Monthnotes – April 2020

Monthnotes – April 2020

It was hard to know where to start this time around when writing my monthnotes, looking back over a month when we could only leave the house for essential shopping and daily exercise.

Thankfully family, friends and colleagues have stayed healthy so our main focus has been on continuing to learn and adjust in our new home-based lives.

One reflection I had as I rode my mountain bike through the April mud earlier this evening was about the nature of distributed work.

At Deeson, we set the agency up to enable team members to work remotely some years ago and so the transition to full-time home working in early March was pretty seamless. The tools were in place and team members were pretty used to location-independent working rhythms and cadence.

But one thing we have learnt this month is that the intensity of our work at the pace we deliver, while being fully home-based, is mentally demanding – much more so than when spending two or three days per week working from home, mixed up with some office time or days spent with clients.

For some people that, alongside the challenges of home life, has meant we’ve needed to support team members more than in normal times. We’ve worked hard to be a supportive employer and change some of our working practices to help as far as we can.

As we’ve watched the world around us adopt home-based work at an unprecedented pace, it’s reinforced what we’ve learnt over the past few years – that home working isn’t about recreating office-based interactions over video calls.

It’s about finding fundamentally different ways to interact, communicate and collaborate to get work done. I liked this article which covers some useful themes on the different levels of distributed work.

Personally it’s been a month of transitions at work. I’ve enjoyed seeing our new MD at Deeson – Sarah Harris – take on the role and make it her own. I continue to work closely with Sarah to help her thrive in the role, particularly given it’s not the easiest time to take on leadership of a business.

I’ve spent time getting to know the team and the work at our conversational AI consultancy GreenShoot Labs. We’re looking forward to launching new packages and services for specific market verticals over the next few months, building on the great client work that the team has already delivered for clients including BDO, Avaya, iPhysio and Brunel University.

Over the past couple of weeks I have also been getting into new projects working with colleagues across Deeson and GreenShoot Labs’ parent company The Panoply.

It’s a fascinating opportunity to help shape the direction of the group, with an initial focus on delivering a rebrand of the group and its businesses, helping define a cross-group marketing operating model, creating a shared back office finance team and launching two new businesses within the group.

My blog post reflecting on my leadership lessons has proved to be a popular article on my site and on LinkedIn. It covers the high level themes of Deeson’s transformation to an agile, self-organising agency, including servant leadership, autonomy and psychological safety in teams.

I’ve had some great feedback and it’s sparked some fascinating conversations about what leadership of self-organising autonomous teams really involves.

As we head into May and there’s an increasing focus on how countries move forward from the lockdown, I’m starting to think about what work looks like in the future and how the coronavirus lockdown experience might have changed the trajectory of workplace transformation.

The enforced trialling of homeworking will undoubtedly have accelerated the adoption of more distributed work, challenging the norms of office-based work in a way that couldn’t have been envisaged a few months ago.

I suspect this will open up new opportunities for the use of collaborative workspaces, potentially shared on a timeshare-type basis – as well as substantially undermining business models of existing shared workplace operators and commercial landlords.

Teams and organisations will adjust the way they work to be more effective in fully distributed or mixed-location working. It’ll be fascinating to see how the nature of work evolves given the combined challenges of phased exits from lockdown in parallel with the inevitable recessions that most economies are likely to experience.


I work as a fractional Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for company building and I also write a newsletter called Build for leaders who care about creating resilient and sustainable businesses.