Never let a good crisis go to waste

Author: Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

By anyone’s standards, the Covid-19 epidemic is a crisis. Whether we choose to act on it or not, every crisis contains the elements of opportunity. In both Chinese and Japanese Kanji characters, the word “crisis” is written with two symbols: danger and opportunity. We all have to make a choice to see the crisis as either danger or opportunity. True leaders agree with Winston Churchill: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

We have new opportunities in our new reality. Will we ever function with all of our employees onsite? Will we incorporate more online learning? Will Zoom and other web conferencing apps take the place of business travel? How can we transform this crisis into opportunities for our businesses?

There are five steps that transformational leaders are taking right now:

  1. Use the current crisis to accelerate long overdue changes. This crisis is not temporary; nothing will “return to normal.” Crises require that we change our mental models. For example, organizations dependent on multiple long meetings for decision making will find that social distancing and in-person meetings do not combine well. Instead, are there tools to quickly gather input prior to web meetings that will smooth and speed the decision-making process or at least shorten discussion?
  2. Re-examine and re-invent your business and revenue models. The need for a new strategic plan has never been greater. Just as your organization is becoming more digital, so is every customer, donor, supplier, referral source—and employee. The opportunities for efficiencies and cost savings abound.
  3. Truly become a digital organization. Invest in infrastructure. Brick and mortar channels are closed—and likely to close again due to future pandemics or other crises—so stop delaying. This is your chance to offer your customers real-time experiences and prevent disruptions in the future.
  4. Evaluate your talent management strategies. Organizations need adaptable employees at every level. This is your opportunity to incorporate assessments during the hiring process that verify adaptability, among other needed skills and competencies. Make adaptability a required competency. Train all employees for innovation, creativity and adaptability. Retrain your leaders at all levels in strategic thinking, critical decision making—and adaptability. As you reevaluate every department, select adaptable employees to stay.
  5. Use culture to assure your organization’s adaptability and resilience. Culture is values, processes, procedures and what employees do when no one is looking. What competencies—skills and behaviors—must your employees exhibit to enable them to deliver on the new requirements of your business? These competencies need to be defined and woven into every element of the employee life cycle to ensure that you are getting the outcomes that you so critically need. Recruiting/hiring, orientation, training/development, performance management, succession planning are all vital to your future success.

Our organizations are structured for the past. Organizations that insist on remaining the same will cease to exist. A crisis provides a genuine opportunity to rethink everything that we do. Transformational leaders are taking action now!

About the Author:

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP works with Progression Partners, a national leadership development and management consulting firm, as an Organization Development Advisor for change and talent management strategies.

Leave a Comment