Very smart people can make very dumb mistakes.

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Six traits we’ve identified in companies making the right decision during this time.

In this editorial we want to explore the certain traits that are exposing organisations ability to cope with COVID-19 or not.   Ask yourself – Which side of history do you want yourself, your team, your company to be on?

Before we start – if you want to increase the chances of your business surviving – consider turning your company towards Agile methodologies right now.

It doesn’t have to be ADAPTOVATE to show you how. (although that would be welcome – see end of article for more information)  – Find any credible Agile company, with strong experience in both large scale, and small start up operations.

Find a consulting company that has the right credentials and certifications.     (warning: there are a lot of cowboys out there).

ADAPTOVATE don’t just believe, but know and have seen firsthand – that companies and teams that are already Agile friendly, are the ones pivoting quickly and surviving strongly.  It’s not too late.

Start now.

There are very good reasons, why banks, health and government agencies are all now turning towards agile methodologies.   In fact in our recent podcast THE BACKLOG we have a conversation with Ling Kung, the director of innovation at Kaiser Permanente in the US.

In our podcast, Ling discusses that because they are already set up with agile ways of working – they’ve able to make things happen within days – instead of the months it usually took.  They were able to move quickly for COVID response.


This is a time for quick actions that require quick decisions.

This is a time to scramble a team of empowered experts and apply new ways of working to make rapid tactical decisions.

There’s no better time for Agile.  This is when Agile ways of working can save businesses and careers. This is when Agile organizations will show their resilience as they will refocus and rebound much earlier than traditional organizations.

One of our senior consultants in Europe is Slawek Koziol.  He says “Agile teams are faster to respond to changing market conditions, better prepared to adopt remote working and are much more effective in this set-up.

Their team operating rhythm and tools also allow for effective collaboration between teams. It will ensure they are fast to react when work is frequently re-prioritized, they reduce duplication of work and effectively manage dependencies.” He says.



What Agile organizations also do is communicate early and often to provide transparency. High visibility of decisions and actions keeps teams aligned and individuals calm and engaged.

Mina Gurgis – a senior consultant in Australia says “if organisations don’t have more regular and transparent communications than usual, then they’re increasing the risk of people becoming disengaged and lose productivity.

I’ve seen my organisation pretty clear on communication around how our business is affected. Frequent and transparent two-way communications from the leadership team in virtual townhalls with all employees (some on a weekly basis) increase confidence and trust of employees.”

We discuss our performance and progress on our Business Continuity Plans which increases buy-in from employees to support the activities set by the leadership to help us all navigate through this difficult time.” Mina explains

The Management Team at ADAPTOVATE have set up a Mission Control Room to deal with COVID-19.



Image 1 - ADAPTOVATE has a Mission Control Room using the Miro tool
Image 1 – ADAPTOVATE has a Mission Control Room using the Miro tool


“Weekly Mission Control meetings with the entire company keep us updated on what is happening to support our short, mid and long term goals” says Rachna Verma from our Australian team.  She continues, “As a company we all have access to the Mission Control Room and can pop in anytime to walkthrough and post suggestions on the Ideas Wall.”

Our Mission Control room is available to every employee across the world for clear and transparent communication.

Rachna says “The honest, open and frank discussions we are all having along with the transparency in the Mission Control Room is great to see and we all know how we can contribute to supporting our goals.”

What’s the opposite of clear and transparent communication? –  sparse and selective communication.  Managers put communication on hold until they have more certainty on the way forward.  It’s tempting for some managers to fall into this category – as they don’t want to over-promise or let people down.  However, now’s the time to over-communicate.

Two-way Communication

Opening a communication channel even to communicate that the management doesn’t have all the answers, but they are working hard on getting them, goes a long way.

It’s important to establish channels and tools for effective two-way communication which will help everyone achieve shared understanding of progress and create a platform for knowledge exchange that can be critical for survival.

At ADAPTOVATE we have a Slack channel for set up for our executive team to answer any questions.  The #ama (ask me anything) Slack channel has been successful in providing rapid response to questions from our employees.


Image 2 – At ADAPTOVATE we use a SLACK #ama channel

So, don’t keep your level of communications as it is, it must increase. Don’t keep your level of sharing the plans as it is, it’s got to be more transparent.


Employer’s responses to COVID19 for many of Brooke Pannell’s friends have been very different.  Brooke is on our team in Los Angeles.

She says “Some managers are piling work on their employees to “make sure they’re busy” during this time, and others have reported that since their company already had good work from home practices built in place, that not much has changed, and business has remained constant. That’s pretty telling which companies are ahead of the curve and which aren’t.”

Brooke says, “A company that overloads their workers out of distrust for the new working environment doesn’t allow employees to adjust to the new working environment either, and certainly doesn’t allow them to process and adjust to the pandemic.”


