As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, then along came a presidential election that may be tied up in court for weeks or longer. English writer and humorist Douglas Adams passed away in 2001 and didn’t get to experience all these, but he may have had a vision for the future when he said, “We live in strange times.”
With so many brands and companies struggling for their existence amidst increasing calls for equality and diversity, the pressure is even greater on leaders to move their organizations forward amidst this chaos. Until now, 2009 had been the worst year of any global financial crisis in history, but the International Monetary Fund’s contraction forecast for the gross domestic product is more than double that of 2009.
The size and length of crises are critical in determining uncertainty, which is extremely rare globally. For companies operating globally or just in the U.S. alone, this uncertainty and new environment have wreaked havoc over how leaders prepare their companies for future success amidst a crisis. Determining the length and scope of the crisis is the toughest challenge facing leaders, and it’s also the most important task.
Most companies are already operating in crisis mode. As such, they likely have or should have a crisis nerve center to oversee a holistic response. But as crises evolve, the likelihood of them becoming outdated and out of touch is a strong possibility, and leaders must be open to considering a new nerve center model. Ideally, at the core of such a center should be a small and select cadre of managers with authority and credibility, and judgment to disseminate any responses.
In times like this, it’s understandable that some leaders will exude an optimistic bias. Often, future strategies are focused not on a worst-case scenario but on a much milder one that usually fails miserably when things go downhill.
Good data and information are always important but even more so during these times. Because successful future strategies are based around a probable course of events, every effort must be made to ensure that the best data available has been gathered and analyzed. Even then, any assumptions and understandings arrived at the need to be revisited and reassessed on an ongoing basis to make changes when necessary.
Many crises transition and evolve, and leadership must be adept at making necessary changes to meet new challenges. Paralysis, delays, and indecision are not options. The good news is that crises do end, and leaders should also have an operating model to switch to as soon as the crisis is over.
Challenge proposed solutions. Because of the fast-changing landscape, consider establishing a team of experts who will operate like secret shoppers. They will test statements and decisions that have come out of the crisis mode center and identify possible flaws or weak spots or any overly optimistic theories.
Many companies are in limbo now that employees are working remotely. Some brands have said they’ll allow their employees to work remotely even after the pandemic is over, while others have signaled that they’ll expect them back. Whatever the brand’s decision, be sure there’s a plan.
The issues to monitor will change, but it’s vital to a company’s health and success that there be an early warning system and monitoring to stay on top of things.