Uncertainty triggered by the disruption caused by coronavirus has becoming the prevailing mood at both a social and business level, with both SMEs and large corporations suddenly facing tricky situations of which they know the cause but not the solution. So, how can we make the right decisions in times in which uncertainty reigns supreme? What should companies do? What should people do?
The coach and business transformation specialist, Georgina Barquin, discussed this topic in a conference broadcast on LinkedIn, entitled“Agility and decision-making in uncertain times”. Would you like to hear her tips and insight? Let’s find out!
“Uncertainty is the degree of aversion or anxiety that a person feels about the future as a result of not being able to control the future”, explained the coach. However, our aversion to or rejection of uncertainty varies between people and cultures, as it depends on various aspects, such as the context, for instance. As a country, she added that Spain is quite averse to uncertainty and, although the population is spontaneous and happy, there is a general order established with clear hierarchies and processes that are applied in an attempt to control the future. “This need to have everything regulated promotes routines and comfort zones”, which is why, in countries that are less averse to uncertainty, we see more entrepreneurship.
So, how have companies responded to the threat generated by the state of emergency? To give us an overview, the speaker distinguished between companies that are more averse to uncertainty on the one side, and companies that are more open to change on the other.
Companies that are highly averse to uncertainty
- In these companies, the state of emergency has caused stress, anxiety, turmoil and uncertainty, and no decisions were made.
- These companies tend to have a large hierarchy and big groups that make decisions.
- There was also a lot of confusion as it was not clear what each person’s responsibilities were in the transition process.
- There is a generalized fear of making unpopular decisions, leading to further reliance on the hierarchical structure for any initiative.
- Mistakes are penalized, which is why there is little entrepreneurship.
- There is a lack of continuous communication.
Companies that are not very averse to uncertainty
- In response to the state of emergency, they took the worst-case scenario and asked themselves what would happen if they had to close. Ten days before the official announcement, they started establishing processes to adapt to the coming transition.
- The companies promote freedom of decision, but with lots of personal responsibility for the decisions that the individuals make.
- They make decisions, and also mistakes, which they rectify over time. Mistakes are not penalized but rather detected and corrected.
- The team’s message focus on the unity of the team. They are transparent and identify shortcomings to devise lines of action.
This reality gives rise to a lot of doubts, so what can we do to adopt a more active attitude in response to uncertainty? What can we do as companies to streamline decision-making? To achieve this, Barquin explained that, most importantly, we have to work on the organizational culture, because it holds the answers to our question.
What changes can we make? Here are her tips:
- Make lateral promotions: Lateral promotions are job promotions or internal changes within companies which mean that employees have to work in a different department or area. This experience enables them to embrace new challenges, continue growing and, therefore, get a more in-depth insight into digital transformation.
- Learning-based promotions: These are not only based on doing course, but also acknowledging and promoting employees who really put new knowledge into practice to boost business growth. It has been shown that, as well as motivating employees, this type of promotion strengthen the culture of responsibility and encourages them to get increasingly involved in decision-making.
- Foster flexitime: Flexibility generates a results-oriented and task-focused mindset, which reduces the emphasis on the in-person work ethic and highlights efficiency. Flexible working hours not only leads to happier employees, but also a more productive and capable organization. Therefore, to create a healthier organizational culture that facilitates employee development, flexibility has to be a key factor.
- Proposals for continuous improvement: Getting employees involved in decision-making reinforces their sense of belonging and responsibility. Therefore, it is a good idea to hold meetings in which everyone can put forward proposals in relation to important decisions. This kind of proposal is crucial for building trust, and strengthening self-esteem and communication, which are essential for any organizational culture.
- Career development with individual involvement: Companies have to offer employees a route to continue growing, but they should not be imposed by the company’s objectives, but rather they should take into account the employee’s desires and professional goals. As a result, a balance can be struck in which both the company and the employee benefit. As we know, employees are the foundation of which the company is built so, if it has a team that is satisfied and well-prepared team, the company’s culture will be as well, making it easier to make progress.
- Dismantle the hierarchy with crossover projects: Crossover projects are similar to lateral promotions but, in this case, it is not a matter of changing department or area, but rather changes in the hierarchy. How? We can run projects in which the Department Director has to take on the role of the subordinate. As a result, another employee takes charge and the roles are swapped. As well as improving communication, this type of practice strengthens relations and lays the foundations for trust and equality that are so crucial to all business cultures.
Lastly, the lecturer moved on from the business side of things and focused on the process that must be undertaken at a person level to tackle uncertainty and have a positive attitude with respect to change. To achieve this, she explained that “we must remember that we all have an ego and, when we feel threatened, we enter into our fight or defensive mode, which makes it hard to make good decisions”. Therefore, she concluded that we have to be aware of our fear and keep our self-esteem and values in line. If we do, we will make the right decisions.