Covid-19 – A virtual water cooler.

Contract Management
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In these Covid-19 times, one of the joys that have been lost to social distancing is spending a few minutes shooting the breeze with colleagues.  A short break of apparently inane chatter, through which information is shared and gleaned about feelings, pressures and changes in your organisation.

These ‘water cooler’ moments are deceptively important for building organisational knowledge and also for sharing tacit knowledge.  That is, knowledge which helps the organisation in its functioning, but isn’t written down anywhere or codified, it is simply stuff people know.   This usually carries on as a flow of knowledge within the organisation which ‘oils the wheels’ to get things done.  For example, knowing the flow of traffic at different times of the day for the logistics department, being able to tweak the photocopier, sharing news heard about a competitor over coffee.  These all help the organisation to act.  However, when we are physically separated and can only communicate via technology, then this culture of informal communication can be easily disrupted. This operational risk is subtle but potentially severe.

 The risk mitigation to protect the organisation against loss of knowledge flow can be supported through the use of soft solutions such as contract lifecycle management, for example, Contract Toolkit or Contract Audit.  These solutions allow the crowdsourcing of information with ease using apps on familiar technology such as an iPad.  Through the use of directed questions, supported where possible by photographic evidence, these tools allow the organisation to respond in unison to provide relevant information for contract performance.  

The culture of informal communication is therefore partially replicated and this start can be built on by intentional communication by team leaders.  For example, we have found weekly briefings coupled with virtual coffee mornings to be invaluable in maintaining a team spirit, even in these times. Contract Toolkit fills some of this gap by acting as a virtual water cooler and facilitating regular contact and sharing of information, both within the team and across the wider organisation and even out to stakeholder groups.