In Business Performance

As organizations resume operations, they risk leaving behind valuable lessons. Smart organizations will mine their crisis experience to discover crucial lessons and create a significant competitive advantage.

The corona crisis has accelerated the success of some industries (telehealth, e-commerce) and failure of others (retail, hospitality).

COVID-19 is really more of an accelerant than it is a change agent, and that is, the future’s just happening, playing out the same way; it’s just being pulled forward faster. — Scott Galloway

That means the next organization to lead your industry is leveraging the coronavirus by reflecting on their experience and implementing the lessons learned to create their future.

Reflection, not experience, is the best teacher. — John Maxwell

In other words, whether your organization conducts a “post-mortem” of its crisis experience today may determine whether it survives the future.

Here are three important areas your post-mortem should dive into:

Your decision-making process

Organizations are a sum of their decisions. To better understand where your organization missed the mark this time and what you can do better next time, you must carefully analyze your decision-making process. Here’s how to start.

Choose three members of your crisis management team to memorialize each question considered and decision made. Their task is to go back in time and document each significant decision the team faced, what was discussed at the time, and the ultimate decision. What matters is understanding the decision-making process — not the outcome.

Then, gather your entire crisis management team for a series of consecutive meetings. Their task will be to leverage this hindsight to uncover learnings. Here are some questions your crisis management team should discuss:

  • What are the common denominators with decisions we made well, and not so well?
  • What question(s) did we have to return to over and over again (ie. what was the problem that led to the problem)?
  • What delayed our decision-making the most (ie. bureaucracy, lack of information, fear, etc.)?
  • Could we have delegated some decisions? Would a decision-making matrix have simplified our process and help us avoid fatigue?
  • What steps did we take to remove emotion from our decisions and protect against blindspots?
  • Who did we fail to include in our decision-making process (ie. government authorities, frontline staff, competitors, etc.)?

Leveling up your people

Your post-mortem will reveal steps your organization could have taken to be better prepared (ie. emergency stockpiles). Similarly, it will highlight how your organization can better equip its people for the future.

To understand how your organization can level up its people and create a significant competitive advantage, ask yourself:

  • Where did we fail our people?
  • What skills could we have helped our team members develop before hand so they would be better suited to deal with the crisis (ie. resilience training, relaxation techniques, etc.)?
  • What professional or technical skills could we have taught our workforce in anticipation of a crisis — to work within the organization but in a different role, or in the event they are laid off?
  • How could we foster the right environment for our frontline staff to think creatively every day?
  • What did our frontline staff learn from this experience, and what changes would they suggest to their roles, departments and organization?

We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training. — Archilochus

Further, crisis present clear opportunities to identify future leaders. Managers will witness team members step up, make smart decisions and support others. To identify future leaders in your organization ask yourself:

  • Who reacted well to ambiguity and adapted quickly?
  • Who had profound insights that helped us make better decisions?
  • Who remained calm, while offering support and direction to peers?
  • Who added value intentionally to others on a consistent basis?

Act now

The value of your post-mortem depends on how quickly your organization applies the lessons learned from the crisis.

Action, and action now. — FDR

To convert today’s crisis into a significant competitive advantage tomorrow, your organization must invest in itself now.

Here are some questions to spur your organization to action:

  • What immediate steps could we take to benefit from the opportunities presented by this crisis?
  • How could we communicate more effectively, transparently and vulnerably with our teams today?
  • In what areas can we strengthen our relationships and establish closer collaboration with our partners (suppliers, recruiters, distributors, etc.)?
  • Competitively, are we willing to take risks and overreact when others retrench?

Reflecting on how your organization reacted to the crisis, investing in your team members, and moving forward while everyone retreats are all easier said than done. Understandably, since so much of our future is uncertain, the safest argument is “now is not the right time.” On the other hand, history repeatedly teaches us that it’s precisely during a crisis that the time is ripe.

This time is no different. Organizations that immediately apply the lessons learned during this crisis and invest in the future will enjoy a significant competitive advantage. While those that “wait and see” and attempt to “return to normal” will fuel their competitor’s advantage.

About the Author

Rodrigo is an attorney turned entrepreneur. His most recent company is www.happyatwork.co. You can find him on twitter @rlope.

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