Brooke has seen companies not practice what they preach.  She explains “If you’re going to show solidarity and support for those “on the front lines” of COVID in social media, companies should consider that COVID is affecting everyone in many different ways, not just first responders, and begin treating their own employees like human beings, not just employees.”

This is a nuanced point, however the humans that make up companies are reading all the same things that we are all reading.  Be it on their own social media channels like Facebook or Instagram, or in HBR or in the New York Times.   We must ensure that all our teams of people are feeling support from their companies.


It seems obvious.  To have a successful working from home team that is as operational as before, – you need to be set up.    It’s clear that for many this hasn’t been the case.

Management and IT must give them all the tools, tech, support, trust and guidance to fulfill the company’s mission from home.     It may feel this is all too late, as we are now thinking about recovery.     It’s not.   We are a long way from back to normal, and it’s not too late to start.

There will be employees who will now be working from home more regularly, having found a more productive flexible work life.    Managers who are more open to it.  Set them up for success.

One of our team reports that his client “is well aware of the importance of good ergonomics and are reimbursing all staff who invest in chairs/ desks.”   Obviously not all companies are in the financial state to be able to do this – however it’s a great example of organisations doing the best they can with what they have.

Mental Health Support

Aligned with that is ensuring that support includes mental health support.

Companies that are showing survival instinct, have a strategy for keeping everyone connected. Everyone is reeling from a complete and total lifestyle change, family members are passing, and this is a traumatic time for many.

Brooke says “Keeping the camaraderie between employees is crucial for engagement and also the mental health of everyone. Some good ideas I’ve seen so far are virtual happy hours, virtual hangout and office hours, online team building exercises, etc.”


Companies that have shown they understand what it takes to ensure high performing WFH teams are including excellent benefits which help employees deal with the crisis.

Whether it’s hazard pay, extra funds for healthcare, paying for health insurance, and/or mental health services, the companies that will experience the least turnover and most business continuity from the shift are those that take good care of their employees.


“What we’ve seen in some organizations is that even expert managers give in to panic and take individual decisions that confuse and distract employees. They rely on their expertise, which hasn’t necessarily been accumulated in trying times like these.” Says Slawek.

Expertise is a double-edged sword that can cause damage if not wielded properly.

Experts fall victim to heightened sense of accountability which causes false memories and gives way to false inferences and comparisons.

Very smart people can make very dumb mistakes.

If we understand that intelligence (in so-called smart managers) doesn’t necessarily mean they have the ability to critically think.

In fact, Heather Butler from Scientific American writes “Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence. Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate.

Critical thinkers are amiable sceptics. They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all kinds of cognitive biases (for instance, hindsight bias or confirmation bias).”

This is where the power of a nimble cross-functional team comes in to help. Teammates are there to verify the facts, challenge the thinking and show different perspectives.  It challenges the ‘bias’ as Heather explains – Only then can good decisions be made.

So, it’s not too late to pivot your thinking.   Look at those traits.   Take steps to ensure you are positively showing each one.


If you’ve read this far, – just a small plug.   ADAPATOVATE are not only open for business, we are continuing to operate as fully functioning Agile training company.   We have customised training in Agile for companies ready now. We can set up remotely, we have a exclusive Learning Management System we can deploy immediately for organisations.  We can conduct bespoke webinars within 48 hours if you need.  Please reach out to one of the team.

Editor:  Thanks to the team at ADAPTOVATE for contributing to this story.

Read more stories helping with remote working here:


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What would you do differently weeks ago, if you knew then what you know now?

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Hindsight – We all have it now.


We’ve seen the memes – that March felt like a year.   It’s unbelievable how much has happened in the last few weeks.     And what is more incredible is the ability for an entire planet worth of humans, to change behaviour. The above chart is sobering.

While it’s far from over, and we aren’t sure when that will be, already we’ve seen incredible shifts in our behaviour and social norms.  So much, including working from home, to having no sports or teams to watch and follow, no arts or live music to attend.  Some of us have no jobs, or businesses.

REFLECTION (just for a moment, before we forget )

We wanted to pause for a moment at ADAPTOVATE and reflect on the past few weeks.  Very soon, it will all become our ‘usual’.  We may forget the early lessons.   So we asked our team, what would they do differently 4 weeks ago, if they knew then, what they know now.  Before we forget.    We took the time to reflect, and we hope when we do return to normal, we can review our hindsight and perhaps just change our behaviour a little to a new , better normal.

Some of the answers are light-hearted, and that’s not only ok – it’s welcomed.   We actually do miss the fun stuff.   And some of the answers are more serious – which is also ok.   Our new life is unprecedented and it can be useful for us to reflect on this and learn.

Before getting to the team’s thoughts, there were four key themes that came out.


