Embracing an Uncertain Environment

One of the core capabilities of successful companies, leaders and individual contributors is their ability to manage, operate and lead in an ambiguous environment and take advantage of this as a tool to create new products, services, processes, and solutions. Without a doubt, these are uncertain times and when things are not clear, there are possibilities to forge new territories, shape opportunities and configure “what if” scenarios about the possible outcomes. Here are some tips to help make the best of an uncertain environment:

  1. Recognise the Skills that are Needed

The first step toward harnessing uncertainty and our changing environment is to recognise the skills that are essential at this time: problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and creativity. Moments like this call for non-traditional solutions to problems, agility and the ability to maintain focus on the bigger picture. In the complex and uncertain environment of a sustained, evolving crisis, the most robust organisations are not those that simply have plans in place but those that have continuous sensing and response capabilities. By prioritising out-of-the-box thinking to solving, the goal is not to create specific rules for responding to specific threats but to practice new ways of problem-solving in an unpredictable and fast-changing environment.

  1. Embrace Change

Change in the workplace demands a fresh approach – what worked under normal conditions may not be so effective now. Companies need to develop the ability to rapidly evaluate ongoing changes in the environment and develop responses based on simple principles. This means that companies need a global network of people drawn from throughout the organisation that can coordinate and adapt as events unfold, reacting immediately and appropriately to disruptions such as lapses in communication inside and outside the organization and losses of physical and human resources. The key is to quickly cycle through a process of sensing threats, coordinating, responding, and then sensing again – engaging in creative and collaborative yet disciplined problem solving on the fly.

  1. Prioritise Time to Reflect

It can be tempting that once things normalise to go back to business as usual, but it is important to conduct a postmortem.  Be prepared to seek feedback from colleagues who will give an honest appraisal of what could have been done differently in their departments and overall and discuss alternative, more innovative approaches you may not have previously considered in the event a similar situation arises. Make reflection a habit within the organisation going forward by encouraging employees to consider what worked effectively each week with your team, and where things could have been done better.

Most people do not like ambiguity or uncertainty, which are major sources of anxiety, but these are also facts of life in this fast-changing world. Often you will have to make decisions without having all the facts you need or knowing with any certainty what will happen. But, if you are willing to accept ambiguity and uncertainty and use those to help identify solutions to novel problems, you ultimately enhance the value of your organization as a solutions-provider. Learning to improvise and adapt to different and unexpected situations will give you important skills that will help your organisation fair the turbulence and thrive once normalcy returns.

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