Introducing CALM: Keep CALM, but don’t carry on like it is business as usual

The ‘CALM’ framework addresses the challenges cultural organizations face when adopting digital-first workplace practices. In this article ‘One by One’ researcher, Dr Lauren Vargas, sets out how the acronym came to be and how it can be used…

As I began discussing and writing about the outcomes of the initial One by One research, the acronym ‘CALM’ surfaced. It was a bit tongue-and-cheek because I was designing and implementing digital transformation and skill-building interventions in UK museums where a ‘Keep calm and carry on’ attitude prevailed. For many, digital transformation or digital evolution is overwhelming.

Now we compound that frustration and chaotic experience with a global issue out of our control. Many of us are working from home and wondering if we will have a job or an organization to return to once the pandemic has ceased. For many, working from home is new. Compound this learning curve with having to care for kids out of school or elderly or sick relatives and we are far from achieving a sense of calm. When we feel out of control, it is easy to spiral into a dark abyss of depression and become paralyzed.

How might we begin to reimagine a new way of working? How might we develop a digital-first environment within our organizations that is:

  • C — Collaborative: engaging openly and transparently with other staff to plan and develop (internal or external) work products.
  • A — Anticipatory: planning effectively using agile methods, being aware of relevant data (through analysis and reporting) and building in a process for feedback.
  • L Letting go of Command and Control Leadership and Embracing Collective Leadership: locating and enabling leaders at all levels whilst developing a shared sense of decision-making and accountability.
  • M — Mindful: making time and space to reflect on information and decisions.

No matter when and where we return after Covid-19 self-isolation, our organizations will not be the same. It is impossible to force people to interact on digital with peers and management in the same way they may have been interacting in a physical office. Digital citizenship is built and learned and adapted over time. If organizations have not put in the scaffolding to encourage and coach a digital way of working, there is no time to waste. Right now, we are designing, building, and flying our digital communication and collaboration plane all at once.

How might we use this opportunity to assess how we communicate and collaborate so we are not simply carrying on, but redefining a more resilient business rhythm of ‘CALM’ communication and collaboration?

Dr Vargas created a CALM canvas to capture and reflect upon how your organization is communicating and collaborating today. You may use this canvas to aid in discussions of how new practices and processes may be developed and enabled with digital technologies.

Consider discussing the prompts and completing the canvas together with colleagues during a video conference call or in person. Or complete the prompts and canvas, then compare and discuss the commonalities and differences in responses.

Reflect on how you / your organization collaborates:

  • Where does collaboration take place?
  • What information is implicit versus explicit?
  • How is information shared?
  • When is information shared?
  • Who is information shared with?
  • How is information organized?
  • How is information made accessible?

Reflect on how you / your organization is anticipatory:

  • How often is your strategic plan evaluated?
  • How is your strategic plan made actionable?
  • How are you supporting the strategic plan with investment in relevant skills and technology?

Reflect on how you / your organization is letting go of command-and-control leadership:

  • How are decisions made?
  • Who makes decisions?
  • How does your organization innovate?
  • How does your organisation pass along lessons learned?

Reflect on how you / your organization is mindful:

  • Is there consistent communication?
  • Who communicates?
  • How is this communication shared?
  • How are ideas exchanged?
  • Is there time to reflect and explore why and when something has worked or has not?

Taking a ‘CALM’ approach enables any individual within any team to take a leading role at any stage of a project. In the digital age, this new way of working may be just the edge our organisations need to thrive in a post Covid-19, time-poor and cash-strapped environment.

Digital skill-building from the inside out may allow organisations the time and space to develop more sustainable and resilient use of digital technology that permeates the entire consumer and visitor experience.

Taking a ‘CALM’ approach is an exercise in digital literacy building; a form of reflective practice that reframes the way that people consider the role of digital technologies to support how work is completed within their specific organisational context. The process of determining suitable actions requires a collective appreciation of the existing digital competencies of staff, as well as a consideration of what kinds of capabilities are still required. Being more Collaborative is a good place to begin implementing a CALM approach.

You may also find this resource on ‘a ‘CALM’ approach to leadership in the digital age’ interesting, which first introduced the CALM framework.