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5 in 5 with Sarah Coughlin – Championing operational excellence

In our ‘AHA’ Moments – 5 in 5 leadership conversation series, we spend 5 minutes with inspiring leaders who are making a difference through their leadership, asking five critical questions of the now.

To kick-off, we are in conversation with Sarah Coughlin, Head of Enlighten Institute of Management, to explore what she’s observed working with our clients through the crisis and how Enlighten will support in building operational resilience through the elastic workforce.

What was a key ‘AHA’ moment for you during the last few months?

Two key AHA moments stand out for me. The first is recognising how important data is in time of crisis. The clients that ‘leaned into’ Enlighten as their Single Source of Truth rode the challenges they faced with greater ease than others. We saw businesses manage the additional volumes and uncertainty of work location more smoothly than those that strayed from the rigour of the information available to them. The second and more important realisation is the focus businesses placed on the human element of the challenges they were facing. The companies that put their people first, setting up the communication and structure to support and inform their people, shined through over the past few months.

What does operational resilience involve?

Businesses are now more acutely aware of the requirement to maintain services to customers through major disruptions, of which COVID was on an unprecedented scale. Operational resilience is about having the processes, systems and people set up to be flexible and mobile, no matter what adversity is thrown our way. Ensuring businesses have the right tools and management disciplines to maintain productivity and deliver exceptional outcomes regardless of challenges is the ‘silver lining’ of recent times. Businesses’ operational resilience plans have been tried and tested, those that weren’t ready are ensuring they have a rigorous framework moving forward.

What does the elastic workforce mean for you?

These recent times have provided the business with a springboard to look at new ways of working moving forward. The elastic workforce will offer greater flexibility to employers and employees, allowing a healthier balance between home and the office, while still delivering exceptional service to customers. Technology will play a big part in the success of the elastic workforce, ensuring consistent access and visibility of work performance to build confidence in an employee’s ability to perform well at home. From the conversations, I have had with clients, Enlighten plays a significant role in shaping the elastic workforce due to these factors.

How will Enlighten embrace the elastic workforce?

Enlighten moved to a work from home environment swiftly and with ease when the pandemic took hold. The majority of our workforce was already mobile and flexible, working onsite with our clients through our standard working arrangements. The main difference has been liaising with clients remotely rather than physically onsite and creating more structure for our internal and external interactions. The remote environment has proved hugely successful – I foresee many more opportunities to implement our Operational Excellence methodology and change programs remotely. Moving forward, there will be more opportunities for our workforce to be ‘elastic’, flexible and available, regardless of our physical location.

What is the new normal at Enlighten?

We are still working through what is the ‘new normal’. We have found working with our clients remotely to be enormously successful, especially where we have an existing working relationship with them. We are fortunate to have such fabulous technology at our fingertips to provide ongoing support with ease. Of course, we are looking forward to being able to be face to face with our clients in the future. However, I think that relying on technology for communications and implementations will form a part of our new standard moving forward. Perhaps we will all get to spend more time with family rather than hotel rooms in the future!

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