Use turbulence as a competitive advantage

For most organizations, the current environment is uncharted territory. But with the right mindset and the right skills, there is a great opportunity for growth and improvement. Consider this:

  1. We are in a very new and very different situation.
  2. The situation is so different that it calls for radically new rules for success. 
  3. There is a great sense of urgency.

Use Turbulence

Combined, these three points represent a rare combination: the “need for speed” and greater acceptance of small failures. Both are important to organizations that want to discover and learn better ways of doing things. Yet, organizations tend to get stuck in the here and now – even the most successful ones. 

Developing a successful strategy should focus on scenario planning or thinking. Craft possible alternate stories to help you determine where to place strategic bets.

Here are some key steps to the process we recommend:

Establish and launch a transition team. Take time to set clear expectations and enable team members to step away from their daily responsibilities to dedicate time to this effort.

Craft priming questions to stimulate thought. All great change starts with a question, or questions. These questions should come from the CEO or senior leaders.

Engage in scenario planning or thinking. Define several plausible futures. Give a lot of thought to various possibilities and think outside of the box. Continually assess which of the scenarios you might be facing and determine where a pivot makes sense.

Change the way your strategy is conceived, created, and executed. In today’s complex and highly uncertain environment, defining your strategy requires mining for insights, experimenting, and learning.

Here are the five key mindsets or practices to consider going forward:

  1. More distributed responsibility. With more remote workers and flatter organizational structures, responsibility needs to be redistributed.
  1. Increased levels of trust. With more workers operating from home, the principles of “management by walking around” becomes more difficult. Trust will be more important than ever – not just for leaders, but employees, too.
  1. Leaders as coaches, not directors. The new work environment will increase the need for leaders as coaches.
  1. Importance of connecting peers. With a dispersed workforce, the need for connection increases. Managers and leaders need to encourage more and meaningful peer interactions.
  1. Connecting more people to the external environment. Leaders should encourage employees to develop an appreciation for the value of their contributions. Build capabilities to increase strategic thinking so senior leaders can focus on the bigger picture.

Right now, challenging the status quo can pay big rewards for organizations. With the right approach, you can emerge from the current landscape with a strategic advantage.

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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