposing organisations ability to cope with COVID-19 or not.   Ask yourself – Which side of history do you want yourself, your team, your company to be on?

Before we start – if you want to increase the chances of your business surviving – consider turning your company towards Agile methodologies right now.

It doesn’t have to be ADAPTOVATE to show you how. (although that would be welcome – see end of article for more information)  – Find any credible Agile company, with strong experience in both large scale, and small start up operations.

Find a consulting company that has the right credentials and certifications.     (warning: there are a lot of cowboys out there).

ADAPTOVATE don’t just believe, but know and have seen firsthand – that companies and teams that are already Agile friendly, are the ones pivoting quickly and surviving strongly.  It’s not too late.

Start now.

There are very good reasons, why banks, health and government agencies are all now turning towards agile methodologies.   In fact in our recent podcast THE BACKLOG we have a conversation with Ling Kung, the director of innovation at Kaiser Permanente in the US.

In our podcast, Ling discusses that because they are already set up with agile ways of working – they’ve able to make things happen within days – instead of the months it usually took.  They were able to move quickly for COVID response.


This is a time for quick actions that require quick decisions.

This is a time to scramble a team of empowered experts and apply new ways of working to make rapid tactical decisions.

There’s no better time for Agile.  This is when Agile ways of working can save businesses and careers. This is when Agile organizations will show their resilience as they will refocus and rebound much earlier than traditional organizations.

One of our senior consultants in Europe is Slawek Koziol.  He says “Agile teams are faster to respond to changing market conditions, better prepared to adopt remote working and are much more effective in this set-up.

Their team operating rhythm and tools also allow for effective collaboration between teams. It will ensure they are fast to react when work is frequently re-prioritized, they reduce duplication of work and effectively manage dependencies.” He says.



What Agile organizations also do is communicate early and often to provide transparency. High visibility of decisions and actions keeps teams aligned and individuals calm and engaged.

Mina Gurgis – a senior consultant in Australia says “if organisations don’t have more regular and transparent communications than usual, then they’re increasing the risk of people becoming disengaged and lose productivity.

I’ve seen my organisation pretty clear on communication around how our business is affected. Frequent and transparent two-way communications from the leadership team in virtual townhalls with all employees (some on a weekly basis) increase confidence and trust of employees.”

We discuss our performance and progress on our Business Continuity Plans which increases buy-in from employees to support the activities set by the leadership to help us all navigate through this difficult time.” Mina explains

The Management Team at ADAPTOVATE have set up a Mission Control Room to deal with COVID-19.

“Weekly Mission Control meetings with the entire company keep us updated on what is happening to support our short, mid and long term goals” says Rachna Verma from our Australian team.  She continues, “As a company we all have access to the Mission Control Room and can pop in anytime to walkthrough and post suggestions on the Ideas Wall.”

Our Mission Control room is available to every employee across the world for clear and transparent communication.

Rachna says “The honest, open and frank discussions we are all having along with the transparency in the Mission Control Room is great to see and we all know how we can contribute to supporting our goals.”

What’s the opposite of clear and transparent communication? –  sparse and selective communication.  Managers put communication on hold until they have more certainty on the way forward.  It’s tempting for some managers to fall into this category – as they don’t want to over-promise or let people down.  However, now’s the time to over-communicate.

Two-way Communication

Opening a communication channel even to communicate that the management doesn’t have all the answers, but they are working hard on getting them, goes a long way.

It’s important to establish channels and tools for effective two-way communication which will help everyone achieve shared understanding of progress and create a platform for knowledge exchange that can be critical for survival.

At ADAPTOVATE we have a Slack channel for set up for our executive team to answer any questions.  The #ama (ask me anything) Slack channel has been successful in providing rapid response to questions from our employees.

Image 2 – At ADAPTOVATE we use a SLACK #ama channel

So, don’t keep your level of communications as it is, it must increase. Don’t keep your level of sharing the plans as it is, it’s got to be more transparent.


