Although many businesses are beginning to reopen and reemerge, we’re doing so with a huge amount of uncertainty. There are few, if any, certain steps to take on the road ahead. No matter how well we research, plan, or strategize, there may be new closures, stronger lockdowns, and more economic upheaval ahead. The difference between the businesses that successfully navigate this unseeable future and those that buckle under its pressures is the difference between reacting and adapting.
This article explores how to respond to incoming data quickly, without getting caught up in endless changes of direction. It also shows you how to get it done in your businesses no matter their size or what changes they encounter.
For many of us in business, “adapt” may still feel like the wrong word to describe what we’re doing. With headlines changing hourly and uncertainty still looming on the horizon, “reacting” might be a more descriptive term. Responding is crucial, but our reactions don’t have to be disconnected from the strategies we developed in our pre-COVID world.
In fact, if we can abandon the frantic flailing many of us reacted with in Q2 of 2020 and instead pivot with purpose, we may find that the objectives we thought had to be abandoned may still be within reach. Three simple concepts, borrowed from the world’s most innovative agile teams at organizations like Amazon, Spotify, and Google, can help you balance short term responsiveness with long term strategy:
- Extreme Visibility
- Ruthless Prioritization
- Focused Effort
Teams who follow these principles are able to move ahead with deliberate steps instead of racing from one intense problem to the next. Here’s how they do it.
In order to make intelligent choices about what to do, what NOT to do, and when to do it, we need a complete understanding of our options. This means taking the time to get it all visualized in a shared tool of some kind (Trello, Miro, and Mural are all easy entry points). Here everyone involved in the work, their leaders, and their stakeholders can stay informed about what’s going on.
For both teams and individuals, include everything on your plate when visualizing, from mundane “business as usual” tasks to unplanned pandemic tasks to big strategic projects. Without full visibility, someone may be off in a corner diligently spending their valuable time on a task that isn’t actually all that important.
Once we understand everything that could occupy our time, it’s time to make the hard choices about what gets done first. This practice of ruthless prioritization forces us to decide what work will add value, and what needs to get eliminated as new situations arise.
Especially now that we’re being inundated with totally unforeseen activities, we need to get comfortable with these “either/or” kinds of conversations. If we just keep adding more and more onto the pile, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
The reason we prioritize rather than start every new idea, work request, or issue the moment it shows up is that the more we’re doing at once, the longer each of those things takes. We need to concentrate our effort on the most important task, work on it until it’s done, and only then move on to something else.
Teams who take all their COVID-19 work and simply add it onto the work that was already taking up 40+ hours a week find that nothing seems to be getting done. They live on their computers, oftentimes persuading themselves that it’s a necessary part of working through a crisis. In fact, they could get far more done in far less time if they worked on fewer things at once.
None of these steps is complicated, but that’s why they work. We’re finding that high-performing teams don’t excel because of their complex, perfectly-documented processes. They have systems that allow them to bob and weave. When a new round of problems punches our existing plans in the face, we can evaluate what happened and respond with our own right hook.
Andrea can help your members take change from a challenge to a competitive advantage. Inquire about her availability for your next online or in-person event.