How to make smart decisions in a crisis with entrepreneurial leadership
The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the global community. The decisions of today will have far-reaching consequences for months, and possibly years to come. While it is important to be able to pivot quickly, especially in light of how rapidly the coronavirus has impacted everyday operations, it is also important to make sensible, rational decisions based on facts, logic and integrity, rather than knee-jerk reactions based on either panic or fear. In this time of uncertainty, it can be tempting for leaders to seize upon the first available course of action for the sake of doing something. But this approach frequently leads to scenarios where teams expend a great deal of energy simply spinning their wheels, rather than focusing on developing and implementing practical and equitable solutions. Leadership at every level is being tested in this time; knowing how to make smart decisions in a crisis will make all the difference in the days and weeks yet to come.
The Nature of a Crisis – “The Fog of War”
During training, military personnel become familiar with the concept of “the fog of war,” frequently credited to German General Carl von Clausewitz, though he did not coin the modern phrase. He refers to it in his book, Vom Kriege, published in 1832, as:
“War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”
In essence, the concept is fairly simple – the rapidly evolving nature of warfare makes it difficult for participants to understand or comprehend the full scope of their environment at any given time. Communications get garbled, inaccurate information is reported, and then acted upon, forces mistake their friends for their enemies, and vice versa, and so on. These and myriad other factors contribute to this “fog,” which makes it almost impossible to make accurate, thoughtful, and correct decisions.
Techniques to make smart decisions in a crisis
The coronavirus pandemic has unfolded in a way that is not unlike a military campaign, where the “enemies” are both the virus and the challenges of containment, and the “commanders” are organizational leaders attempting to combat or lessen the impact of these enemies. So, what can leaders do to make smart decisions in a crisis and counter-act the muddling effects of this situational “fog”?
1. Slow down.
While this may seem like a counter-intuitive reaction in a crisis, “haste makes waste” is a universal truism. A swift response is important, but making sure it is the correct swift response is even more vital. Before acting, take the time to analyze available information and consider it in the context of your enterprise, mission, clientele, employees, business partners, suppliers and so on. It is often impossible to see the whole picture, even outside a time of crisis, but availing yourself of all valid and relevant information regarding the crisis is the best place to start.
2. Anticipate the need to adapt.
As new information arises and the situation changes, you will inevitably have to alter your previously made plans and decisions. This is not a reflection on your decision-making abilities or leadership; it is simply the nature of events. Do not bog yourself down by trying to anticipate every possible outcome before it hits. Let tomorrow worry about itself. All you can do is to take the correct response for the moment based on the information you have today.
3. Be flexible.
When new information renders a plan or previously made decision irrelevant, don’t allow frustration to cloud your judgment. Simply take a deep breath and move on. Encourage your employees to do the same. Thank your clients and customers for their understanding and patience as you alter your position and practices to accommodate new developments.
4. Encourage innovation.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” A silver lining of any crisis is that there are usually opportunities for innovation on an exponential scale. Encourage your team to think of creative and equitable solutions for customers and internal processes. Entertain new and unprecedented ideas and methods of doing business – the crisis response of today may well be the standard operating procedure of tomorrow. Look for ways to capitalize on the innovation of your team so your organization can become a forerunner in providing new solutions and improvements to both your clientele and industry both during and after a crisis.
No one knows when this global event will come to an end, when restrictions will lift, or how these events will irrevocably change our future. However, each day and decision bring us one step closer to getting through this uncertain time. We may not know where the finish line is, but it is an irrefutable certainty that we will reach it eventually.
In addition to the information provided here, remember to regularly check the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and your local health district for the latest requirements, recommendations, and updates. We encourage you to make every effort to comply with their guidelines – the more we do today, the sooner this pandemic will come to an end.
We at Arrowhead Tribal wish you, your employees and your clients all the best. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact your broker or Tribal Risk Manager Mark Sherwood at [email protected] for more information about how to make smart decisions in a crisis. Stay healthy, stay safe!