S-curves are beautiful things. They are wonderful for helping to decide where we are and where we want to be. From what I have heard and observed this week, it is time to slide back down the curve a bit. Let me explain.
The figure below is the one I show to boards and executives when I describe for them the value of a strong approach to risk management. You move from feeling or being vulnerable and exposed, to adaptive, to resilient. And if you are very, very good, you become agile – making rapid decisions within envelopes of strong understanding of the organisation’s appetite for taking certain risks.
An increasing number of organisations I work with these days are operating higher on the curve than ever before and are working with me in pursuit of greater resilience or to achieve agility. The problem is that the threat posed by COVID-19 is testing their agility, and for many, their resilience. I’m going to say to you that it is not just OK to slide back the curve a little. It is essential. Why? Let me tell you.
One of my good mates, let’s call him Cam, highlighted an article for me this week that was published in Harvard Business Review in the midst of the GFC Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis. The article was a timely reminder about the need for organisations to adopt adaptive leadership. That is, to slide back down the curve and operate in that place where you built your organisation’s resilience in the first place. In our new reality, what it takes to be resilient and agile is being re-created before our very eyes.
While others have written extensively on adaptive leadership, let me give you my top tips to follow:
- Act like a scientist and experiment. It’s the best way to identify what will work and what won’t.
- Be courageous and be prepared to kill off sacred cows.
- Rely on others and devolve decision making authority to them as you cannot do this on your own.
Feel free to share with someone if you think this will be helpful for them right now. It is definitely the time to be helping others.
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Bryan Whitefield works with strategic leaders across all sectors to help organisations harness uncertainty – uncertainty is the strategic leader’s best friend. He is the author of DECIDE: How to Manage the Risk in Your Decision Making and Winning Conversations: How to turn red tape into blue ribbon. He is the designer of the Risk Culture: Build Your Tribe of Advocates Program for support functions and the Persuasive Adviser Program for internal advisers. Both can be booked individually or in-house. For more information about Bryan, please click here.