During a Crisis, Take Time to Plan Ahead

Most organizations have executed short-term adaptations in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The problem is, they’re still in that short-term planning and reaction mode. What about the long-term? Think about opportunities for growth in times of crisis.

During a crisis take time

It can help to think in terms of three different time frames: the current, the transition, and the future. Each time frame has a distinct set of characteristics. Each requires a change to the business model, how leaders lead, and how followers follow.

Senior leadership should frame the aspirations the organization wants to achieve. This will guide how people should direct their knowledge and energy as they consider potential solutions.

Determine who should focus on planning ahead. Start by having conversations with individuals and trusted advisors. Also, look to industry groups or executive forums. The idea is to have a conversation and allow people to build on each other’s ideas.

Form an internal team that’s dedicated to planning for each of the three time frames. The key is to assemble an enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and well-rounded set of people focused on this effort. And while it’s true larger companies can draw from a bigger pool of people; this approach is also effective for organizations with as few as 100 employees.

When building these teams, look for the following characteristics:

  • Multidisciplinary backgrounds
  • Different views of the customer and internal operations
  • Futurist thinkers
  • Diversity

Establish behaviors critical for remote working environments, and select a team leader who:

  • Excels at soliciting great ideas from others rather than providing all the answers.
  • Recognizes – and capitalizes – on the expertise of others.
  • Asks questions that dig deep rather than accepting everything at face value.
  • Applauds team members for their contributions and extra effort.
  • Leads the team to encourage diverse viewpoints and recommendations, especially from those who tend to be reserved.
  • Considers smaller ideas and suggested pivots in addition to bigger-picture ideas.

Be careful the group isn’t so large that it’s difficult to operate, especially if the team is working remotely. We recommend limiting the team to between five and eight people. Set a regular cadence of one meeting per day (or every other day) until you can gauge how the group is progressing. And don’t forget to make it possible for individuals to set time aside to do research before coming back to the group to integrate the findings.

Tom Devane is vice president of workplace consulting for Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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