Business Organisations love predictability and control. The COVID-19 pandemic has left them without both. After gaining a modicum of breathing space, they are mulling over their options. What do we do next?
After a disruptive & disorienting shock, a natural comfort move is for organisations to fall back into familiar routine and feel in control. If resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back to the normal state, the going back to routine does seem like going back to normal.
However, being insistent on routines may be a less than optimal response.
When we have no faith in the future we incline to arrange our lives so that we can predict the future. We either make of our existence a rigid routine or pile up all manner of defences to make it secure. The craving for security stems from a need for predicatibility, and its intensity is in inverse proportion to our faith in the future.
The strategies and plans these organisations had made before COVID-19 and the systems and processes that have been instituted for execution, all of this is held in a big container, called the context. The context is like the atmosphere. When the skies are clear and a light breeze is blowing, we go about our activities completely oblivious to the presence of a clear sky and the light breeze. We scarcely acknowledge that the sky and the wind can dictate terms to us about our presence, our way of being. But when there is a cloudburst or a hurricane, the atmosphere overwhelms us and we run for cover. That is the power of an all-powerful context.
When the context changes, the container in which all organisational activity plays out has been shaken up. You need to take a mindful pause and reassess everything. Organisational leaders who are in a hurry to feel a measure of predictability and control in the proceedings want to quickly stitch together a routine that looks at new realities ( where are we now) using the same vantage point of strategies and plans ( where do we want to go). This routine is nothing but a quest for certainty that blocks the search for meaning, as Eric Fromm wisely observed. Organisational leaders dis-empower themselves in fast embracing a routine.
This falling back to routine is possible because there is a pre-configured logic in place that quickly allows leaders to press the reset button, and lo, the default factory settings are restored and business sense-making can resume. But, that’s yesterday’s logic.
And as Peter Drucker said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”