20 useful questions on teams & team-building, post Covid-19

This is the third part in a series of three posts, focusing on teams. The first post focuses on users and society, and the second on businesses.

They are derived from a workshop I ran in June to look at what Covid-19 (and the future thereafter) means for products, users, teams and society. 

The resulting How Might We… questions are designed to be a stimulus for others to come up with solutions in their own context.

We’re going to be building a new everything. So we might as well build it right.

Teams

Right now, there’s an increased uncertainty in our team-members’ availability. Childcare, sickness, isolation and more all stand to have an impact and reduce their ability to contribute important work.

So we have to ask:

  1. How might we… work and plan our projects to account for possible absentee-ism?
  2. How might we… ensure flexible working is built into our operational core?
  3. How might we… support team members who are less able to contribute?
  4. How might we… ensure equity between those in the office and those who are forced to remain remote / at home?
  5. How might we… ensure that our remote workers are being trained, upskilled and are excited about their futures?

A lot depends on our culture and our organisations’ support mechanisms. Maybe now is a good time to improve them.

Our team members’ private lives and available resources are affecting their ability to contribute.

Morale is being hit.

  1. How might we… address inequity (i.e. avoidable differences) affecting our team members?
  2. How might we… ask questions to find out what our team members need, whilst being aware of sensitivities and worries about how this information might be used?
  3. How might we… collaborate with other organisations on a response to employee/contractor mental health issues?
  4. How might we… help organisations and team members return to ‘normal’ in a way that feels natural rather than forced?
  5. How might we… prevent Zoom burnout?

Whilst our teams are being affected, our team cohesion getting weaker.

However, team members don’t necessarily want to spend more of their free time checking in with managers and colleagues.

This is a very interesting topic, and Slate wrote a great article on the pressure on employees to participate in ‘mandatory fun’ and supportive activities that ultimately increase stress.

My favourite quote from that article:

I have a line-manager who I haven’t always had a great relationship with, and I’m exhausted by the constant “mental health check-ins” with someone whose intentions I don’t entirely trust and would much prefer to only interact with on work-based topics. Now I’m expected to discuss my mental health challenges with near strangers who aren’t paid professionals?!

Slate.com

So, in light of constant check ins:

  1. How might we… protect people from good intentions?
  2. How might we… provide mental health support, whilst admitting we are not impartial, mental health professionals?
  3. How might we… just help people focus on the work?
  4. How might we… allow people to opt out, without penalty? (Thanks, Slate).
  5. How might we… enable our team members to communicate when and how they want ‘to talk’?

Teambuilding is hard. Right now, new joiners are even more on the outside. Because it can be harder to integrate into an established group.

And if you’re a new joiner to a company, course, or other community, you carry a lot of anxiety about how you might be perceived.

  1. How might we… best onboard people into a team?
  2. How might we… do the ol’ induction process office walkaround, when there’s no office?

There’ a loss of spontaneity and chanced upon discoveries, which always used to contribute to a project

As Pedro in our session pointed out, when we were all based in an office, a project in development would happen to be glimpsed, overheard about or generally stumbled upon.

The conversations and inputs from an ‘outside’ eye then would often contribute to a project.

This was so regular an occurrence you could even say these hallway and kitchen inputs were a part of the collaborative project development process.

So, now everything is remote…

  1. How might we… formalise processes to include steps and occurrences that would have happened organically before?

(This has crossover with our first post on users and society: HMW… better replicate the chance meetings that allow for shared human connections?)

Lastly, above and around our teams, traditional hierarchies make it hard to work in this new normal (e.g. Leadership team / senior managers)

  1. How might we… move towards more flat structures, collaborative ways of working?
  2. How might we… find new ways to work with the Leadership team?

Moving on

That’s it. That’s the last of this series of articles focusing on products, users, society and businesses post Covid-19. Hopefully some of those will have inspired you and given you thoughts about how to adapt and move forward.

Stay safe and happy.

 

15 useful questions for product-based businesses, post Covid-19

This is the second in a series of three posts on products and innovation in the New Normal, focusing on businesses. The first post focuses on users and society, and the third on teams.

They are derived from a workshop I ran in June to look at what Covid-19 (and the future thereafter) means for products, users, teams and society. 

The resulting How Might We… questions are designed to be a stimulus for others to come up with solutions in their own context.

We’re going to be building a new everything. So we might as well build it right.

Business

Obviously there are lots of issues here. And so many resolve around uncertainty.

What should our businesses adapt to? What should we strive to reach for? What is the most pressing problem to be solved and where should businesses place their resources?

In short, we’re not confident about our direction and our next steps. This lack of certainty can be passed on to our users.

So…

  1. How might we… acknowledge the uncertainty around information we are providing to engender trust?
  2. How might we…better understand our industry and how the pandemic could affect it?
  3. How might we…document solutions to problems to better prepare for next time?
  4. How might we… instil a sense of certainty/credibility in our supporter so that they in turn believe in us?

Meanwhile users have a lack of patience around tools that can be used for multiple purposes. This can affect those of us whose core products are tools rich with features and flexibility.

Our users are urgently looking for “one tool for one job”. (See also: Users are going with what they know and trust, even if it’s not necessarily the best tool for the job.)

So…

  1. How might we… communicate our value proposition clearly to users?
  2. How might we… diversify our products?
  3. How might we… design/make a product that’s as easy-to-use and reliable as a fridge or a microwave?

And of course we are losing customers. Sales are being delayed. Users and clients are worried about their income and cancelling their accounts. So…

  1. How might we… offer incentives to new customers, but protect our brand and perceived value?
  2. How might we… maintain (or increase) retention of existing customers?
  3. How might we… help them understand the value they’re receiving?

