“We never missed a beat.” That’s how the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) support team at Washington Business Dynamics (WBD) responded when the global pandemic sent the DC-area workforce home in mid-March 2020.
“Fortunately, we work for a small business that’s capable of quickly pivoting and adapting in a challenging environment,” said Troy Wray, a Principal at WBD and the team lead for consulting firm’s USAID Private Sector Engagement (PSE) Support Mechanism $33 million award. “Adaptive management, change management, crisis communications — we do this for a living, and train others how to do the same.”
The small team of nine continued to communicate with each other in real time from their first day teleworking — just like they were still sitting in their downtown DC office. Using digital technologies like Slack, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams, the PSE team at WBD complete daily stand-ups and stand-downs on video from their kitchen tables. They create standing desks from ironing boards. They adapt their work hours to meet home-schooling demands.
WBD’s leadership gave all its employees flexible working hours to adapt to the unique challenges of teleworking during a pandemic.
“By allowing our team members to have more mastery and autonomy over their day, they’re better equipped to take care of things at home on their own schedule. They also have the freedom and agency to work more creatively on bigger projects,” said President of WBD, Scott Caldwell.
The result? Productivity rose by several metrics.
Monthly reports in March, April, and May show that every deliverable was completed on time and in good order. In fact, WBD exceeded client expectations and received several multi-million-dollar funding increases from USAID in April and May as a result.
Specifically, the PSE team spearheaded an innovative approach for USAID to manage its corporate relationships. The team interviewed peer international donor agencies regarding diverse approaches to corporate relationship management, or CRM, and developed a report on how international donor agencies are effectively managing, tracking, and analyzing interactions with the private sector.
Team WBD also prepared and delivered to USAID a list of “competencies” for USAID staff and partners to achieve in their upgraded Client Relationship Management system. WBD’s strategic advisory and insight related to CRM is changing the way that USAID is managing relationships with key private sector actors and how they form vital partnerships to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
“In just the past few months, we’ve helped USAID position itself to manage and implement strategic interventions related to COVID-19 relief, most notably by cultivating and advancing relationships with key private sector actors with global footprints and by enhancing collaboration with the private sector,” said Wray.
WBD also capitalized on the work it had accomplished in February for its client: video interviews with more than a dozen USAID economists and private sector engagement specialists. The PSE team realized it could revisit and edit the videos — an easy task to perform virtually — to create private sector engagement “success stories” for USAID staff.
Finally, the PSE team at WBD published on USAID’s Marketlinks platform three articles on how the private sector is responding to COVID-19 and how corporations are collaborating with USAID in its pandemic response.
“Our services during the time of COVID-19 remain on time and on track. We continue to ensure that USAID is effectively pursuing partnerships and efficiently identifying how they can collaborate with the private sector for maximum impact,” said Wray.