In the days that follow a long-term crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic the world is still experiencing in August (which started in the U.S. in March), a leader has an opportunity to truly move his or her organization forward in a way that will either lead to desired results or a deadly lack thereof. Yesterday on the blog we talked about the day after the announcement of a long-term crisis event. For many of us, this happened this past March as companies suddenly went digital with most, if not all, employees working from home. Store hours changed and restaurants and gyms completely shut down. School halls were suddenly silent as curriculum went online. When such abrupt change comes upon us, how do we ensure that we continue to provide for our stakeholders in the same way that we did before? How can we calculate moves and next steps in a way that is positive and productive despite the dire circumstances that surround us?
Yesterday we examined the relationship between an organization's mission, vision, strategy and values. Today, let's look at specifically how strategy and productivity have a unique relationship that can breed the positive momentum forward leaders so highly desire during a time of intense and rapid change.
The relationship between strategy and productivity
In the day following the announcement of a long-term crisis, we know that a leader must turn back to the company vision. If we do not concentrate on the what - re-centering our focus on the why - we cannot possibly get the how correct. If a leader takes the time to break down the company vision, assess the needs of the various parts, and create goals to support the parts of the vision in need, then the leader automatically sets the stage for the how to organically develop next steps. Goals lead to natural benchmarks, and benchmarks lead to the development of strategic to-dos. This creates a long-term and short-term plan to keeps the company's vision in focus, despite the uncertain times around it. Although a leader may not be confident about his or her circumstances, a clearly articulated and focused plan will breed competence in the minds of a leader's most dire critics.
So, what does it look like to break down goals into both long and short-term plans? Again, we revisit Wiggins' idea of backwards design. We simply have to begin with the end in mind.
Yesterday, when we broke down my school's vision of every child, every day, prepared to meet life's challenges, it was clear to us that we had to know and understand who "every child" was to us. We realized that we needed to look at ways to keep our special education and 504 students afloat, as well as attend to students with pre-existing and yet-to-be-determined academic needs. We also had to address students with chronic health problems, or those living with family members with chronic health concerns. We also needed to be mindful of students who would not transition as naturally to the online environment, such as students without technology, students coming from broken families, and those who depended on our lunch service for perhaps one of their only meals of the day. Once we considered our students' individual needs, however, the goals flowed naturally. Now, we just needed a way to envision how to get them all done.
If you are careful to write your goals as SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) you are already a step ahead of the game. When you focus on the time-bound nature of each goal, leaders can create a road map by setting up a calendar of events indicating when each goal must be achieved by and working backwards from there. For example, in yesterday's scenario, we knew that when we developed our goals on July 8th that by July 31st students in need of technology would need to have Chromebooks in their hands. Thus, we needed to create a technology survey, put a deadline on responses, sort responses, attain the necessary number of Chromebooks, send parent communication regarding distribution and ensure an efficient distribution process. By working backwards, we identified responsible parties for each of the aforementioned tasks and then gave each task a deadline to be accomplished. We did this for each of our goals on a printed calendar so that we could identify what we needed to accomplish each week and, consequently, each day.
As a leader, I am a big fan of continuing to follow processes and routines that I know work in my daily life when a crisis occurs. Thus, being a fan of the Full Focus Planner (another amazing tool by Michael Hyatt), I have adopted the process of creating quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals. I follow the Big 3 format, focusing on no more than three big tasks at a time. Although I still have other to-dos each day and each week, I know that I have to accomplish my Daily and Weekly Big 3 in order to maintain positive forward momentum towards my goals. Adopting some such structure in a crisis by working backwards from your goals (derived from your vision) will keep your organization running fluidly and in alignment with your core values despite the crisis occurring in the outside world.
To recap the entire process for productivity spawned from strategy:
1. Revisit the vision.
2. Break down the vision.
3. Create goals.
4. Map the goals on a calendar.
5. Break the goals into individual tasks or to-dos.
6. Assign the appropriate parties to the individual to-dos.
7. Map the to-dos on the calendar.
8. Watch productivity flourish.
Although leaders may not have much to keep them confident during times of uncertainty, by creating a strategic plan in alignment with the vision that the company and its constituents already know and value, a leader can project competence, which is worth more than false aplomb, even in a time of crisis. Remember that, as Brené Brown says, "Clear is kind." An articulate plan breeds clarity of purpose. And our purpose? Well, now we're back to our what and our why.
Linger a Little Longer:
1. How is writing a SMART goal advantageous to a leader during crisis? Are there any cons to this goal-writing approach?
2. What part of today's new learning is the most challenging? How do you typically schedule tasks in a productive way?
3. Discuss your current relationship with strategy and productivity. What are some practices you can put in place pre-crisis that might support you when a crisis emerges for you and your team?