Employer’s responses to COVID19 for many of Brooke Pannell’s friends have been very different.  Brooke is on our team in Los Angeles.

She says “Some managers are piling work on their employees to “make sure they’re busy” during this time, and others have reported that since their company already had good work from home practices built in place, that not much has changed, and business has remained constant. That’s pretty telling which companies are ahead of the curve and which aren’t.”

Brooke says, “A company that overloads their workers out of distrust for the new working environment doesn’t allow employees to adjust to the new working environment either, and certainly doesn’t allow them to process and adjust to the pandemic.”


Brooke has seen companies not practice what they preach.  She explains “If you’re going to show solidarity and support for those “on the front lines” of COVID in social media, companies should consider that COVID is affecting everyone in many different ways, not just first responders, and begin treating their own employees like human beings, not just employees.”

This is a nuanced point, however the humans that make up companies are reading all the same things that we are all reading.  Be it on their own social media channels like Facebook or Instagram, or in HBR or in the New York Times.   We must ensure that all our teams of people are feeling support from their companies.


It seems obvious.  To have a successful working from home team that is as operational as before, – you need to be set up.    It’s clear that for many this hasn’t been the case.

Management and IT must give them all the tools, tech, support, trust and guidance to fulfill the company’s mission from home.     It may feel this is all too late, as we are now thinking about recovery.     It’s not.   We are a long way from back to normal, and it’s not too late to start.

There will be employees who will now be working from home more regularly, having found a more productive flexible work life.    Managers who are more open to it.  Set them up for success.

One of our team reports that his client “is well aware of the importance of good ergonomics and are reimbursing all staff who invest in chairs/ desks.”   Obviously not all companies are in the financial state to be able to do this – however it’s a great example of organisations doing the best they can with what they have.

Mental Health Support

Aligned with that is ensuring that support includes mental health support.

Companies that are showing survival instinct, have a strategy for keeping everyone connected. Everyone is reeling from a complete and total lifestyle change, family members are passing, and this is a traumatic time for many.

Brooke says “Keeping the camaraderie between employees is crucial for engagement and also the mental health of everyone. Some good ideas I’ve seen so far are virtual happy hours, virtual hangout and office hours, online team building exercises, etc.”


Companies that have shown they understand what it takes to ensure high performing WFH teams are including excellent benefits which help employees deal with the crisis.

Whether it’s hazard pay, extra funds for healthcare, paying for health insurance, and/or mental health services, the companies that will experience the least turnover and most business continuity from the shift are those that take good care of their employees.


“What we’ve seen in some organizations is that even expert managers give in to panic and take individual decisions that confuse and distract employees. They rely on their expertise, which hasn’t necessarily been accumulated in trying times like these.” Says Slawek.

Expertise is a double-edged sword that can cause damage if not wielded properly.

Experts fall victim to heightened sense of accountability which causes false memories and gives way to false inferences and comparisons.

Very smart people can make very dumb mistakes.

If we understand that intelligence (in so-called smart managers) doesn’t necessarily mean they have the ability to critically think.

In fact, Heather Butler from Scientific American writes “Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence. Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate.

Critical thinkers are amiable sceptics. They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all kinds of cognitive biases (for instance, hindsight bias or confirmation bias).”

This is where the power of a nimble cross-functional team comes in to help. Teammates are there to verify the facts, challenge the thinking and show different perspectives.  It challenges the ‘bias’ as Heather explains – Only then can good decisions be made.

So, it’s not too late to pivot your thinking.   Look at those traits.   Take steps to ensure you are positively showing each one.


If you’ve read this far, – just a small plug.   ADAPATOVATE are not only open for business, we are continuing to operate as fully functioning Agile training company.   We have customised training in Agile for companies ready now. We can set up remotely, we have a exclusive Learning Management System we can deploy immediately for organisations.  We can conduct bespoke webinars within 48 hours if you need.  Please reach out to one of the team.

Editor:  Thanks to the team at ADAPTOVATE for contributing to this story.

Read more stories helping with remote working here:




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