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How Do We Plan In Uncertainty?

Basia Skudrzyk discusses best practices

· health,planning,uncertainty,leadership,decisions

Pre-Covid operations were performing well and focusing on how to best take care of their employees and clients, delivering the best possible quality in service and product delivery; while supporting the community and finding time to enjoy life. Everything has been turned upside now. We can’t think about what we could have done or should have done. We have to focus only on what we need to do going forward. Times most likely will be difficult in the short-term, and so it’s essential for all of us to use our time, focus, and effort to move forward in our careers .

Make Decisions

Everyone went into shock and crisis mode with leaders making very quick business decisions. When we are in survival mode, decisions are made quickly without always taking into account the outcomes of the decisions. As the weeks and months have passed, many decisions and thoughts that initially were made would have entirely been changed had we known what we know now.

If we knew that life would be back to normal soon it would be easier to create a strategy and make strategic decisions. However, we have no idea when this will end and it seems like no end in sight. How do we develop strategies when there is no concept of time frame? How do we stay motivated with clear thinking, and energy when it seems like every day is a full on marathon? This sort of stress and anxiety significantly magnifies the challenges in making quality decisions.

We are living in one of the most volatile business/healthcare environments in history. We are currently facing a global pandemic, mental health challenges, economic troubles, a massive movement for racial equality, and a deeply divided political system, all at the same time! How do you plan for a future that is so unstable? It used to be that we would make 10-year strategic plans, then it dropped to five, then to three, and now 90 days may sound good, but for so many day to day is what is palatable. We have to understand that we don’t understand what to do, none of us do, this is completely new territory for everyone.

In this environment we are forced, in an incredibly tight timeframe, to dramatically change the way we act, think and operate our organizations. Suddenly, many need to learn how to run virtual companies and services. Face-to-face meetings have been exchanged to virtual meetings that are not as conducive to in-depth discussion and collaborative decision-making. Presence counts.

Some Suggestions

As a leader people are looking to you, now more than ever, for a clear vision of a positive future and a sound strategy to get there. They need some sense of stability and calmness and direction in a highly volatile environment. Teams can’t focus on doing great work if they are constantly worried about their future and the future of the organization. The antidote to this uncertainty is courage. The courage to make tough decisions, the courage to take risks, the courage to stay genuine and exhibit calm confidence as you lead your company through this period of crisis. The hard part is that no one can make these decisions for you. Welcome input from your team, advice from those you trust and respect, look at your competition, and the marketplace, but in the end the decisions belong to you. Just as crucial, when you make a decision you must be firm and stand by it unless the environment absolutely demands that you change it. Flip-flopping on your decisions is worse than not making one at all, it confuses and frustrates your team and causes them to lose confidence in you as a leader.

Ambiguity kills company culture and strategy for breakfast. When we are hesitant, we need to look at the vision, mission, and values of our organization. If they are in line with yours, then use those as a NorthStar in setting the course forward.

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