Embracing Black Swans – How FELD M deals with Corona-induced challenges

on 26.03.2020 by Dr. Ramona Greiner, Dr. Matthias Böck

For a few days now, the world has again been talking about “black swans”: highly unlikely, unpredictable and rare events – such as the current corona pandemic. The image of the Black Swan has become known mainly through the books of risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His two key questions are: “How do we manage to survive the negative effects of Black Swans?” and “How can we make the most of the opportunities triggered by Black Swans?” The answer to both questions lies – to put it very briefly – in “anti-fragility”: We can only cope well with unforeseen events if we have the right degree of stability and elasticity and are therefore “anti-fragile”.

In the following we would like to explain how FELD M has positioned itself in the past and how we are now dealing with the effects of the corona pandemic.



Flexibility by default: Our mindset and tech setup

Work when and where we want

Our team has its headquarters in Munich. However, in recent years we have added further offices in Hamburg, Berlin, Zurich and Gdansk. Our aim is to ensure that our work adapts to the lives of our colleagues and not the other way around. Therefore we support colleagues who want to travel around the world by bike or live abroad for a while. Those who stay at home can also switch to remote work whenever they want, e.g. for the unloved reading of the heating system. For FELD M it has always been a goal to enable its employees to work from anywhere, but never to lose the sense of community. For the latter, it is important to meet and exchange information at regular intervals and in the meantime to make the best use of the various communication possibilities.


Tolerance and appreciation

At the beginning of remote work, naturally the understanding of all involved must be the starting point. Starting meetings can take a few minutes longer because of the tech setup, the connection and tool performance is not always as good, sometimes the doorbell rings or other ambient noise interferes with concentrated, joint work. Children in particular can turn the home office upside down: No matter how well we plan our meetings, as soon as the children discover a camera, they push their heads into the picture from all possible angles.

The “when?” also plays a role. At FELD M, we have to make sure that everything runs to our customers’ satisfaction. Within this framework, however, we are free to arrange our working hours in such a way that they fit into our lives. The necessary call in the afternoon may not always be postponed, but research, further training and conception can also take place outside of 9-to-5, if simply other things are important during the day.

The understanding of all this is increased by the fact that we all appreciate the freedom and flexibility, because we can stay in the home office, work from on the road, adapt our working hours to our lives or at least know that we could do so at any time. That’s why we also try to improve remote collaboration more and more.


Become better all the time

Of course not every new idea or initiative to improve the way we work together works. But it is important to develop a culture that encourages colleagues to try new things. Failure is absolutely fine, you learn from it and can develop new approaches. Over time, team structures, customers and technologies change. This makes it all the more important to pause and reflect on whether certain artifacts (e.g. meeting formats) or tools still work for us or need to be reconsidered.


Technical infrastructure and tools

Any software can only work as well as the infrastructure that is available to it. With us it is a matter of course to connect to the office via a (working) VPN and to give every employee the possibility to take a laptop and other equipment (monitor to keyboard) home. Should the internet at home ever go on strike, there is the possibility to borrow a mobile hot spot from the company.

For internal communication we mainly use Slack, Trello, Confluence and MS Teams. Here too, the teams within FELD M can flexibly design their toolstack and use e.g. Jira instead of Trello. We have experimented a lot with different conferencing tools and corresponding hardware in the last years to integrate our remotees as good as possible into the office. Besides Slack, we use Zoom for larger meetings, since this allows not only dial-in via the Internet, but also direct dial-in via the good old telephone – in addition to a default, a fallback is always important, since there can always be technical problems.


Social responsibility as a Speed Booster

Social responsibility, sustainable thinking and acting as well as lived values are important to us in all areas. This is why, even before the official announcements of the last few weeks, the first people at FELD M were already discussing switching to home office in order not to endanger anyone in the underground, suburban train or in the office. Many of us quickly realized that the first official measures taken were only the beginning, and so FELD M also asked its employees to take their computers home with them every evening to be prepared for any eventuality.

Within a few days we had a group of volunteers who developed and shared first internal guidelines on how to deal with Corona at FELD M. In the meantime, this also includes supporting the colleagues in their home offices: As mentioned above, work at home is not always undisturbed, especially since the kindergartens and schools have been closed. Here, too, a task force was quickly set up to advise staff on how to deal with the new care situation and what solutions are available.


The bug as a feature: Where we have already become better through Corona

FELD M therefore already had relatively good prerequisites for mastering the challenges that Corona puts on the economy. Nevertheless, there are some points that we too had to learn first or where we were forced to improve and adapt. In addition, new ideas and learning have been triggered by the pandemic, which we may now be able to retain permanently:


  • Sensitivity to remote work and best practices: If there really are a lot of people in the home office who do not work regularly from home, grievances and potential for optimization become much more apparent and can be eliminated much more quickly through an unbiased, unroutined view.
  • More tool competence: Since everyone is now forced to take care of their tech setup alone, you may log in to new tools for the first time, try out new ones and expand your tool and tech repertoire, which can be a great advantage for upcoming customer meetings.
  • Efficiency: Some meetings can be an e-mail. When you are in your home office, you think twice whether to discuss information in a half-hour meeting or just send the core statements by e-mail and wait for further questions. Especially with a large circle of participants, an e-mail can save a lot of meeting time.
  • Teambuilding: If the time spent together in the office is lost and you are limiting your private contacts right now, it is important not to lose the sense of community. To achieve this, we have already come up with many ideas and solutions in the first days of the “soft lockdown” on how to maintain our team spirit.


In the second part of this blog article, which deals with “FELD Ms Best Practices and Guidelines in Times of Corona”, we report in detail and well-structured, what exactly our solutions look like to not only survive the corona pandemic, but also to use newly created potential.


PART II will be released within the next days.

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