Surviving the lockdown – how do you close without closing down?

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Change gears mentally

So, one of my clients is coming out of lockdown. What have we learned from the last five months?

The last five months have been a scary time for a lot of people around the world. Some of us are grieving lost family members. Others are facing direct challenges to employment and well-being.

One of my clients, JKA Karate East Lothian, has been buffeted by change, though mercifully all the people involved have so far escaped health difficulties. The east of Scotland karate organisation had three dojos in Fife, Musselburgh and North Berwick, with a couple of hundred members. It went from a healthy revenue and attendance to nothing overnight. Now, in the first days of September, it’s able to re-open one of its dojos to socially-distanced training. What have the lessons of the last five months been?

It’s a chance for a positive change

The dojos had a lot of paper processes – paper folders for students to carry, and record their attendances, class sheets to collate and hand onto accountants to ensure the books were kept properly. Now, through Zoom, WordPress, MyAttendance tracker and Google docs, it’s 100% digital.

Lockdown has been a catalyst for change

For some, lockdown has definitely been an opportunity for self-reflection. Two loyal and long-standing instructors for the association made the decision to resign their commitments after many years of high-quality service to the karate community. For others, remote training became a new routine.

The point is that lockdown led to and accelerated on-going natural processes of waxing and waning commitment. The association had a tradition of empowering senior students to accept a responsibility for others.

Without that priming, others may not have stepped forward to keep training going. The future remains uncertain for the association because the return to face to face training is threatened by Covid-19, and future possible lockdown. The lesson remains to be always be creating high levels of engagement and loyalty with your community, even in good times, so you are prepared for change which may come.

Blending face to face with Zoom is fine

My client initially saw things as relatively black and white. It was either face to face “normal” training or something online, and one would be switched on with the other switched off. However with experience, it is possible to provide a high quality experience through Zoom. And the end of lockdown does not mean that people will be prepared to leave their homes and come out and engage with face to face training again, just because the dojos have been reopened. The association has moved its mental model and is now planning a hybrid offering, blending face to face and Zoom.

Technology is baffling sometimes

Moving has not been painless. My client used to joke his skillset was punching people, but he wasn’t really joking. Some students quickly picked up the nuances of new booking systems, and health questionnaires. Others found it a challenge to navigate this new world. Poor wifi meant important conversations with the client, and his senior colleagues, were painful, garbled and often interrupted. Amazon-like technology is so seamless people forget how much Amazon spends on its tech – and expect too much of organisations with more shallow resources.

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  1. Build in time for client education.
  2. Extend time for demonstrating and understanding solutions and expect people to raise questions or find difficulties.
  3. Being open about the challenges and restrictions was part of taking people with us.

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