There is a surreal atmosphere surrounding COVID19.
Up till now, nations, corporations and organizations have believed that their institutions can foresee and manage calamity, arrest its impact and restore stability. When the pandemic has passed, many institutions will be perceived as having failed. Fair or not, this perception is irrelevant. The reality is that the world, governments, institutions, civil-society and for-profit and non-profit organizations will never be the same after COVID19.
Reacting to the current emergency and arguing about the past will only make it harder to do what needs to be done.
So far, the COVID19 crisis has mainly been dealt with on a state/provincial or national basis. But the virus’s society-dissolving do not respect borders, corporate structures or social constructs. While the assault on human health will – hopefully – be temporary, the political, economic and social impact could last for generations.
There is a social theory called “Wicked-Problems.” The term ‘wicked problem’ arises from the responses to significant human problems, such as the AIDS crisis, homelessness, poverty, when traditional answers seemed incapable of providing solutions … and if a ‘solution’ was found, it often made the original problem worse. Imagine the children’s song, ‘There was an old lady who swallowed a spider …’
The challenge of using traditional problem solving to implement complex change is enormous. ‘Change’ is full of uncertainty and ambiguity. Therefore, we must learn to manage uncertainty rather than attempt to remove it.
I was once given a lesson through a story by a Nakoda Elder, and I share it now with you.
When the prairies were natural grasslands and full of life from the smallest creatures to the great Bison, the land would, from time to time, be whipped by massive storms. As the storm approached, most animals would flee in front of the crisis; they ran in the same direction the storm was moving.
The Bison would not flee. They would turn headfirst into the storm, move against and through the winds and out the other side quickly. For the Bison, the storm would be over far more rapidly than for those who ran ahead. Those who ran to exhaustion trying to stay ahead of the wind and inevitably overtaken.
The good news is that we will come through the pandemic. The choice you have is: will you try to outrun the storm or turn into it and prepare for coming out on the other side.
Similarly, COVID19 will irrevocably change society. It will irrevocably change you as a leader and your organization. You may have lost people to the disease; systems, programs, business models may have proven themselves instantly outdates, people will expect to work from home and buildings, and facility space may seem redundant or surplus.
When the pandemic is over, there is no way that you will be able to maintain yourself or business as you once were: You will survive, or you will have been run into exhaustion.
To survive, you must:
- Stop reacting to the day to day issues that the pandemic brings to your organizations. (appoint an operations manager to deal with these issues)
- Start envisioning and planning what your organization may or could look like after the pandemic passes
- Double down on developing your team and people to be ready to come out the other side
- Replicate the best of how your team functions and stop focusing on efficiency and invest in being effective
We must get back to basics and start considering simple, straightforward, grounded advice and answers and here are some things I am happy to do for you:
- Facilitate a 1-hour Zoom exercise to build team cohesiveness
- Help you develop a team rallying cry
- An ear for coaching, problem-solving or to listen
If you need more, we can discuss a couple of options that could include organizational coaching as you manage the COVID response and consider your strategic positioning as you come through and out the other side of the pandemic.