Q&A 035

Published on:
June 2, 2021

Hi All,

Change is a theme we have touched upon many times before, but the unpredictability of it feels especially apparent to us these days. We're navigating uncharted territory like we haven't seen in a long, long time. This week, we came up with two articles on the surprises and uncertainties of change, and two articles on tools to navigate the choices facing us. We hope they will nourish you with some fresh perspective. Have a great rest of your week, enjoy!

🩳😎 Shortage

A seemingly odd thing is happening in the labour markets worldwide. The Economist reports that in countries like the US, Germany, and Switzerland labour shortages seem to be higher than before the Covid-19 crisis. At the same time, unemployment is still much higher than before the crisis. To illustrate, the article presents the graph below showing the number of job openings in the US, reaching all-time highs. In Australia vacancies are apparently 40% above the pre-crisis levels.

A high number of job openings does not necessarily mean a shortage of labour. It does however seem to point towards a mismatch between demand and supply. This could have inflationary effects. The biggest mismatch seems to be in hospitality and tourism industry. This is explained by the closed borders as a measure to keep the pandemic under control, which has also interrupted the flow of immigrants who generally do not shy away from taking on low-wage jobs.

The author suggests that governments design their policies around three P’s: payments, passports and patience. The first two essentially boil down to financially support those who work and to (re-)open borders. The last one speaks for itself. The author asserts:

"Faced with change on such a scale, people may take longer to find new careers."

'People' are right; let's take our time, be content with what we have and not panic too soon about certain graphs or numbers being out of whack.

⏳ Time management

A popular tool to deal with stress and an overflow of daily tasks, is Stephen Covey's time management matrix. An example is depicted below. It basically suggests to divide your tasks along two dimensions: level of urgency versus how important a task is.

Covey's Time Management Matrix - Time Management

I personally think it is useful to add a third dimension: does this action provide or take-away energy? Suppose you focus most of your time diligently to the not-urgent, important actions (right-top corner) as Covey suggests. However, these tasks deplete you of all your energy. In those cases, you still won't get to the important, urgent actions and stress will keep building up. Certain trivial activities (right-bottom corner) may in actual fact energize you in such a way that you can easily manage your way through the stressful, urgent matters afterwards.

Some of these energizing activities could be found outside of work and in your private life. Our daily action lists, whether we like it or not, contain both work-related and private life-related actions; just try to make a dentist appointment outside office hours! Practicing the use of this third dimension could therefore be easily integrated.

Let me know whether this extension of Covey's matrix to a 'Q&A cube' improves your productivity.

πŸ’»πŸš™ Hybrid

As vaccinations progress, it feels like any time soon we'll be moving forward to another new normal. On the work front, hybrid solutions are the talk of the day. While most of us have missed real human contact, a lot of benefits from remote working have become clear, so this means this is the perfect time to think about the mix we intend to experiment with initially.

The Harvard Business Review took inventory and concludes that less travel, hiring from broader talent pools, less real-estate and more employee flexibility are too beneficial to ignore. The big question is how to get to a mix that provides the best of both worlds.

My main concern with navigating this hybrid-work-world is the intentionality that will be required from those participating. Like knowing when to update your peers asynchronously versus calling a meeting. Or spending time at the office with a true focus on networking, meaning you might even leave your laptop at home. In a world where advice like 'decide your primary focus of the day before your start working' and 'don't open up your e-mail before lunch' is still not a habit for all, the added complexity of navigating the challenges from remote will be quite demanding for some.

This intentionality and self-propelling behaviour is something I see a younger generation handle much more proficiently than older generations, like many changes we've seen before. The real hybrid might therefore be in finding a model that is in service to our entire workforce. I'm looking forward to a new phase of experimentation.

πŸš£β€β™‚οΈ Direction

"That is not how it works"...

...tells a story about the status quo, the game as we play it right now. The world as it is.

But the truth is that the world around us has been changing for some time. And most likely will continue to change. As we have been blessed with a prefrontal cortex to contemplate our actions, this also leaves us with choices, wether we like them or not. As Coldplay wonderfully worded in 'Everyday Life':

"What in the world are we going to do?

Look at what everybody's going through

What kind of world do you want it to be?

Am I the future or the history?"

I try to let this idea inform my choices more and more. When I'm facing a dilemma, and the thought 'this will not work' crosses my mind, I try to respond with 'would you want it to work?'

Rowing in a different direction just by yourself might not immediately change the course of the whole vessel, but it sure is a start.


That's it for this week! If you got forwarded this newsletter and like what you read, get your own. Or get an impression of everything else we shared in our renewed, searchable archive.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and tips. Just reply to this e-mail to get in touch with us.

Quinten & Alphons