On 23 January 2020, the first-ever cases of COVID-19 in Vietnam were recorded. One and a half years later, the pandemic is still wreaking havoc and showing no signs of slowing down. Nonetheless, it is sometimes necessary to look back to see how far we have come.
Vietnam suspended entry to all foreigners on 22 March 2020. On that same day, we issued a comprehensive COVID policy, ensuring not only our people’s health and safety but also undisrupted services to our clients.
From then on, business-as-usual is no longer an option. What follows is nothing but a spectacular journey of ups and downs, of challenges and triumphs, that we would like to share with you today.
Read our Founder & CEO's letter to all TRG customers here.
Our last physical office closed on 28th March 2020. And since then, we have been 100% virtual globally with all employees capable of working from anywhere (WFA). Even when the latest COVID surge hit Ho Chi Minh City 2 months ago, our project delivery, technical support, and cloud services are still operating 100% virtually with a high degree of resiliency.
Our successful transition to a 100% virtual workplace at such short notice is proving our model of dealing with disruptions works. What’s required is a particular human mindset, not just a business mindset, one that embraces empathy, agility, risk-taking, innovation, and the Kaizen way. That is what I call Business-As-UnUsual (BAUU).
“Oh no, not another fancy business jargon,” you probably are thinking! To which I would say: “You can’t win today’s war with yesterday’s weapons and strategies.” And make no mistake, we are at war with COVID-19 and the subsequent economic turmoil on an unprecedented scale.
Just like Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, had surveyed and chosen Waterloo one year before the battle took place, leaders in today’s VUCA world need to take initiatives and fight on their own terms rather than wait and react in the face of extreme adversity.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, I have made a conscious choice to proactively fight, and win, on my Business-As-Unusual terms rather than wait for the returns of the business-as-usual, which may never come. Spoiler alert: it won’t return, but more on that later!
This TRG move was not as disruptive and sudden as it may sound as we have been promoting virtual working as a part of our own disruptive transformation initiatives for some years.
As a result of these initiatives, we have avoided any disruption to our operations despite numerous waves of social distancing measures implemented during this crisis.
As a rule of thumb, you don’t wait until the Grande Armée starts marching to draw up your battle plan. Likewise, you don’t wait until a crisis hits to get your business prepared, by then it’s already too late.
The big, swift shift from our much-loved brick-and-mortar offices to working-from-anywhere is just one among many Business-As-UnUsual transformations we have experienced during the last one and a half years.
Since our virtual internship programme started in March 2020, we typically have 20-30 interns from up to 10 different countries at any time during the year, with up to 75% of them are virtual.
The virtual internships allow us to significantly diversify our workforce without having to expand our physical footprint as well as taught us how to improve onboarding, how to collaborate better and faster and how to work together and have fun across multiple time zones.
Innovation breeds more innovation, as the saying goes. Virtual internships require our teams to rapidly develop our own internal knowledge base and then a slew of online training to enable the onboarding of interns literally every week, we are inspired to share and deliver these high-quality, interactive courses to the outside audience. This has motivated us to kick-start a special project - an all-in-one online hub for every training need.
Strangely enough, some of our biggest clients immediately sign up for the idea of being able to provide user training to their employees anytime, anywhere amid the international travel suspension. Now that’s convenient!
TRG Academy, as it is now called, has been an idea in my mind for a long time. But I doubt it could ever be materialized if we were still doing our business as usual.
Business-As-UnUsual also touches on a more personal level. I tried to spend as much time as possible talking to my employees, pivot to feedforward and uncover new ideas. And no, you didn’t read it wrong, its “feedforward”, not “feedback”, and you should definitely try it sometime.
I also spoke (a lot) to my coaches because I, too, need guidance, as they say, in order to be a good coach you need to be coached.
Various coaching sessions as a coachee as well as many more as a coach have led to many beautiful partnerships. It's true what coaches say, you learn a lot from your coachees, maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much.
Ever since the very beginning of the pandemic, people have been yearning for a “post-COVID” world, where things are back to normalcy. And that is totally expected, we human beings are hard-wired to stay safe, to venture out into the wilderness. But what if there is no such thing as post-COVID normalcy?
Many experts believe that, regardless of advancements in vaccines and treatments, COVID-19 may never go away and instead will become just another endemic disease, not unlike common colds.
Additionally, some changes simply cannot be rolled back once they gain enough momentum.
Take the workplace for example. More virtual, less physical. That will be the way forward. From WFA to virtual internships, the workplace is permanently changed.
Another example is the unstoppable next wave of cloud adoption when Cloud-First becomes Cloud-Only.
Since our pivot to the cloud several years ago, I have witnessed first-hand how cloud services transform our business as well as our clients’. They are instrumental in maintaining business resilience in such disruptive moments and are now the tipping point for many who were resistant to letting go of their “on-premises” IT mindset.
And during such a pivotal time like this, it is critical to embrace the Business-As-UnUsual normalcy. Rejecting the new reality and hoping for the comeback of the old ways because they are safer and more convenient is nothing short of wishful thinking.