I used to think that I could build a perfectly structured company in which everything would be neat and tidy. I tirelessly designed and organized the company to ensure the structure would be failproof. Little by little, that idea was slowly torn apart as I discovered how little is actually in my control. The world and life itself can change in an instant. An organization will be put under stress and sometimes experience failures no matter how organized it is.
At times the changes may come slowly and are easier to adapt to. Other times, a circumstance may be a game changer and can present itself unexpectedly, to which we have no choice but to adapt. Given that this is how the world operates, how can we succeed in the middle of all this uncertainty? How do we operate effectively in a world that sometimes makes no sense? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some strategies I’ve been experimenting with for some time.
Building a resilient organization is one of the ways to better navigate the ups and downs that surround your company. A resilient organization is flexible: it can adapt to the circumstances and adjust as the context shifts. It can recover from failures quickly and readjust to better respond to what’s happening around it. Sometimes it will return to a similar arrangement as before, but it will inevitably shift.
For example, if a key employee takes an unexpected leave of absence, a resilient organization will have the ability to reorganize and maintain a similar level of efficiency in its new configuration. This adaptability is possible because perhaps there are other employees trained in the same area, the processes in that department are well-documented, and the company’s software fully supports the entire area. If a new employee eventually has to be hired, the organization can quickly onboard and get the new hire trained.
A resilient organization is also strong. The networks and underlying software systems and processes are solid enough that they all can weather change. They don’t depend on any given person but are instead institutionalized, which is why I think founders and CEOs should prepare a succession plan the minute they take the reins in any organization. One can never know how things will change, so the company, ideally, should be able to stand on its own.
Creativity and Imagination
Undoubtedly, life throws all kinds of curveballs. Each one often requires a different solution. This is where creativity comes in. Imagination will provide answers and ideas that address any issue. Try brainstorming and thinking outside the box; ask people who might bring a fresh perspective. Dealing with change often requires the exploration of new approaches.
Sometimes, there is not one unique answer. A change or a problem may require a range of solutions. Safe-to-fail experiments are useful in these circumstances. These are tests you can perform to see if they help solve the problem, but if they don’t go well, they shouldn’t cause damage to the organization. These controlled experiments will help you probe the circumstances around you to experiment and learn from them.
Listening and Paying Attention
We can learn so much from the events around us and in conversations with people we know. Sometimes it is best to take no action and just listen to what is happening around us, which can be difficult for many. Simply sitting back and listening is often the best course of action. It can provide useful information about what is occurring and help us act, when we are ready, in the best way possible.
Finally, just recognizing that we are navigating through changeable waters is helpful. Unfortunately, not everything is in our control. We can, however, get better at dealing with uncertainty. Ideally, we can adapt to setbacks and changes quickly and reconfigure our companies to better deal with the unknown.