13 August 2020
R&D Procurement Team: Lockdown Learnings
1. What was a typical day for your team before and after the lockdown started?
Procurement collaborates with the colleagues in R&D. We have constant interactions with the teams and speak with more than 100 different stakeholders across the year. Proximity enables rapid and informal interactions. The days vary according to the circumstances but in general our time is equally shared between daily interactions with stakeholders, suppliers and work at the desk. COVID-19 changed our habits. Working from home meant having back to back phone calls that also replaced the informal conversations previously had over coffee or lunch.
2. How did the lockdown impact your team’s work and what does your “new normal” look like?
We were lucky to have already built solid relationships with our counterparts. The mutual understanding and collaboration was well set and we did not see a reduction in the quality of interactions. It was probably more difficult for newcomers who started in a virtual environment and struggled building close bonds.
In the new normal, there is a balance to be found between work from home, that has intensified, and work at the office, as we are reestablishing closer interactions like sharing coffee and lunch. We are not machines. Human interactions facilitate collaboration and, as we say, ‘’from discussion springs light’’.
3. What changes did you make in response to the lockdown?
The flexibility to work from home was successfully used by the team already before the lockdown. The team is experienced and works autonomously. Luckily and by coincidence the four of us were used to remote working because of our previous work experiences. There was no need for adaptation. We do pay attention to regularly updating each other. Staff meetings as well as one to one calls are needed to make sure that the connections remain fluid.
The lockdown illustrated important dynamics for efficient teams, such as having excellent and mature professionals you can trust, empowering and creating space to deliver as individuals have more autonomy and focusing more on the outcome than the intermediate steps. As people have performed well it is likely that this approach will be generalized.
During tough times, solutions emerge to the benefit of the community. As an example, the electronic signature process helps the community to save time and accelerate the signatures collection. We need to be looking for user-friendly solutions and avoid killing any initiatives because there is a risk of failure. Last, procurement as a function has intensified the use of digital solutions. As an example, we recently organized a worldwide conference on a digital platform.
4. What interesting scientific pieces did you read during lockdown?
First of all, we would like to thank the team in PMI who worked on podcasts about COVID-19. The podcasts were very instructive, addressed rumors and focused on facts.
As for reading, it is a combination of private and professional reading, especially about the changes COVID-19 has brought into the relationships between suppliers and customers. We are also thankful to leading suppliers who communicated about COVID-19 and their ways of working and adapting.
5. How do you predict that business travel will change in the future and what would be your first business trip after the lockdown?
We are social animals and staying in isolation is not part of our habits. We are sure that business travel will restart. It is likely that there will be less travel and only when there is a high need for it. Travelling less saves time, the energy of people and, of course, benefits the environment. Ultimately a reduction in travel will bring many benefits. We also need to remain pragmatic and keep travel as an option to accelerate problem solution, improve project deliveries and other elements.
For our first trip, we would go to Krakow, where the shared services center is located, in order to personally thank the team and invite them for a nice dinner. They have worked relentlessly and with very high professionalism. They deserve a big thank you!
6. Did you have family at home that you were caring for during lockdown?
With close family members around us, yes, life changed for the better in terms of some aspects. For other aspects, an adjustment was needed. As an example, kids needed more attention than you could give due to the need for balancing between work and family.
We were also thinking of those people who were far away from their families and concerned about not being able to be close to those in need. It was a tough time for them. We were definitely looking forward for more freedom of movement.
7. Is there anything else you want to say to others in your situation?
It is amazing to see the resilience of people and the ability to adapt to new situations and cope with it. This phase has also shown our dependency on new technologies. The working from home option would not have been feasible without advanced technologies, excellent information systems and infrastructure. Also, it gave us the opportunity to revisit our mindsets. The time where managers were sitting next to their teams all day is definitely gone. One of the challenges that we see coming is the need to remain connected and make sure that people who need to be at the office regain this possibility.