Two hands holding up a tablet where people are video conferencing, which is part of an innovative remote work design

Design Thinking with a Remote Workforce: How to Drive Process and Customer Experience Improvements During Coronavirus

By Dale Lawrence

Even during massive business disruptions, job losses and a shift in your customer’s attention, your business is still moving forward. This is not the time to stop innovating. This is not the time to give up on your customers. Many of your workers are feeling isolated and struggling to be productive and likely have far more discretionary time than ever before. It was been shown that a remote workforce starts their day earlier, can have less distractions during the workday and tends to work later than the traditional office worker.

However, in a recent meeting with leaders from different industries, I noted that each company was struggling with their team’s focus and productivity. The leaders kept stating that as more of their critical resources were working-from-home, many of these workers did not have experience with extended remote work and their company had not built the processes, procedures and policies to ensure productivity. During the rush to shift the business within the sudden shelter-in-place guidance, many companies didn’t have time to prepare.

The fact still remains that your customers need your best. Process effectiveness decreased when your workforce moved to their home and these inefficiencies are adding to lost productivity. You need to start thinking about how to adjust the work your team provides and how it delivers for your customers.

Remote Employees can be Productive and Effective in Design Thinking Workshops

What is a Design Thinking Workshop?

The Design Thinking approach and the often-used workshop environment provides a way to effectively use the power of your people to collaborate and overcome a collective barrier to doing work. Using empathy (to put yourself in the shoes of the impacted workforce), innovation (to find creative ways to solve a problem) and experimentation (to try, fast fail and try something else until you overcome the barrier), an experienced facilitator team brings the participants through a journey to:

• Rethink what each procedure does or even if it brings value,
• Resequence the order that the steps occur,
• Reconfigure the activities and the value they bring,
• Reassign who does what,
• Relocate where the work is done,
• Retool the systems and tools used,
• Reduce what doesn’t bring value.

The participants typically are issued a challenge statement (goal), uncover issues in the current work, then map out the process using post-it notes while they creatively look for new ways to do the work. When addressing customer experience needs, the team really looks to drastically improve the service offering by reducing non value-added work (therefore reducing cost and barriers) while giving the customers more of what they want. The Design Thinking approach is very effective to build a Service Design solution.

Traditionally most Design Thinking workshops are done in-person however that is a challenge as businesses navigate through the current pandemic (Black Swan Event).

There is good news!

Technology has provided the means to achieve most of the objectives for a great Design Thinking workshop. Leveraging many of the tools and approaches that we have used for some time, the objectives for an effective experience are still met. These include:

• Interviews with stakeholders conducted remotely using toll-free bridges and video sharing tools
• Collaborative environments where your employees and our consultants collect information to be used for the workshop
• Focus Groups are conducted using video group sharing systems
• Workshops are conducted using online tools (e.g. Miro) that provide collaborative whiteboard, video, process mapping, and electronic post-it etc.

Propulo brings expert facilitators with extensive process excellence and human performance experience. We can work in one-to-one or one-to many environments to ensure your teams are fully involved while being safe in these challenging times of Coronavirus.


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