Here be dragons! When making maritime maps, ancient cartographers would use this phrase to describe the areas beyond the known world. Perhaps some actually believed that dragons inhabited these unexplored frontiers. Perhaps others were fearful of these uncharted waters and simply chose to represent them using the most dreadful metaphor they could muster.
Like a map, an organizational strategy is supposed to help a team successfully navigate from their current location into the uncertain future. Such a future could be full of hazards, risks, and threats. It could also be full of new opportunities. And while no particular future is ever guaranteed, there are certainly ways to increase the odds of creating the future we want—a future where hazards are avoided, risks are mitigated, threats are neutralized, and opportunities are seized. As Peter Drucker reminds us, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” So let’s get creative.
While we all must do what we can to survive through the current pandemic, leaders must also look forward to secure their organization’s future. As we examine what life could be like beyond the immediate needs of the here and now, we have a choice to make. We could choose to return to our pre-pandemic routines—for better or worse. Or, we could interrogate our reality and build a better future. How do we interrogate our reality? By doing what any good detective would do: by asking the right questions. And asking many small questions can lead to big answers:
- Are we properly oriented to the situation? Do we understand the environment we are in?
- Have we conducted an After Action Review (AAR) regarding our crisis response thus far?
- Are we capturing lessons-learned and evaluating the utility of our current processes? What worked? What did not work?
- Do we have a robust succession plan?
- Have we reconstituted our back-up options to conduct critical tasks?
- What were we doing before that we should cease doing?
- Are there things that we continued doing that could be improved still?
- Are there things that we started doing as part of our crisis response that we want to keep?
- Have our team-work behaviours changed (collaboration, problem solving, trust)?
- Have our communication patterns changed (up, down, and across the hierarchy)?
- Have our processes pertaining to defining and managing goals / priorities changed?
- Have our reward and recognition habits changed?
- What new hazards, risks, and threats lie ahead?
- What new opportunities lie ahead?
- Do we have the courage to change?
Yogi Berra once said, “the future isn’t what it used to be.” Yet I’m not so sure. Too often, we fail to learn what history teaches, thereby ensuring that our future ends up resembling our past. This is regress, not progress. Maybe the phrase should be, “the future doesn’t have to be what it used to be.” But this only happens if we consciously strategize in the present to enable a transition forward in the future. To do otherwise is akin to leaving our odds of a successful future to chance.
Maybe there will be dragons. Maybe there won’t be. Either way, let’s be prepared.
At The Gasparotto Group our programs give individuals the tools to lead organizations into unfamiliar environments. If you want to be ready to slay the dragons that lie beyond the present known, check out our programs at www.gasparotto.co.
About the Author
Anthony Robb has 20 years of experience in the Canadian Army. He is a nationally decorated officer, having served on two operational deployments to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He has a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Norwich University. He is a leadership development professional and valued member of the Gasparotto Group team. He is active in the planning and execution of leadership programs. He also has a passion for coaching people who are eager to reach beyond their perceived potential.
The Gasparotto Group partners with organizations to help them create and nurture cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams.