Updated: May 18, 2020
The current crisis is one like we’ve never seen before. Every day people are doing extraordinary things to relieve the suffering of others. In doing so they are changing, adapting and breaking their routines, something they would have found really difficult in normal circumstances.
This is happening because we understand the perils of not changing, have a collective ambition to defeat this virus and get back to normal, and have been given really simple steps to take.
The desire to tackle the impact of this virus is so strong that many positives have emerged and layers of rules and bureaucracy are being ignored, as they get in the way of the pace required. Decisions are being taken based on intuition, followed by adaptions, replacing the usual analysis and rational based approaches. People are reaching out to others in ways they wouldn’t normally do, millions are working from home, reducing pollution, many are volunteering to support the vulnerable, and our new hero is a 100 year old former Army Captain. Is this our new normal?
Our experience and research of crisis situations highlights that following a crisis, when the impetus changes, many go back to what’s easiest and habitual.
For some, the new habits generated by this crisis will be things they discover that they prefer, these will likely sustain. But for most, when the perils have reduced and the ambition achieved, the drive to return to pre-crisis normal will be high.
Crisis rarely leads to sustainable change without reinforcing action. As we start the long recovery phase, the challenge leaders face is how organisations increase the desire for the positive changes they wish to retain and provide disincentives for those habits that have low value.
To take a specific common example, working from home, some will enjoy the new experience, some initially enjoyed it and have grown weary, others initially hated it and are now enjoying a new routine, and some clearly hate it. If this is seen as a positive change that your organisation wants to maintain in some form, then creating desire through leadership and engaging with people will be important. The route to achieving this is by keeping the messages simple, making the change desirable and easy, and finally utilising the power of groups. We will outline how to do this in more depth in another blog.
In summary, the adage of ‘don’t waste a good crisis’ is true, but without leadership, engagement, careful thought and planning, opportunities could be missed and you may end up with a new normal you didn’t expect or want.