Article | by Sophia Charters
Three things you need to move at speed during a crisis
This resource is part of Adapt to COVID-19
It’s time to consolidate your understanding of COVID-19’s long and short term impacts on your business. It’s time to find ways to make progress and move forwards, possibly into uncharted or under-explored territories. It’s time to make sure your business is able to support its employees, customers and stakeholders by seizing opportunities and mitigating losses wherever possible.
You’ve probably heard this famous proverb before.
‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
But what if you want both?
How do you go far, fast?
In short, you do go together, but you go as one - unified and streamlined. In this article, I’ll explain how taking your time, making yourself multidimensional and sharing your truths will help you do this. Neglecting to put these ‘first things first’ and ensure your organisations’ readiness to tackle complexity will inevitably result in long delays later down the line, decision paralysis and loss of momentum, all with damaging results to your business’ performance in this time of crisis.
In times of uncertainty, fear can create a psychological sense of urgency that only leads to rushed decision making. But in order to move quickly, making decisions and taking action efficiently, it’s important to first re-examine your initial reactions.
Now is the time for action, not reaction to media headlines. Actions should be based on relevant data, expert-led discussion, and considered judgements. Taking the time upfront to slow down and reconsider our immediate responses gives us the opportunity to perform ‘deliberate reasoning’ (referred to as the mind’s ‘System 2’ by Kahneman).
Without this thorough data collection and assessment protocol, your organisation won’t be equipped to take efficient, unified action and make legitimate progress.
In the 1960s Ross Ashby identified the ‘Law of Requisite Variety’ which states that “only variety can destroy variety”. Although this law was first conceived in relation to biological systems it is relevant to all systems, including those which operate in businesses. In our current context, this law means that we have to step up to battle complexity with complexity. And the way to do this is by building a diverse team to face all the facets of the complex challenge. Those leading their businesses through COVID-19 must be as multidimensional as the challenge ahead of them.
You can only face complexity with diversity by utilising a wider and deeper variety of people in your decision making and action planning processes. You’ll need to assemble those who have the collective comprehension, skills and experience to match the challenge ahead. Without the ‘requisite variety’ in your team, you’ll begin with a limited understanding of the challenge, which will, in turn, limit your capacity for problem-solving and solutions implementation.
Take into consideration the diversity of demographics, personalities, attitudes, thinking and influencing styles amongst your working team. Your strength, and ultimately success, will be in your ability to assemble this variety of differences, of people, into one unit. With this in place, you’ll be equipped to cover every angle of the challenge, discovering and overcome problems quickly and avoiding the risk of further hurdles at a later stage.
In organisations where teams and specialisms are widely distributed, it can be challenging to achieve mass buy-in. But in order to move businesses forward quickly with unified and streamlined action, shared understanding of the challenge itself as well as the objective in play, is critical.
While you must take action quickly, without the necessary buy-in, leaders and influencers will not be able to adequately explain the plan of an action to their teams. Without shared understanding, individuals and teams are liable to act upon their own narratives and motivations, often moving in disparate directions. Without shared understanding, you’re likely to face resistance, passive or active, which will only slow down your rate of progress.
In order to achieve shared understanding, different areas of the business have to understand each other. In order to understand a person or a team, you need to listen to their stories. In order to understand a person or a team, you need to hear their frustrations and fears as well as their hopes.
By creating a trusting, inclusive atmosphere where teams listen and are heard you’ll be able to build a shared language and a shared understanding for the whole organisation. You’ll be able to build a foundation for problem-solving and creating solutions - quickly!
No business is immune to the impact of COVID-19 and now, more than ever, organisations need to move quickly to identify appropriate strategies and implement quality, sustainable, solutions. The organisations that achieve this will be the success stories that are celebrated when the world moves on from this crisis.
It is possible to move quickly upon challenges, through complexity, and even in times of crisis. It is possible to create and execute solutions at pace. But only if you take the time to set your organisation up for success. Only if you approach the situation with a diverse team. And only if you create a shared understanding for everyone to move upon.