Choices in a crisis v choices for renewal

“We’re out of the whack-a-mole phase” according to one CEO I spoke to this week.

As organisations move beyond the day-to-day crisis mode of the last few weeks, they are starting to turn to longer term questions.

The tools you use to make decisions in the first phase of a crisis are different to the ones you need to plan for the future. Crisis planning tends to be inward-looking. Longer-term thinking must be outward-looking.

This needs a different set of questions and a different set of tools.

In the first phase of a crisis, you need to set priorities aggressively. This means a ruthless focus on the most important things and cutting/ignoring everything else. The first framework (below) is the sort of tool you can use to protect the essential parts of your mission. It tells you where to focus and what to ignore.

But once you’ve done that, you need to think more about what the future world looks like and your place in it. The world will change though it’s impossible to predict how. There will be new opportunities and threats. There’s a need for more creative strategic thinking.

Most of the time people tend to use the same approach to strategy regardless of the context.

The current moment shows why that doesn’t work. Lots of organisations have established daily briefings, “Gold Teams” and other special formats for making rapid decisions.

What got you through the first phase of crisis might not be right for the longer term.

As you think about the longer term, frameworks that incorporate external perspectives and your place in the world become more useful. The need to make aggressive short-term decisions doesn’t go away, but needs to supplemented.

The strategy palette (Martin Reeves) is useful in this context. We covered it in this article (https://www.firetail.co.uk/news/2019/5/2/how-is-strategy-changing)

Reeves argues that your environment, and your capacity to shape it, should determine your approach to strategy.

Environments differ along three axes: predictability — the extent to which you can forecast it; malleability — the extent to which you can shape it; and harshness — the extent to which you can survive it.

Right now most people are in environments that are unpredictable and harsh. The extent to which we can shape it is unknown. That puts most of us in the “Renewal” phase.

And the ways we think about renewal have to be different to the ways that we have thought about survival.

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