14 May Agility during this COVID-19 Pandemic – CAMP CHALLENGE’s Journey
Agility during this COVID-19 Pandemic – CAMP CHALLENGE’s Journey
On 4 February 2020, we received the first call on a programme being cancelled. Three hours later, a press release was published by the Ministry of Education (MOE) that all camps and mass activities would be suspended. I saw the entire team shuffling around, trying to cancel food orders, venue bookings and engagement of manpower for all the confirmed programmes we had at that point in time. It was a busy couple of hours before the day ended.
As a leader of the company, the one thing that dawned upon me was, ‘Ok. This is the effect of Coronavirus. What’s next?’ The official name was not announced yet back then. All programmes were suspended till further notice but life still goes on with venue rentals to be paid, overheads still incurring and the next question – what should we do now?
Agility is one of the best and most essential work methodologies but how does it apply during this Covid-19 pandemic?
Being agile is the key here to quickly adapting to the situation of current available markets and opportunities that we can grab hold of. This mindset and methodology has a lot to teach us about how to work most effectively when we are working differently.
With reference to “The 12 Agile Manifesto Principles” which is born out of software development, companies have adopted and adapted the values to their businesses. In this article, I will briefly touch on the journey that CAMP CHALLENGE has been going through from 4 February till date.
Early and continuous delivery of valuable services
We analysed and understood the available markets for team-building and outdoor activities for consumer markets. We also identified that this is the time for us to conduct training modules for our instructors. February was a month of internal training for our own employees and marketing of skill achievement courses for individuals to sign up.
We also opened up 2-Days Holiday Camps for kids during the March school holidays, keeping in mind the preventive measures that we needed to take given the Covid-19 situation. The response was surprisingly great and demand was high, but we had to restrict capacity to 25 participants per day so as not to encourage a big group gathering.
To continue utilising our venue, we offered our dormitory space to Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) as our part in fighting Covid-19 as a whole community.
We were on the first day of our holiday camp on 17 March 2020 when we received news that Malaysia would be going on lockdown in less than 24 hours. It was nearing midnight when the news was announced. Malaysians working in Singapore had to make a decision on where to stay.
Shortly after the news, I receive a call from MOM, informing that they wish to refer Malaysian workers who were stranded to our venue and that they would be coming in batches.
In a span of a few hours in the next morning, we received numerous calls and workers came our way that very evening on 18 March 2020. Over five days, we were filled with 300 and more Malaysian workers residing at our campsite.
Another two weeks passed and cases in Singapore saw a spike in April, especially in foreign workers dormitories. Clusters after clusters are announced daily in dormitories. More and more employees from our organisation were also more concerned and were unable to assist on the front-line.
On the other hand, we also decided to take in people who were serving Stay Home Notice (SHN) and even Indians and Bangladeshi in the construction sector on SHN in April. Employees who are still serving the purpose on the ground have been practicing agility on another level as they are taking up higher risks and facing the possibility of being infected.
Agility is empowering. One of the trademarks of being agile is to have team members who are able to make decisions at the moment needed than waiting for managers to give permissions. With agility, servant leaders provide a shared vision and support their team members as they fulfill it. With Covid-19, it created pressure on many processes and we had to react even more quickly than usual. It requires the team member’s ability to make necessary calls as they work through the processes to ensure speed and responsiveness.
Many decisions had to be made on ground as this is our first time housing workers on a long-term that all of us are unsure of. We had to get rooms ready and up to standards for extended stays based on the guidelines provided. Toilets need to be spick and span, ensuring sufficient hand sanitizer points and ample social distancing space within the site. Apart from that, we also had to make more critical decisions along the way. Some of the decisions include the possibility of taking in people who are on SHN and if we are considering to house Indian and Bangladeshi workers from the construction industry. With the spike in the numbers in dormitories, MOM and MOH had also been introducing new measures every few days and our leaders need to guide all team members on how they should be reacting quickly to assess situations and make necessary decisions as well.
So who should embrace the changes? The team here is the key of all. They are not only dormitory operators now. They have also adopted and taken up roles such as cleaning rooms and toilets, clearing trash and more. They also take turns to be in the front-line to meet all 300 individual workers daily, recording their movement and temperatures.
All the projects and new systems were implemented easily because we have a team of motivated individuals. When the leaders decided to take in Indians and Bangladeshi workers serving SHN, the team had put their trust in us. They believed that we have done our due consideration and have confidence with our precautions taken.
As leaders, we have to, in return, learn to provide them with the suitable environment, support the team’s needs, and trust them to get the job done. Till present, various motivated individuals are still implementing new systems to enhance our work. Demotivated teams due to lack of trust or support are unlikely to deliver a successful project.
Face to Face Conversation
As agility still encourages that the most efficient and effective method of communication is face to face, with this pandemic, this seems hard to achieve. However, with technology advances and readily available software, we can easily use Zoom and video calls to connect and still collaborate. Keeping our current clients (for dormitory rentals) at ease, we even allow viewing of the place before they book it for their workers.
Aligned with our company objectives to always provide programmes to our best excellence, providing technical excellence in our current job scope is a crucial factor too.
With increasing cases and clusters of Covid-19 in Singapore, we need to put in more time and effort to upkeep the place, putting preventive measures and hygiene to our 120%.
With more workers on SHN at our venue, we have to practice stricter measures and ensure that the workers adhere to the rules and regulations we set. Team members, regardless of roles, play a pivotal factor to provide continuous attention so as to ensure systems are in place to achieve the excellence that we want. Constant attention given to the venue and systems implemented enhances the agility of the team.
As more measures and systems are in place, we also have to be mindful of removing procedures that are no longer relevant and ensuring that we are making use of both available resources and external resources to simplify processes. Taking an example from our current procedures – we would inform the in-charge, supervisors or managers to assist us in disseminating or conveying key messages down to their workers. This has helped us to work more efficiently and effectively to ensure that the message gets to everyone residing with us.
Self-organising tasks require teams to gather information and organise themselves to deliver.
In relation to CAMP CHALLENGE, team members learnt to self-organise tasks based on the different TLCs (Team Leadership Challenge). They would familiarize themselves with the groundwork and gather sufficient information and feedback from the people on ground that includes both team members and workers staying on site. It creates ownership and this will enable them to understand the problems and organise themselves to create solutions to deliver.
With a 3 hectares big campsite and increasing usage of facilities, the frequency of our tasks increases as well, hence our Health, Safety, Environment (HSE) team has to expand and take up responsibilities to look in the various areas.
Regular reflection and adjustment
At regular intervals, leaders call for meetings with team members to understand the current situation and reflect on systems and processes. Following through, leaders also call for meetings among themselves to brainstorm and discuss necessary adjustments and reflect on how to be more productive. A mature agile team can identify issues with respect for each other and take actions to improve the processes.
CAMP CHALLENGE team is still practising agility daily during this Covid-19 pandemic and our journey does not stop here. An agile team also does not end after this pandemic, and it will continue to be part of our journey to run our business.