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Weathering The Winds Of Change

Post Date: March 17th, 2010

A Phoenix Business Journal Article

By George Cappannelli

This time of global uncertainty presents those of us in the business community with a significant number challenges and a number of very distinct and valuable opportunities.  From my perspective both require careful consideration of what is best summarized in the phrase – Right Action! 

To find “right action” I believe we need be particularly conscious of the distinct dangers present within the challenges and alert to unique aspects of the opportunities.  Most especially, we need listen a lot less to the noise that passes for advice and counsel in this media mad our world, alot more to the wisdom that comes from that place within us; that source that offers our best and truest guidance.  In fact, I believe there is nothing we can do that is better or more certain as a protection against being overwhelmed by the turbulence of this historical moment, confused by the complexity of shifting events or moved to act hastily by the superficial trends that sweep across our media landscape, trends that often exacerbate the confusions rather than contribute to genuine solutions.

By ‘right action’ I also mean more than supporting an appropriate national or global response against so called ‘foreign enemies’ or some new aspect of the world's economic instability.  Our government is already engaged in doing some of this.  And while there are genuine questions about the validity or effectiveness of this strategy vs. that, the fact is, the decisions are being made by those we have elected and who are, at least some of the time, closer to the situation and in a better position to act than we are.

So what I mean by “right action” is not so much these more global responses to various threat or events, but instead the things that each of us can do each day in both our business and personal lives; things that can contribute to the process of achieving economic, social and political stability.  

As a result of the work I do with a number of leaders and executive teams from a wide range of private and public sector organizations, I realize that since the events of September 11th first reshaped our landscape, many of us allow our responsibilities, fueled by the frustrations and pressures of this complex time, to prompt us to seek solace in what we call “business as usual”.  And while such action may seem to be a good antidote for our anxiety and our restlessness, I do not believe the search for what was will serve us very well over the long run in dealing with what is and what will be.  

In fact, I do not believe the thing called “business as usual” exists any longer.  Instead I believe that we are embarking on a new period in our history as a nation, as individuals and as organizations.  It is a period that requires new levels of courage, patience and discernment; one that calls for the exercise of new skills (particularly right brain skills like imagination, intuition and insight) and new levels of understanding.  It is a period that in which the games is being played by new rules and many of us have new roles.  Above all, it is a game that requires a critical re-examination of our national, organizational and individual visions.  It also calls for a much deeper commitment or recommitment to the core values that support these actions.  

With this in mind, I offer a few thoughts regarding the public conversation that I believe must take place in all corners of this country and in every business and family if we hope to emerge from this and other challenges stronger and more renewed, clearer and with a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

Deal With What Is & Not With What Was
 
No matter how resilient you believe the people in your organization are, please remember that life as we know it will not go back to normal.  “Normal” is in the process of being redefined.  Keeping this awareness present and allowing it to shape your organization’s current business practices and future strategies will be very important.    

Allow Time To Find Your Center
 
It is the American way to get up and get going.  It is part of our strength, but the process of healing after any time of crisis has four or five stages and a timing all its own.  Denial, anger, sadness, sometimes depression and finally, acceptance are the precursors to healing.  So encourage people in your organization to gather together to talk about their feelings, explore their concerns and participate in various forms of ritual, team and community building.  In short, if you want your organization to emerge from this time of challenge with real strength, pay attention to the rules of healing.
 
Align Your Vision and Values
 
Clearly the turbulence we are passing through is a wakeup call for each of us. Those of us who use this opportunity to redefine what is important to us, to sharpen our awareness of our interdependence as members of this business community and to examine the relevance of our policies, products, services and our values, will gain significantly.  So revisit your company vision, evaluate its relevance in the face of this changing world and then refine and readjust it if and as necessary.  It is equally essential to review core values and evaluate if they are as powerful and relevant as they need to be.  
 
Support Teaming At All Levels
 
There has never been a time when teaming has not been critical to our success but, as a result of the shifting events in our world, teaming – at all levels – is even more essential.  Like oxygen, it is the fuel that will help our companies weather the current challenges and build more sustainable, powerful and productive platforms for the future.  Teaming will increase communication, enhance performance and increase productivity.   It will dramatically improve collaboration, cooperation, and resource and information sharing at all levels.  
 
Re-size Your Organization With Caring & Consciousness
 
In this time many of organizations will need to do the same or even more work with fewer people.  The manner in which your organization executes this reorganization will, however, have enormous long-term impact on the well being of the organization, on the psychological and emotional stability of the people who remain, and most clearly, on the lives of those who leave.  While there is no magic formula for this always-challenging task, your organization would be wise to take great care in this process.  If your union rules allow it, asking everyone to tighten their belts may make it possible for a larger number of people to stay.  Where downsizing is essential, go beyond the usual policies and guidelines for separation.  Provide people with increased severance packages, offer increased professional support services and, where possible, personalized interaction with whoever is responsible for their separation. 
Rely On Strategic Planning, Group Brainstorming  & Out of The Box Thinking. 
 
The well being of your organization is always dependent on strategic planning, collaborative brainstorming and out of the box thinking.  But in this time these tools will be more than essential.  Take full advantage of the collective wisdom present at all levels of your organization to identify new lines of business, new services, strategic partnerships with your customers and even your competitors, new uses for your products and services, new definitions of roles and work flow, new ways of outsourcing and more.

Utilize Both Right And Left Brain Competencies

Our world has changed.  As a result the skills and competencies needed to survive and prosper will also be different.  Reason, logic, analysis and planning skills will continue to be valuable.  However, at every level of your organization, there will also be a greater need for right brain skills – insight, intuition, imagination, creativity and more.  To gain access to these skills it is helpful to remember that doing is not as important as not doing, talking is less effective then listening, and noise is less valuable than silence.   
 
Invest In Continuous Improvement & Learning 

In challenging times the tendency is to revert to managing by the numbers.   While fiscal responsibility is always valuable and essential, managing by the numbers is always a limited and short sighted practice.  Your organization’s vital health and stability requires a constant and continuous investment in continuous improvement and learning.  This has never been more true than at this time in our history when we sorely need new skills and new levels of motivation to refocus, rebalance and re-new.   

Seek A Balance Between Your Personal And Your Professional Life

In times like these, it is easy to forget that beyond the walls of your office, you have a family, friends and a community that require your engagement, attention and caring.   Focus on the inside as well as outside, on your physical, emotional and spiritual health as well as your mental acuity, on your personal as well as your professional relationships, on your personal well being as well as your corporate bottom line.  

I hope these reminders are of some help during this very challenging time.  I leave you with a quote by Peter Drucker that inspires much of our work – “If you want to know the future, invent it!”

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