The Future of Work at Dow – Challenging Assumptions
Written by Jenny Kinsman
Global Director, Enterprise Systems Services
Less than a year away from his 30th anniversary at the only company he has ever worked for, Chris Bruman is as proud as he has ever been of Dow.
Add up every transformation, economy shift and leadership change over three decades, and nothing compares, Bruman says, to the disruption caused by COVID-19. And he can’t say enough about how his team has stepped up and responded.
“To me, this crisis has really re-emphasized how important digital and technology are to our companies,” Bruman says.
This is a proud time for anyone in the IT profession and in terms of what we're doing for our companies and how obvious technology is right now.
From his first Dow job working the late-night shift while still in college, Bruman has primarily been focused on large programs and addressing new challenges that IT can help with, and that experience has prepared him for the unexpected challenges of this global pandemic.
In a recent conversation, Bruman offered insights on leading through the crisis, and the future of work at Dow.
How has your organization responded to the new environment forced upon all of us by COVID-19?
We are really proud of what our organization has done. If I come at it from an IT standpoint, very early on we were focused on, like other companies, the collaboration tools, network and even security. With everyone being at home, we have done a phenomenal job at keeping the company very productive. In all my years at Dow, one of my proudest moments was when our most senior leaders in the company were talking about the advantage Dow has right now because of the IT department. My organization right now is working from home. They are adjusting well and doing better than I could have ever imagined.
When it comes to your organization’s response to the COVID -19 crisis, what is one thing that surprised you and what did you learn from that?
For me, the biggest surprise was the resiliency of our team. I honestly expected quite a bit more impact to the projects and the services. What we are learning is that we are working remote well, but I am surprised about how much people miss the human interaction. In the past, I used to hear people say that they wish they could work from home more. What I heard overwhelmingly once we got into work from home, is that employees want to get back into the office. On the flip side, the longer this goes on, people are adjusting. That raises questions about how we might work differently in the future – to deliver a great experience for employees and great support for Dow.
Can you give a specific example of how your technology team has risen to the challenge when it comes to your remote workforce?
One of the obvious ones, is that we have been monitoring the use of key tools. If I look at VPN or WebEx – which is what we use for audio and video collaboration – we have tripled the use of those daily and have not noticed any impact on systems. Also, our service desk tripled in call volume for the first couple weeks but that is back down now as people have their issues worked out. The service desk rose to the occasion. Even though, call time went up a little bit, there were no major issues.
Also, like a lot of other companies, we just went through a quarter close. As you can imagine there has been a huge impact on system demands, reporting and traffic. You can't just lose an hour or two in the middle of a quarter close. So, we set up a cross-functional team and some of my team members are involved in that and others across IT, finance, manufacturing and other areas. I was really impressed that in a couple of days we had a safety net up and it paid off. Some people working from home had issues, but the safety net got them up and running very quickly. That is one of the cool things that we saw – the agility to step up and get through a significant event like that with almost zero issues.
How are you growing as a leader through this? What leadership principles are carrying you through?
Getting to know people a lot better is how I'm growing as a leader. I'm a little bit old school and historically I have thought that I wanted to keep personal life and work separate. For me to go through this is a bit of a change. I think the main leadership principle I'm leaning on is that your number one focus must be on people. The work will always get done, but if you focus on people and helping them grow and making sure that they feel like they belong to a team and they're important, everything else will fall into place and that mindset has really paid off during this time.
What positives are you seeing from this crisis in your organization?
The biggest positive is that we're learning new ways to work and collaborate. That is going to pay off long-term in terms of flexibility for people and how we can be more productive. It’s difficult to say at this point how much things will change, but I know that there will be a change in how we work. We are growing stronger as the teams engage more and they're learning. We are changing a lot of assumptions. An example I would use is that when we do testing for really large IT project, we typically bring everyone together to a single location. We just successfully went through two really big user tests remotely. That is going to challenge the assumption that we've had for years about how we do testing. We are going to be able to do things faster and cheaper and, in a way, that people enjoy more from an employee experience standpoint.
Special thanks to Chris Bruman and Dow .
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