One of the main challenges of major disruption is the fact that conditions tend to change so rapidly and unpredictably that the very protocols and processes that are an advantage during “business as usual” prove to be a liability during times of crisis. Among the top dangers that businesses must avoid is adherence to routine channels of organizational governance that delay urgent decision-making. For this reason, the order of the day during a crisis is the assembly of a network of specialized yet highly coordinated rapid-response teams.
At Pivot International, we’re a global product development and manufacturing firm with advanced supply chain solutions and rapid-response teams that have earned us a reputation as industry leaders for surmounting disruption. With nearly 50 years of experience across 12 industries and 7 locations worldwide, we leverage agile organizational structures and 200,000 square feet of manufacturing capability to help companies bring successful products to market, even under challenging conditions.
How can your organization assemble a rapid-response, disruption-resistant team for successfully navigating current and future disruption? Here are four steps.
1. Use a network structure to harness network intelligence.
Your rapid-response team should be created with a network (hub-and-spoke) structure, with a central unit functioning to direct and coordinate the insights gained through its various arms. A team with this structure harnesses the “network intelligence” that exceeds the sum of the individual members. The team must be supported to learn in real-time from the very challenges it is assembled to tackle. And to act quickly on the emerging opportunities the team identifies during this process, it must also be empowered with appropriate degrees of authority to operate independently of standard decision-making channels.
Three team-member types with cross-functional capabilities are of particular importance. First, an oversight type that brings holistic awareness to understanding the unfolding situation. Second, a planning type that identifies and explores various action-scenarios and their outcomes. Third, a customer-facing type that can bring key insights from the frontlines of this aspect of the business and industry.
Regardless of which type each member belongs to, they need to bring a proven track record of critical thinking and sound judgment. They also need to have demonstrated a willingness to rapidly revise their position in the face of new intel.
2. Act as coach, not quarterback
Following the assembly of this rapid-response team, the leader’s role is to ensure that well-coordinated communication is occurring across the network, as well as between it and the broader organization.
From here, the leader needs to step back from playing quarterback and assume the position of a coach that empowers his or her players to collaboratively innovate plays and run the ball accordingly. As a coach, leaders should foster teamwork, assist in identifying opportunities, and marshall resources — both tangible and psychological — for effective execution. The aim here is to step far enough back to communicate confidence (since over-involvement suggests mistrust) but to be available enough that the team feels the leader has its back.
This support can be best expressed by bringing open-ended questions to the table that provide a framework for keeping things on track and spurring critical analysis. For example, a leader might ask: What is your top challenge right now, and what resources can I provide that might solve for it? Are there conflicts between proposed courses of action, and how are they being reconciled? What are the latest learnings from customer-facing team members, and how are they being applied? To what degree, if any, are teams looking to me and other leaders to make decisions they have been empowered to make?
3. Foster a climate of safety and collaborative experimentation
Disruption, by definition, is a situation in which the usual strategies for success are no longer effective, and entirely new approaches must be innovated. For innovation to occur, however, a climate must be fostered in which the team feels safe enough to experiment with unpopular ideas, unusual approaches, and potentially risky courses of action.
Leaders need to come to terms with the paradox of needing to take smart risks to mitigate the dangers of disruption. They also need to openly show empathy for the anxiety that can naturally arise for teams as they attempt to rapidly innovate novel and often uncertain solutions to crisis situations. Team members should be assured that their willingness to entertain and take smart risks will be supported and even championed, even if the outcome is adverse.
4. Use the insights learned from navigating disruption to improve your organization.
It’s critical that your company not fall into the trap of thinking that navigating disruption has little to do with your everyday business operations. It’s a mistake to believe that after disruption resolves that things can (or should) go back to normal. Disruption is a crucial opportunity for applying key learnings not only to scenario planning but also to everyday business operations, as well as organizational culture.
Ideally, any significant disruption should not result in a return to “business as usual” but rather to a “new normal” in which the business is not only more resistant to disruption but also more agile, adaptive, innovative, and ultimately competitive in times of calm and crisis alike.
If you’re seeking short- or longer-term solutions for surmounting disruption, Pivot can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you successfully navigate the current crisis and fortify your business for the future.