Yesterday's news, today's agility
Tuesday night Prime Minister Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield held an emergency press conference. New Zealanders heard what we hadn't for 102 days: NZ has community Covid-19 transmission.
The press conference was an exemplar in many ways. Leaders and organisations should be taking notes on how clear, compassionate, and considered this communication was. And if you didn't hear the messages live, you got an emergency alert text message that night explaining it. And another one the next morning. And in case you missed all of that, there was another press conference the next morning. A powerful reminder that if you want your messages to get across: Remember to repeat. Repeat to remember.
But this blog post isn't about the stellar leadership communication we've had in NZ throughout Covid-19. This is about our response to it.
2020 has been a stark reminder of how fluid our organisations need to be. This isn't new. Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus recognised that change is constant over 2000 years ago.
One of America's 'Founding Fathers' Benjamin Franklin updated the idea over 200 years ago:
“But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
We know change is constant. So how do we prepare to respond to it?
Our organisations need more business agility. Don't roll your eyes! I'm not talking about a specific Agile methodology. I'm talking about organising so that you are better at responding to this crazy world we find ourselves in. The Business Agility Institute defines business agility as an organisation's capacity and willingness to adapt to change, create change, and leverage change.
Your ability to do these three things—adapt, create, leverage—is directly helped or hindered by how you organise your teams, your work, and your decision making. (Back to the How conversations!)
Shit happens. 2020 has taught us that lesson a few times. It won't always be clear what the best way forward is and there will be lots of unknowns. Efficient organisations thrive through change by assessing the situation and making calculated decisions on how to move forward.
Here's a small example from us. We planned to hold our 28 August Tea & Toast session (Our Brains and Bias) in person. This was exciting for us because it was our first in person Tea & Toast since March. But, after the announcement Tuesday night, the next day we decided to move it to Zoom. Why? We didn't want this decision hanging over our heads for the next two weeks and soaking up some of our mental bandwidth.
Question raised and decision made the same day: We transitioned it to Zoom.
Two quick points about decision making:
1) Getting better at it is good for your wellbeing
The 2020 Global Resilience Report finds decisiveness is in the top 10 best things you can do to improve your resilience. Making decisions and moving forward means less of your bandwidth and mental energy is spent storing thoughts and ruminating about what to do.
2) Decision making is an important step to create a culture of clarity
When it's transparent how decisions get made, there's higher clarity amongst the team and greater engagement. That clarity helps people commit to decisions and move forward—particularly in times of uncertainty.
Ann Latham writes about this her Forbes article, 12 Reasons Why How You Make Decisions Is More Important Than What You Decide
We make thousands of decisions every day. Many are easy, but others are complex, stressful, or both. Because there are so many decisions and because they are literal forks in the road with dramatic impact on results, costs, time, feelings, and relationships, how you make decisions is extremely important. This is why decision-making is a top priority when I work with clients to create a culture of clarity.
With this in mind, it might be helpful to build more transparency into how decisions in your teams and workplaces are made. These can range from how and where you work, to technical requests you're working on.
Some starter questions for each decision:
Who wants to be involved?
Who has the expertise needed?
Who must agree with this decision?
How will you inform people?