The only thing we know for sure is that agile leaders who are comfortable with ambiguity will be key to organisational survival, writes Christine Elgood
A recent Institute of Directors survey found that a third of businesses haven’t started planning for Brexit. A dangerous place to be, yet understandable. Brexit is a behemoth of a challenge, posing a question to boards they have rarely had to answer: how can our company plan for something that’s never happened before?
It forces people into an uncomfortable and unusual position – thinking the unthinkable. Not everyone can boast they have the skills to conceptualise what the future might look like. It takes nerve.
Start planning. Waiting for the final decisions is commercial suicide. It’s far better to have formulated an opinion of what good, ok and bad looks like for your organisation and manage the realities as they emerge, than have to catch up with your competitors.
This brings us to step two: assess your organisation’s skills. This sort of planning calls for an agile mind, one that can re-evaluate things regularly and deal with ambiguity. It’s therefore essential that you have the right leadership skills involved in the process.
Can your managers think differently, or will they need help to do so? Often a facilitator, from inside or outside the company, can help to draw out the scenarios and their consequences. Still, that may not be enough. If your leaders prefer detail to concepts, give them a structure that unlocks creative thinking. Aside from the obvious brainstorming and lateral thinking, Edward de Bono’s ‘six thinking hats’ technique is helpful to turn to, as are business simulation games, which provide a safe way to test ideas when applied to very specific scenarios.
The final attribute needed is an ability to turn the ideas into a plan. It’s a learned trait so you may need to recognise that while some people have great ideas, they can’t apply them to the real world. Find people who can.