  1. Set up my online tools, and upskill expertise in those tools straight away.
  2. Set up routine from the start. Exercise and breaks.
  3. Done that thing – I was going to do and didn’t (lesson:  when things get back to our new normal, perhaps acting on those things rather than procrastinating)
  4. From a business perspective – focus on how you can differentiate from the noise in market sooner
  5. (bonus key theme:  buy more toilet paper) 😉


Do any of them sound familiar?    Do they resonate with you?   As an excercise it may be worth having your team, pause for a moment and reflect on what they would have done differently.

person holding clear ball
Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash


Now, Read on to find out how some of our global ADAPTOVATE team responded to question :
What would you differently had you know then, what you know now. 

Ted Tomoyasu  – North America office

Gone to the Lakers vs. Clippers game!

Steve Walton – Australian office

I would focus more on how to think about immediate priorities more from a differentiation perspective, than just a crisis reaction perspective. Now is a time of great change, and also an opportunity, not to only ask, how can we help – but to ask, how can we help differently, beyond the first step.

ADAPTOVATE has great experience from our DNA from being born as a remote first organisation where many of us worked in locations, across the globe with never meeting another team member in person for months at a time. This experience gives us practical insights into how to make it work unique to us.

Our first step was to help organisations get ready to work remote working – most are doing OK, smart people run companies, our difference is about sustaining this. I am looking forward to working with people on how to help them sustain it too.

Mina Gurgis – Australian office

Set a routine – it’s easy to get carried away when working from home and sacrifice having breaks, exercise and family time, so it’s best to set a routine of when to start and stop like we do in the physical office space. Work never ends and there is a higher risk of burning out when working from home for long periods.

Rachna Verma – Australian office

Digitise physical boards and use them in ceremonies for a few weeks to iron out any issues before working 100% remotely

Brooke Pannell – North American office

Three weeks ago I would have taken a long hike and stayed at the beach for longer than I did! It’s been tough cooped up inside, however we have been doing our part to flatten the curve, which is more important than getting out of the house.

Shannon Gilliam – North American office

I would have set up a new routine that focused on a more productive work/exercise/life blend. And I also would have invested in a better work from home setup. Having the tools that make working easier and more enjoyable – dual monitors, separate keyboard, post-its, etc. Knowing that I now have these things will make any future needs to adapt easier.

Benny Ko – Australian office

Introduce online tools to the team and train the team to use these tools effectively

Caitilin Studdert – Australian office

Swum with the Bold and the Beautiful swim group at Manly

Chelsea Bates – Australian office

Other than purchase some paper towel before it ran out, I would have allowed set breaks in my calendar after week 1 of remote working. Working remotely means a lot more video calls (which are great to stay in touch and aligned) and sitting down at 8.30 and not moving for hours.

Setting a 5min break regularly to walk outside, get some fresh air and stretch helps me stay sane and focussed.

Sean Woon – Australian office

In hindsight probably not much as we are used to living with uncertainties in my personal life. We have learnt previously to “focus on the now” and simply do what is in our control at the time.

So based on that, whatever we were doing 3 weeks ago, it would have been the right thing for that time. As a consequent we reacted to getting more toilet paper early, and currently have just enough to last for a little while 🙂

Andy Koh – Singapore office.

Upskill on existing collaboration and Agile tools available I would improve my expertise on existing collaboration and Agile tools available. When remote working became reality, some of the people I work with quickly realized the usefulness of online tools like JIRA, MIRO and TRELLO.

Very quickly people started asking how such tools can be used in replacement for face-to-face interaction since they are the next best thing available. Practical and experience-driven hands-on demonstrations became valuable immediately.

Plan a regular exercise regime I have found that exercising regularly keeps my spirits up. At the same time, staying at home for long periods of time dampens my spirit. To find balance during this difficult time, I would have planned for a regular exercise regime three weeks ago and kept to it to ensure a healthy mindset.

Looking back, I spent the past three weeks experimenting with different time windows and types of exercises before finding the right mix.

What would you have done differently?


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In 2020 we are excited to have recently seen our sister business TRIBE launch.    Sean Woon is the Managing Director of TRIBE and we sat down with him this week to learn more.


Hi Sean and thanks for your time.    We are excited to talk with you, at a time that is so difficult for all of us.  We are globally feeling the pain right now! How are you and your family right now?

Thanks for the question! We, like many, are trying to get our heads around what is going on. I have never been so obsessed with news feeds on my phone. In a way there hasn’t been a change because I am accustomed to always being “mobile” which includes working from home. I have three kids (13, 10, 6) and my wife who is unfortunately currently undergoing cancer treatment. So to ensure that they are well and healthy, this has certainly gone up another notch or two.

