Author: Gary Kaplan, President- North America Construction, AXA XL
COVID-19 has changed the way we work- definitely in
the near-term. Possibly forever. In a matter of days (or in some cases even
within hours) organizations’ teams were dispersed and set about working
remotely. Depending on the organization and the industry, this sudden switch
happened with widely varying degrees of success.
It’s a new reality. And it’s forcing us to come up
with creative ways to adapt.
Gary Kaplan, President- North America Construction, AXA XL
virtual happy hours. Video conferencing has become a regular occurrence.
Initiatives (RRI) online. I’m calling them Virtual RRIs or vRRIs. A few years
ago, I wrote a piece called It’s All About the Pace, which introduced how AXA
XL’s North America Construction team has successfully used RRIs to achieve
extraordinary results in a short period of time.
groups. Now, with teams working remotely for the foreseeable future, we’re
faced with the need to adapt this essential business tool for the world of
virtual/remote teams. So, here we go.
problem-solving, change-driving machines, which were originally developed by
Schaffer Consulting using a defined process called the Rapid Results approach.
Typically, an RRI will run for only 90 days in real life (IRL). Because it’s a
sprint, the RRI (or vRRI) team needs a tightly focused, result- oriented goal
to keep them on track. We’ve been using them for a long time at AXA XL. I
stopped counting at 500 separate RRIs. We do them because they work.
Results approach because they work and you get to see results quickly. When
used correctly, applying Rapid Results provides a set of highly effective low
risk leadership tools for generating tangible results in only 90 days. And the
approach works with any size organization. These short-term projects will help
you stimulate progress toward executing strategic, financial and operational
sponsorship and management buy-in; the latter may be easier to secure in
smaller organizations with fewer bureaucratic layers. But I’ve found that
organizational receptivity to Rapid Results is more attributed to culture than
size. Remote application will add another cultural variable to consider.
culture will likely find it easier to adopt vRRIs. Organizations that are still
trying to find their virtual footing may face greater challenges, ranging from
comfort levels with remote technology to employee effectiveness working in a
remote setting. If that’s the case for your organization, it’s OK. You’ll get
them. People are very adaptable; just give them some time.
organizational goal. For example, you could launch a vRRI to focus on:
Develop a strategy
for entering a new market
Grow sales within
an existing market
of new more profitable business
Create new or
revised products with improved margin
of an existing process
effective sponsorship skills
through team leader, facilitator and team member roles
among team members
making, project management and communications skills
management buy-in to ensure success. Without it, any vRRI effort could be
doomed to fail, especially one that spans the organization involving team members
from different businesses and functional areas. I’ve found through my previous
experience with in-person RRIs, they are easier to run when you control all of
the resources needed for a team, but that rarely is the case. This is the same
for the vRRI. Make sure you get that buy-in first!
individuals in charge of the needed resources understand and support what your
vRRI is about. It’s vital they know both the strengths and limitations of a
vRRI. You can use information in this article to help develop your own pitch to
management, so they know what’s expected of them, the organization and the vRRI
team. When making your pitch, be prepared to talk about your sponsorship
statement in detail (more on that later), the team you have in mind for the
vRRI and what you expect the organization to be able to gain from the vRRI’s
doomed to fail, especially one that spans the organization, involving team members
from different businesses and functional areas.
will be given the necessary time needed to participate in it fully. Getting
cooperation from supervisors is, of course, a lot easier to get when you have
upper management buy-in.
the vRRI will succeed. Whether your organization uses Teams, GoToMeeting,
Google Hangouts, Zoom – you need a platform for virtual engagement and
collaboration. Ideally, you will also have the means to share access to needed
assets like documents and spreadsheets. This could be SharePoint, a proprietary
intranet, or a cloud service like Dropbox.
time frame. An IRL RRI is typically 90 days, no more. Virtual RRIs can be
shorter, if your team agrees. But they shouldn’t be any shorter than 60 days
because you risk running short of the time you need to achieve the goal. In any
event, the sponsorship statement (see below) must consider any changes in the
First, it makes participation manageable for all team members, and their
supervisors/departments. Second, it helps position the team to deliver a
quantifiable result. People, regardless of function or level, tend to have a
hidden reserve of capacity that they can draw upon, when needed. This is
especially true when stress is present, i.e. a short 90-day deadline.
natural human tendency is to procrastinate or lose focus. Because of vRRIs
condensed format, there is zero room for either. Another critical aspect of the
Rapid Results process is the presence of what are called “Zest Factors.”
What in the world is a Zest Factor?
have a short time frame to bring forth the expected result. As a result, the
team members feel:
A sense of urgency
taking part in a game
Driven, stakes are
Success is near and
Work as a cohesive
Look for innovative
ways to collaborate
Experiment with new
Ignore red tape
quickly determine what works (and what doesn’t)
functional and hierarchical boundaries
drives change at a rapid pace.
need to do:
work. But make sure the team knows your role is to support their efforts and
help clear paths, get access to resources and answer questions – the vRRI team
needs to know the Sponsor has their collective backs. It’s mission critical
that the Sponsor follows through on whatever he or she commits to do. If it
simply can’t be done, the Sponsor must provide the team with an explanation
why. And quickly. The better the Sponsor supports the vRRI team, the greater
the odds of success and the easier it will be to recruit vRRI teams in the
future. The success of a vRRI is contagious and, as a result, others will want
to participate on a future team.