This current crisis is not just challenging humans, resources and well-being, but seems to be challenging our ability to think critically. The expression “more haste, less speed” comes to mind. As a large advocate of the 80/20 rule, I have been following this mantra for years. Regularly, I have been challenged around when using the 80/20 rule is truly applicable. I have always stated that its OK to be used for a management process as a means for avoiding “postponed perfection” , but not necessarily for potentially high consequence processes. In certain situations, I have even advocated a 60/40 approach.
However the world has changed significantly recently with the need for rapid decision making, when you consider new threats and changes to supply chains, e.g. for drugs, PPE , testing and ventilators etc. Waiting for all the data i.e. 100/0 is going to be nearly impossible. Rapid decision making needs to be supported by rapid and critical thinking as a means of avoiding inadvertent unintentional consequences. I have been reading Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit” . In that he refers to research work done on peoples behaviour in crisis moments, when they are faced with voluminous amounts of data. He cites examples where people faced with these situations are subject to what the academics and researchers call “cognitive tunnelling” which is where individuals fixate on one piece of data, believing it to be critical to the outcome. This is where unfortunately other critical data gets ignored. I reference this because as we need to take critical decisions under pressure, we need to be aware of this phenomena, so as to make progress and avoid mistakes. The good news is that the researchers have found that an antidote for this situation, is around building a mental framework based on scenarios so we are better prepared for these situations. Scenario planning is a key strategy for the military. Commentators have likened the current crisis to a war, but in this case with a hidden enemy.
The difficult and critical decisions that have to be taken in times of war, are analogous to what we are facing now. Whether it be a strategy, a supply chain decision, we need to keep thinking critically, asking the right questions with the appropriate thinkers and experts involved in the process. Even with high potential consequences, we can’t afford to wait for 100/0, but we can mitigate the risk with critical thinking and scenario planning. This will also shape the way we work post crisis. Those who adopt agile and critical thinking will fair better. This is classic Darwin, survival of the most adaptable not necessarily the fittest.