How to Managing Effectively in Uncertain Times

How to manage effectively in uncertain times

In response to the new wave of lockdowns, McKinsey have produced a new assessment of the best approach to manage in a crisis. It’s a long (and very interesting) read, and many of their conclusions relate to larger organisations than those who typically read my material. But I’ve spotted some very helpful ideas/concepts that are perhaps worth picking out:

1.) Challenge your assumptions

The crisis is so big and so beyond our experience that we can’t rely on our old assumptions. McKinsey pick up on five specific biases to be aware of:

  • Optimism bias
  • Informational instability
  • Wrong answers
  • Paralysis by analysis
  • Organisational exhaustion

2.) Transparent operating principles

These come to your aid in times of crisis. I think most of the businesses I have been working with are pretty transparent and have benefited from clear and open team communications.

3.) Let Long term planning take a back seat

Don’t abandon your plans but do have to make yourself more responsive, and be structured to allow that to happen.

A few very helpful ideas for this are buried in the article:

  • Cadence of management meetings needs to change to suit the situation
  • This may mean creating new processes, not simply having old meeting structures more frequently
  • Instigate iterative decision-making sessions structured around three imperatives: discover, design, execute. Most importantly, be practical.
  • Keep challenging assumptions (something I hear myself doing a lot with my clients right now)
  • Be informed – McKinsey suggest using consultants. Perhaps. But use your client and supplier facing teams to find out what is going on with your customers and your competitors
  • Create “red teams”. I’ve used these on pitches for years, but you could designate a team of challengers who have permission to challenge decision making.
  • Prioritise mitigating “worst case” scenarios and look for low friction, high impact actions.
  • Be decisive. Make conscious decisions and be deliberate (I promise I didn’t squeeze that into their report)

That’s not a bad list for managers in any circumstances, but right now – it pays to double down on these core principles. As ever, if you need any support or want to explore your response to the latest news, just get in touch.



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