GUEST POST from Phil Buckley
Workplace change has never been at a higher rate or faster pace than now. Everything from consumer preferences to product sourcing models is in flux. ‘Reinvention,’ ‘transformation,’ and ‘disruption’ are popular terms to describe how private and public organizations are evolving to accommodate changing operating environments, stakeholder expectations and regulatory requirements. Leaders and their teams must enable multiple, complex changes when most organizational practices are obsolete and the future is at best uncertain.
In today’s dynamic environment, many leaders default to strategies that have worked under very different conditions. Relying on past practices to solve present challenges is often naive and highly risky. Other leaders instinctively select courses of action that feel right or appear credible based on limited or easily available data. In these cases, the speed of response and hope for simple solutions trump rigorous assessment and disciplined evaluation.
Addressing Uncertainty with No Regret Decisions
A pragmatic way to move forward through unknown conditions is to identify ‘no regret’ decisions. A no regret decision provides a net benefit under any future scenario. For example, building awareness of sanitation and hygiene good practices at the beginning of the pandemic was a no regret decision because it benefited people even if the virus didn’t spread through surface contact.
The Benefits of No Regret Decisions
There are four benefits of making no regret decisions. The first is they align stakeholders to a course of action. There is strength in agreement that leads to positive team dynamics and a foundation of success to build upon.
The second is that no regret decisions move a team from a static state to one of motion. Success in change is not about being perfect; it’s about responding to circumstances based on available information, identifying options, and selecting the best way forward. Delaying action is rarely a good strategy during change because issues amplify with time—speed of execution matters; inactivity is harmful. Taking action transitions people from being observers to participants, preparing them to address future time-bound situations and make bigger decisions. Momentum is a source of strength that ignites future efforts.
Creating a fact-base is essential to understanding the interplay of environmental factors that lead to analysis, hypotheses, and action. The third benefit is it provides opportunities to test and learn, to challenge assumptions and modify strategies to deliver the highest value.
The fourth benefit is the building of confidence of individuals and teams. They foster a belief in capabilities, decision-making process, and a high probability of success. Also, taking concrete actions minimizes the “fight, flight, or freeze” effect triggered by uncertainty. It renews people’s belief in their abilities and avoids the emotional responses of self-doubt and fear that come with unknown or vague circumstances.
No Regret Decision Examples
What decisions provide net benefits regardless of future outcomes? Capability development is an enabler of performance. The current focus on resiliency training is an example of equipping people with mindsets, tools, and behaviors, irrespective of the emerging scenarios. Critical thinking, ideation and creativity are other skills that add value when addressing all forms of hyper-change.
Simplifying and standardizing processes is another no regret decision. The decision-making process is a good example of how a consistent framework leads to shared understanding, assessment, and alignment on actions. When people use the same process, they follow the same rules and speak the same language. The symmetry of the approach leads to clarity and agreement.
Soliciting customer feedback to inform strategy development and execution offers benefits regardless of the operating environment. It is easy to skip this step of intelligence gathering when faced with multiple, complex changes requiring quick responses. The risk of doing so is that solutions don’t address client needs, risking relationships and sales.
Leaders and their teams are navigating business environments never seen before. Internal and external realities require them to rethink their operating models and pivot their strategies, initiatives, and resources to achieve their performance goals. Making no regret decisions enables them to align stakeholders on actions that lead to positive outcomes. They also provide the opportunity to test assumptions and hypotheses and refine the understanding of marketplace dynamics. The forward motion and small gains generated by no regret decisions build the confidence of individuals and teams to face challenges head-on to mitigate risks and seize opportunities.
The only regret from this type of decision is not making them. What no regret decisions can you make to help you lead through hyper-change?
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