Sean and his family

We are a close family and despite the closure of schools and self-isolation at home, we are taking the time to slow-down a little and to really enjoy the simple things like having dinner together. Giving each other lots of hugs and re-assurance always helps. If social distancing continues to allow it of course!


We scheduled this interview before the COVID-19 Pandemic really hit, and we aren’t shying away from the fact it was to promote and launch TRIBE.  But it’s now become more timely than ever to talk about ‘community’.    You’ve been appointed Managing Director of TRIBE –  it’s aim is to pull together a robust strong community of contractors.   Can you tell us a bit about TRIBE firstly?

As mentioned in the previous question, TRIBE is a sister company to ADAPTOVATE. We exist to provide our clients with contract resources and support to help sustain their transformation successes with a global community via our LINKEDIN Group (TRIBE) of highly sought-after contractor/talent.

We also have an invitation only community in LinkedIn called TRIBE+ which consists of contractor/talent who have been successful in attaining a role, or are being onboarded by us, on client sites. Our community of contractors predominantly come from Agile environments or have the necessary skills and mindset to succeed with agility. We operate TRIBE with all of our knowledge and strengths gained from our experience in ADAPTOVATE to ensure quality is maintained with our community of contractors.

As mentioned TRIBE is first and foremost a community?  And in this time community is looking a lot different than 1 month ago.   How do you see the TRIBE community interacting? And how important is it now more than ever?

As we are a global community, much of what and how we communicate was indeed virtual and digital. This is why we formed our LinkedIn Group and continue to have virtual “coffee catch-ups” via VC with potential candidates across different time-zones. I would have certainly liked to have more face-to-face and travel opportunities to truly connect with members of the community and clients alike.

At the moment, I think we are all requiring the time to adjust to the daily changes and restrictions. I feel however that coming together and helping each other as a community is certainly more important than ever. I’d like to as a consequence engage the community regularly through our Digital channels during this time.

Over the coming days/weeks, I hope the community starts to see an increase in engagement on our various forums. This will likely change as COVID-19 continues to threaten and evolve, however it is also a great opportunity for us to establish the community’s identity so that we can “hit the ground running” when the good times return.

How do the work opportunities for TRIBE community members look?    Obviously there have been massive redundancies – and times are tough.

No doubt these are challenging times for many. In the midst of forming and kicking off TRIBE, we have been faced with challenges to introduce our business to clients directly and disrupting the creation of a pipeline for our community of contractors. Our consulting network has also been affected as many clients around the world take stock on the situation on hand.

Having said that, we have been active in writing and contributing to client proposals and formal Request for Proposals (RFPs). I have and will continue to make direct contact with clients directly to clearly inform that we are indeed “open for business”.

Importantly, I welcome collaboration with our community members on any ideas of what we can do during this time. Though we are really just a few weeks old, the network of contractors which we have built so far is a bunch of some highly experienced individuals.

Why do you think contractors enjoy working in the contractor space?  There must be lessons that contractors have learned typically working from home previous to COVID-19 that they can bring to clients?

Some quotes given to me by real contractors that resonates with why they value working in this space (coming from a broad range of backgrounds):

  • “We are birds who love to fly and every now and then come home to rest and recuperate”
  • “We value quality engagements across a broad range of industries, clients, and seniority”
  • “We are confident in our experience and achievement to ensure that we can add value to a client quickly”

It is really a range of personal reasons and motivations like entrepreneurial spirit, to have an individual choose a contracting path either for a period of time in their careers, or for the longer term.

Having the freedom and variety of work, going hard for a while and taking a break, and meeting and working with a wide range of people, are some outcomes treasured by a contractor’s career.

Yes, there are parallels that can be drawn between today’s uncertain times and an independent contractor’s journey in finding new work, but what it really comes down to is an individual’s resilience, resourcefulness and wide technological toolkit & skills, that allows a contractor to continue to thrive during uncertain times.


Finally – it’s looking more and more likely that our ‘new life’ is going to last for a few months yet.  What advice would you give a contractor, and can TRIBE help them keep in touch with others?

Like in the ‘bird and home’ analogy, I’d like all of our community to know that in a small way, we at TRIBE is home for our contractors.

We will continue to build our presence and network here at TRIBE and aim to keep all informed through at the least using our LinkedIn group, emails, website and direct VCs. I’d encourage all of our contractors to PLEASE reach out to us directly when in need for support.

Even if it is just requiring some time to chat during these difficult times. We are reachable through any of the following and I personally man and check all directly:

Email – Direct:  sean.woon (at) or sean.woon (at)

Email – Shared:  account (at) or tribe (at)

LinkedIn: Join and post or direct message in our LinkedIn Group

LinkedIn: Connect and contact with me directly

Website: Fill out the contact form 

Thank you Sean, great speaking with you.  We wish you & your family the best of health in the coming months.