I have been studying change in the context of Lean & Agile for some time now. I have even blogged about the VUCA world we now live in, 5 years back. There is no doubt we are in a period of rapid change, and the cadence is getting shorter. Strategy plannning used to work on 5 year cycles. In certain cases it is now less than a year, and we are now into dynamic strategy planning. The pandemic has highlighted not just the need for responding to the VUCA environment, but the need for scenario planning and systems thinking. In the first case we need to understand that the world is complex and has many interrelations that overlap, so in order to cope effectively, we need to explore different scenarios. In the latter, we need to understand that certain elements and business dyamics are interrelated and form a system. Understanding how these interact in a business sense, helps us properly understand what is going on. We have never lived in a truly linear world, we live in a world wirth a level of complexity, where scenario planning is required. This has to be temperded with linking each scenario to a level of risk.
May commentators have written about the challenges of humans struggling with change and also about the mindsets and behaviours that are required to deal with it. The theories of Darwin are well understood, and the consequent importance of adaptability. Humans are creatures of habbit and we have been taught from our early years tothink in a linear way. However we are resourceful and can adapt. The real question is how quickly can we adapt, and how much change are we capable of absorbing ? I was thinking about this the other day. I like to apply sicentific principles to psychology where I can. If I look at both my operational and consulting work, change happens usually with a large initial shift. If we make this analagous to a sine wave, we have an initial peak with a significant amplitude. This will be driven by the fact that leaders want to get traction and implement change quickly. Inevitably this will get a reaction and won’t necessarily be “Right First Time” . Usually with major changes there is a period of correction which is analogous to the sine wave going below the x-axis. There will be another correcion again, but with a lower amplitude and eventually the hysteris settles, akin to a decreasing sine wave. I have witnessed this on multiple occasions during change initiatives.
However, it looks with the combination of the pandemic and the required rapid technology adoption we are seeing rapid changes in multiple areas, i.e. multiple sine waves. It is not just the two I have mentioned, but shifts in buying habits, sectors of the economy which are performing like pharma, distribution and others that are down like hospitality. It is these multiple conditions thart arre goring to challengre the human psyche. Those who are better at dealing with this, will fair better both operationally and economically. This is easy to say, but less easy to do.
With my experience in the coaching world as well as consulting, awarness is the key. The better we are at educating and raising awareness the better chance of a result. Charles Duhigg writes about systems thinking in his book, “The Power of Habit”. This is also covered by the seminal work of Peter Senge, and well illustrated in his book “The Fifth Disciplnie”. Actually here, we mean forming a different habit, one in which understands systems thinking (where there are interrelations) and the importance of scenario planning. When we start seeing things differently, we as humans are better able to cope and ultimately will improve our productivity and that of those around us.