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  • Writer's pictureTara Rethore

Ready to Manage the Unexpected?

Successful leaders and organizations routinely plan for and navigate the ups and downs of business. Often, they maintain risk and crisis management tools to guide response to a variety of known risks or typical uncertainties. (Read my related article: When Lightning Strikes.)

 

Managing uncertainty gets trickier when the nature of the uncertainty is unexpected.

 

Of course, we saw this during the 2020 pandemic. Everyone from shop floors to boardrooms, households, and beyond were forced to plot a course through uncharted waters. Even those who are deeply familiar with epidemics or major public health crises were caught somewhat flat-footed when the coronavirus took over. Existing plans and typical responses were non-existent or simply ill-equipped to handle the myriad unknowns of the situation. The uncertainty spread and infected behaviors right alongside the virus itself.

 

Through it all, leaders around the globe were expected to sort it out – quickly. To provide sound guidance, resources, and information about what was happening and the implications for our lives, work, and communities. Irrespective of the fact that the nature of the uncertainty was itself unexpected.

 

Leaders are expected to manage the unexpected.

 

Even in the best of circumstances, charting the course for business growth is challenging. (No wonder I published a book about it!) Unexpected events disrupt the plan, often necessitating an entirely new course and limiting the effectiveness of existing contingency plans or traditional crisis management techniques. Leaders adapt on the fly. They are expected to manage the unexpected, even as they navigate their own emotional reactions to the situation.


I advise (and often lead) executives to embrace scenario thinking as a key tool in managing uncertainty – particularly the unexpected kind. The art of looking at the future in a structured way, scenario thinking tells a story. It pulls together multiple uncertainties simultaneously. Grounded in data, scenario thinking is nevertheless more art than science. It incorporates imperfect data and both objective and subjective factors. The scenarios highlight how things work together to result in different possible outcomes.

 

Scenario thinking prepares you and your team to manage the unexpected as it happens.

 

In fact, this is what I discussed with hosts Pam Harper and Scott Harper during an episode of their award-winning Growth Igniters® Radio podcast. Together, we explored how scenario thinking can help you to chart the course and manage the unexpected. Listen to an audio excerpt below and the full episode here.


Leaders are expected to manage the unexpected. How well are you prepared?



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