What would happen in a company that found itself on a standstill because the internet and email system stopped working. I created the following fictitious scenario of potential reactions and would love to hear how you would cope in the same situation.
There’s definitely something wrong.
I arrived at the building where my client’s office is at and saw a huge crowd standing in the main lobby. I started to ask the nearest person what was going on but we couldn’t even hear each other’s question over the loud chatter. I looked around for my client Paul through the crowd but it was impossible to see a familiar face. After some time, a man stood on the stair platform and motioned for silence.
“Mr. Bolzoni, do you know what happened?” yelled someone directly in front of me. This was followed by more questions yelled from different parts of the crowd.
Mr. Bolzoni motioned again for silence and announced that IT is currently trying to figure out why the Internet is down. No one exactly know what happened and how long it would take to repair it. The internet is dead. He encouraged people to go back to their offices and focus on work that does not involve accessing their emails and internet. The chatter started again, possibly louder than before.
“Is he kidding? I am waiting for a confirmation for the CCF project today!”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“I can’t work without email.”
“I think I’ll just head home.”
A few steps away, I found Paul and his team heading back to their office and joined them. And as our meeting took place, it’s clear the discussion primarily focused on the situation and having no email to communicate. I mentioned to them that my phone had no coverage either ever since I entered the building and asked them of theirs. This time panic started to ensue in the group as they realized there are no signal on their mobile phones either. Sandra was able to connect with her associate over landline but he too didn’t have any coverage. His company have lost Internet connection as well.
Since I travel often to meet clients in different cities, I knew there was no way I could reach my colleague since I communicate heavily via mobile phone. There was no way to contact him save a handwritten letter or a homing pigeon. In the radio later that day I found out that the issue was caused by an Internet Deadzone that happened within 200 km radius of the Epicenter. A deadzone is a location where internet does not work.
Within a week’s time, the atmosphere in the company got worse. Paul reported that the Infrastructure might take at least two months to repair. Those who were ignoring the problem started to realize that they could not work at all.
People were stressed out because all their communication were made online via email, internet portal and so on. Most of their work that were saved online–gone. A vocal employee even denounced IT department’s incompetencies.
“They always f*** things up!!! and can’t repair a damn thing”.
Other joined him in lamenting.
“The world is falling apart!”
“How could we work when everything we do is digital?”
“It feels like we are back in the 80’s or something.”
“I could not figure out a functional way to operate. My grandpa would have probably laughed at us right now!”
“What was our objective?”
During my next meeting with Paul and his team, I decided to address the situation we’re in.
“Guys, let’s just pause for a minute and ask ourselves the following questions: What could we still work on that is not impacted by the Internet Deadzone? How and in which form should we communicate best? Was there some offline alternative to our online communication?”
We had a long and undisturbed discussion. Furthermore, we found out that having a direct discussion with our colleagues is for the best. We ended up making faster decisions because a direct chat was faster than exchanging emails. Conflicts were avoided because all information was shared in a very productive meeting.
But this is fiction where I wanted to show the positive impact of direct discussion. What impact could such a scenario have on your work? Are there alternatives in case the Information and Technology system goes down? Do you have a crisis plan in place? What exact action could you take?
I hope that this becomes food for thoughts this week. Writing this fiction made me realize that I relied heavily on emails to communicate with partners. I decided to use emails only to exchange documents and to use my phone more often to discuss because a call is worth exchanging many emails.