for more than 20 years.
ACTION NETWORK, the forerunner of Smart Working Over the last two years, all companies and players in the Business & Technology Consulting industry have hurried to jump on the bandwagon of SMART WORKING, sometimes chaotically and frantically.
Therefore, it is worth remembering that Action Network is a true pioneer in designing and implementing an organisational model with a strong focus on ‘remote working’, which was first adopted way back in 2002.
At the time, it was about systematic collaboration between eight companies – for a total of 44 people –spread over the wide area of northern Italy: minimising sharing and communication costs and times was vital, especially for a very critical problem, namely travelling to the end client’s site and between the various offices – obviously, then as now, work teams were often made up of members from different companies.
Technological tools were really in their infancy. As a matter of fact, only e-mails, the first showcase websites, and the so-called ‘personal productivity’ systems were available. Virtual conferences and video calls were still a figment, and mobile phones only featured text messages. Consequently, the operation’s success was almost entirely dependent on organisational variables.
First of all, people empowerment: people needed to be trained to behave and act like ‘professionals’ in the highest sense of the word, gaining complete control of their operating efficiency and effectiveness.
Secondly, a planning and control system was needed to measure the individual and collective output quantity and quality of the process, which is by far the main determinant in the reward system.
Thirdly, well-structured operational procedures had to be established and strictly observed.
With such an organisational model, it was easy to introduce increasingly available technological innovations in a prompt and smooth manner. As Business Consultants, we have often recommended that our clients adopt similar models where necessary, but to little to no avail. Our client base, chiefly comprised of SMEs, has always shown a ‘conservative’ attitude toward staff management, overestimating the value of the so-called ‘direct control’, which only satisfies the psychological needs of the company leadership.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly and drastically highlighted the importance – and sometimes the inevitability – of remote working for many information workers in many business contexts. When such radical changes occur, ‘conservative’ organisations always face conflicts and crises because they cling to the fleeting reassurance of their past successes. At the same time, operational and strategic opportunities arise for those who can embrace change in every aspect of their business vision.
We have been experiencing this first-hand for 20 years. We are now ready to offer the know-how we have developed to those who are willing to adapt without hesitation to the new economic scenario. Few things will go back to the way they were.