Managing A Crisis
By its very definition, a crisis is something no one could not have seen coming. Crises are fundamentally unpredictable and in a perfect world, we would never have to deal with them. But crises do happen, and it is our duty to continue with life to the best of our abilities. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with crises and if these new ways are applied, then we stand a good chance of weathering the storm.
In “good times,” we have a set of methods we use to solve problems, and a standard way of operating. In a crisis, these methods will not work, but as creatures of habit we continue to use our old methods to give ourselves a sense of security. This does more harm than good – we only get stuck in the sand while trying to get ourselves out.
We must now take a step back and ask the important question: Given our new problems, can we still use our solutions we used for old problems?
The answer is obvious – those solutions will no longer deliver results. Crises fundamentally change every aspect of our lives, especially the way a business is run. It is imperative that we apply methods that work well in a crisis situation, and temporarily suspend methods that work well in good times.
Now comes the next question: What do I need to do? To help you with the answers you seek, we bring you a series of articles covering a variety of important HR processes. Each of these processes needs to be managed very differently using crisis solutions, till we return to our “new normal” – post COVID-19.
Managing Performance in a Crisis
Many basic principles of performance management continue to apply, but it is vital that we fundamentally change the way we manage performance during a crisis.
MAKE DECISIONS – SET DIRECTION
In normal times, we focus on ensuring we make the right decisions based on information we can obtain. But in the current scenario, things are fundamentally unpredictable. There is either too much information or not enough information, but we still need to make decisions. Our previous experience tells us to wait till we have the right information – and all the information – before we make a decision. In this crisis however, it is important to make a decision with limited information and set a direction. Any decision is better than no decision! This has the effect of calming team members and giving them something to focus on, even if it is not the perfect decision.
SHORTEN THE PLANNING HORIZON
In good times, we set annual goals and targets, and even go so far as to set medium and long-term goals – 3 year and 5-year plans. But this only works because in good times we can make reasonable predictions about the future. Again, given our limited information, it is important to focus on a much shorter time horizon. Set monthly, weekly, and even daily targets and plans. This allows for more frequent review and a better feedback loop, which in turn makes it easier to change direction, or refocus energy and effort.
Our experience from the good times tells us that performance plans need to focus on outcomes or objectives. But in a crisis, it is more appropriate to measure the effort.
We encourage our teams to maximise their effort. Remember, during a crisis they continue to put in the same quantity of effort than earlier. Outcomes will not be the same as they were pre-crisis, because crises have a profound impact on the daily lives of everyone – and that definitely includes our employees.
We also encourage our teams to put in quality effort, and in this crisis it is imperative that we monitor, measure and recognize the quality of the effort our teams put in.
Most importantly, we must ensure that the effort is always aligned with the plan, and pointed in the right direction. Measuring the direction of those efforts will allow us as leaders to make the required course corrections and steer our teams successfully through the crisis.