In response to a potential loss of income, there’s a drive to adapt and find new income streams. However it’s hard to know how much we should experiment and innovate vs. shut down and wait it out.

  1. How might we… understand what’s realistically and financially possible when it comes to innovation right now?
  2. How might we… we diversify to protect income streams?
  3. How might we… encourage risk taking from our senior teams?

And our roadmaps are being thrown out of the window.

  1. How might we… best roadmap and plan in a time of uncertainty?
  2. How might we… do away with roadmapping entirely, and adopt a development process that focuses on rapid iteration, experimentation and alternatives?

Moving on

Hopefully some of those will have inspired you.

The questions continue in the third and final post in this series, on teams and team-building.

 

Have online payments just got one step closer for Myanmar’s digital startups?

Fantastic news this month for Myanmar’s startups and entrepreneurs: The Central Bank of Myanmar has finally removed restrictions on the use of domestically issued Visa cards.

But what does this mean for startups?

Until recently, domestically issued cards couldn’t be used for purchases within the country. This meant that anyone who held a card could only use it to make payments overseas, or through overseas-based online platforms. (On top of this, if you were using one of the pre-paid cards, you often faced the situation of reaching a checkout page only to find that a pre-paid card wouldn’t be accepted, and all your previous form-filling efforts were for naught.)

In a country where internet access has gone from 2 million to an estimated 39 million in just 3 years, over half of Facebook’s Myanmar 15+million users joined in the last 6 months, and mobile phone penetration has equally zipped up from 6% to a (possibly disputed) 90% since 2012, this was a major problem for startups looking at generating online revenue.

Non card-based payment channels for Myanmar digital startups

As a solution, for revenue many online startups relied on cash-in-hand payments, such as handing cash to delivery drivers or payments made in person direct to business representatives (esp. in the case B2B businesses).

Some (including myself) have also experimented with revenue models that rely on transferring phone credit – a complicated scenario when factoring in the three (soon to be four) different, incompatible operators. Others still have relied on printing their own scratch card vouchers which are stocked by local partners and redeemed online or by phone (actually, this can be quite a good solution when you consider the low cost of printing, low financial literacy and the cash based economy).

These recently announced changes herald a new era where online payments are increasingly possible and revenue at last flows directly from individual customers to startups via online payment gateways.

Slow or fast? The adoption of a digital economy in Myanmar

However, it’s not the answer to the startup entrepreneur’s prayers just yet: we must accept that true change will take time.

Like others, I’ve been excited to see the appearance of ATMs around Yangon in the past year, but the card-carrying culture is not yet established. The country still only has an estimated 1,500 ATMS for a population of 54million. That’s 1 ATM for every 36,000 people. Meanwhile neighbouring Vietnam has a much healthier ratio of 1 ATM for every 5,200 people.

On top of this, cash is in Myanmar is something special. Of course physical currency everywhere is something tangible and known, however within Myanmar it is also associated with mighty levels of distrust, trust and authenticity.

The Myanmar Kyat – emerging from a turbulent history

Myanmar’s Kyat has gone through two horrendous currency demonetisations in recent years – the 1987 demonetisation of a range of notes without warning or compensation made 75% of the currency worthless overnight. The Kyat does not feel inherently stable.

Additionally, as Myanmar returns to the world stage, Myanmar people are eager to help restore the previously-hobbled country to the powerful economic status it once enjoyed and deserves.

Could these be push factors that encourage an explosion in card uptake and which fuel a growth in Myanmar’s digital economy, to mirror that of smartphones and internet penetration?

And yet, and yet… go into any Myanmar bank today and you will see people withdrawing bricks upon bricks of notes. And, where they are collecting US dollars, still inspecting each and every note with a close eye, ready to reject them upon detecting the slightest blemish. This is despite these notes being handed to them by the bank itself, and in blatant rejection of recent decrees that it is no longer acceptable to refuse blemished dollars.

With so much energy and scrutiny going into the printed currency, can we imagine that Myanmar’s people will so readily embrace the opaque world of cards and digital transactions?

So, how should startups view the opportunities in Myanmar’s digital economy?

We must lean to the optimistic; online card payments are the future, but will be just one amongst multiple payment mechanisms.

The case for card payments:

Despite the Kyat’s turbulent history, and despite the physical comfort of cash-in-hand, there is an internal, undeniable drive to restore Myanmar to the world stage that is remarkable in its pressure. This will quickly overcome caution and reticence about cards and card payments.

Plus, significant numbers of Myanmar’s digital startup entrepreneurs have experience working or studying overseas, and are looking to opportunities in their country of birth. Returning to Myanmar, integrating online payment gateways into their platforms is a normal practice to them, and these digital entrepreneurs will help drive a wider uptake of cards and online transactions.

So startups that begin building for and strategizing for online payments now will be in pole-position as card uptake soars. Those that don’t will be quickly left behind.

Support card payment with other payment channels

However, to succeed into the immediate future, startups should a) provide Myanmar’s citizens as much support and transparency as possible to encourage online card payments; and importantly b) remember to still invest in other payment channels.

ATM rollout – and therefore card uptake – isn’t going to be instantaneous in a country the size, geography and economy of Myanmar. Meanwhile, competition between the Telcos is going to become increasingly fierce and in an attempt to solidify their market shares it is only a matter of time handling fees are cut and deals are struck that allow transfers of credit between different operators. Such moves will advance mobile payments in a significant way.

In short: The future looks good. Startups should build strategies and channels for accepting card payments in Myanmar now, but also recognise that payments via phone credit is going to increasingly become another viable channel. Both must be explored and accounted for.

What do you think about Visa’s announcement, and about how to handle online payments in Myanmar? Let us know in the comments!