Problem: A crisis will amplify leadership gaps that result in organizational dysfunction. Left undressed, these gaps will cost the leader the opportunity to re-evaluate their strategy, commitments, and resource allocation to align for future success.
Opportunity: Rethink your approach to strategy, planning, implementation, and adaptation to create a dynamic, team-based learning environment where vision is transferred throughout the organization to focus inputs and align outcomes that ensure organizational growth.
Resolution: Use a crisis to establish a responsive leadership culture, accelerate change management, invest in talent optimization, solve the immediate needs of the customer, and prepare for the arrival of a new normal.
No one asked for a pandemic. But it came anyway.
Prepared or not, you were thrust into the fury of economic uncertainty almost instantaneously. It’s amazing how fast our confidence in the future seemingly evaporated when all the variables in every equation changed at the same time.
I do want to note that not all businesses struggled. Many remain, indeed, in a tailspin. Some continue to hold their own. And a few are gaining traction and continue to experience growth.
No matter what business reality you find yourself in, a crisis will amplify your dysfunctions to a level that you never even dreamed possible in a “business as usual” operating environment.
To be fair, you likely already knew about the parts of your business that were performing below expectations. But you had other pressing matters to deal with. And, most likely, a particular business unit might have been performing below expectations but still good enough to keep moving forward without self-inflicting the pain of change management.
But add immense pressure into the equation (like a pandemic) and the outcomes change dramatically.
It’s no longer one or two areas of your business that are performing slightly below expectations; you’re realizing that every system, structure, workflow, model, and forecast are built with assumptions that may no longer be true.
Awareness and Urgency
There are two factors that drive change within an organization: awareness and urgency. Both are present in a crisis. However, you will find yourself somewhere along both spectrums based on your orientation to the disruption. And your current placement in relation to those two dimensions will directly reflect your willingness to address known dysfunctions or just try to work your way out of it.
In times of crisis, you don’t have the luxury of sitting around a conference room table reviewing strategic plans, massive data modeling projects, and reviewing utilization and realization rates.
The business is on fire! And you need to take action.
You Need Four Things to Work in Concert With Each Other
Strategy. You need to be able to assess your current state and define your future state.
Planning. You need to be able to translate your strategic framework into an action plan.
Implementation. You need to be able to align time, people, and resources to deliver on your commitments.
Adaptation. You need continuous feedback loops through iterative management, real-time data, and interdependent and cross-functional teams that are ingesting new information and refining their priorities, activities, and outcomes daily.
And you need to be able to do all four things at least once every 24 hours.
In a static environment, everything works as designed. But a crisis—like a pandemic—is not a static environment. It’s unbelievably dynamic. You must suspend normal time realities and begin to operate within 24-hour time blocks given the dynamic nature and influence of external realities, internal realities, and new information which are all informing strategy, commitments, and outcomes at the same time.
Let’s be honest: the stress of a crisis is enough to make even seasoned leaders begin to question their judgment, lose faith in their instincts, and rethink everything—again, and again, and again. That’s normal.
The challenge is not understanding how you feel but choosing to let go of “business as usual” and embrace the transformation you and your business are experiencing.
Four Key Dysfunctions a Crisis Will Amplify
For leaders and businesses who don’t step into the challenge with new thinking, you will continue to amplify four key dysfunctions that will keep you from experiencing breakthrough and living into your greatest potential:
You value activity without respect for outcomes. When you’re not sure where you’re going or why you’re doing what you’re doing, doing more or moving faster isn’t going to solve anything. You need to recognize that your teams are depending on you to integrate strategic development into every conversation to ensure context is transferred as much as commitments.
You value preservation without considering the discipline of pruning. Without an adaptive leadership framework, you will do everything you can, spend every resource you have to hang on. But, in a crisis, the safest place to be is to risk it all. The energy expended to hold onto something is too great a cost today and could potentially cost you everything by missing a huge marketplace opportunity right in front o you.
You value balance sheets more than your greatest assets—your talent. (And I’m not talking about a functional corporate department.) The only thing your competition doesn’t have is your people. And there is no computer, no algorithm, and no strategy that can be used in a valuable way during a crisis unless you have a base of people who share your vision and commitment to achieve an agreed-upon preferred future. Flatten your organization for the time being. And look for talent acquisition opportunities in the marketplace. You’re building your war chest to compete at the highest levels when the new normal finally arrives.
You make decisions in light of the company rather than your client, customer, donor, or constituent. A crisis is similar to death, birth, and wedding experiences. You remember who was there, who wasn’t, and who chose not to be. If your language elevates the need of your company above your customer, you need to rethink your strategy immediately. This is your opportunity to retool around the needs, challenges, obstacles, and questions your customer is facing today. Meet them right where they are—and then co-create the new world together.
Give Yourself Permission to Call an Audible.
If you are drowning in your dysfunction (even if your income statement doesn’t show it yet), it’s time to declare leadership bankruptcy.
Get your transition team in a video chat now. Rediscover why your business or organization even exists and how you’re going to move forward together. Solve your most pressing problems and challenges today. Then gather at the same time tomorrow and do it again. There will never be another opportunity to mount successful change management than right now.
The good news is that in a crisis you get to make a different choice every day. And when you see a series of consecutive days start to string together, you will begin to be able to see just far enough in the future to affirm what you’re learning every day.
Don’t waste this crisis. The choices you make today could define a decade’s worth of momentum, growth, and revenue potential.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.