Guillaume Buat-Menard is a director at Flipside, a London based digital product agency part of Weber Shandwick.
Flipside develops high end digital products, technical innovation and digital transformation for clients as diverse as Coca Cola, Novartis, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, Scope and Public Health England.
Flipside acquired Aqueduct in January 2020, where Guillaume developed a practical digital transformation offering for organisations in need of support during their own transformation. He currently leads the digital transformation practice at Flipside.
Guillaume is an agile and beyond budgeting enthusiast and believes in learning by doing, which, underpins Flipside’s approach to digital transformation.
1. In what shape has your business emerged from Covid-19?
Really well actually. In terms of logistics and IT we already had a remote working culture, so it was not difficult to adapt to the lockdown. We had to adapt somewhat, rationalise and reduce regular meetings, and ensure everybody has a decent home working set-up.
In terms of business we are lucky enough that we have a broad client base across many verticals, so whilst some clients have slowed or paused projects, some have continued as usual and some have increased spend due to COVID.
This means that financially we are in a good position compared to our competitors.
2. What are the most important and emerging skills to work in the new normal?
I would say that the most important thing is to have a positive attitude to change and take initiative at all levels. These skills are basically akin to agile ways of working, dealing with constant change as a normality and having the right processes to thrive financially in that environment. In order to achieve this, the most successful companies have switched from a hierarchical management culture to an empowered autonomous one with leadership at all levels. Concretely, this means getting managers to lead and support their colleagues rather than micromanage them, and involve the managers more in doing some of the client work – this also means organisation can react better to workload spikes.
3. What changes have you made in operations and hiring that are here to stay, and what will you lose?
The main change was to have more openness and clarity on how the business is run on a daily basis, and give everyone access to some financial numbers. This was so that they all knew how we are doing and why we are making certain decisions.
In terms of hiring, the process is not that different as video calls and interviews are ubiquitous, but I must admit it is not easy for new starters to get inducted and get to know people quickly. In order to help them and the other members of staff to get a sense of community, we organise ‘virtual desks’ chatrooms (which mimic office desks with colleagues) and regular virtual company meets so social interactions can still happen, albeit online.
4. What has been your biggest key learning and how will this prepare you for the future?
Our perceived constraints are only what we make of them, for example: we can’t all work from home, we can’t trust people to do the right thing, we can’t adopt a new technology rapidly, we can’t change that fast and so on.
As Henry Ford used to say “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”
Akin to agile principles, the key learning for me is that organisations must transform to adapt to change and not just to weather the current situation. Companies must embrace business agility and set-up for continuous change so they can constantly adapt to a rapidly changing world.
People and organisations can change and adapt pretty quickly, as long as they know why, and they have visibility and rationale for the decision making. This requires strong leadership and a shift from ‘command and control’ to ‘autonomy and purpose’, it means changing processes, governance, incentivisation and shifting the focus of many roles and supporting them transition without fear.
5. What has been the biggest surprise to you?
The speed at which most organisations have taken to remote working and moved their business online when it seemed almost impossible, or a very lengthy process, for most of them before COVID. It really shows that nothing prepares people as much as contact with the enemy, and when radical change happens, most of us can adapt very rapidly.