6 Critical Organizational Success Factors for Embracing Volatility
Gone are the days of predictability. Volatility is here to stay. Organizations no longer have the luxury of allowing their employees and leaders to sit back and enjoy the tranquility of a stable environment, which required relatively little upkeep to maintain the status quo. Instead, their very survival requires that stakeholders learn how to adapt to the permanent “white water” conditions that characterize the environment. For organizations to thrive, their leaders must be able to clarify priorities and effectively allocate resources that are scarcer than ever. Forget the deceptive and ultimately destructive bromide, “We need to do more with less!” For their organizations to successfully navigate these turbulent conditions over the long term, leaders must learn to do less with less, focusing on mission-critical programs, processes, people, and systems.
Here are six critical success factors for embracing volatility in ways that will allow the organization to thrive:
1. Courageous leaders
I define courageous leaders as individuals who focus relentlessly on achieving the organization’s mission, especially when they are surrounded by chaos, uncertainty, and fear-based opposition. They make and implement the tough decisions required when faced with the reality of extraordinary shortages of resources. They seek and find the opportunities inherent in the volatility rather than succumb to the obstacles that less bold leaders point to as reasons to hide under the desks till the storm blows over.
2. Concrete and unambiguous definition of the playing field
Every organizational stakeholder must know, with certainty and precision, what “game” they are playing, who the players are, the rules of the game, the specific roles that they fill, and the desired end result. They must know what is “in” and what is “out” of play so they can concentrate on the former and not waste time on the latter.
3. Clear priorities
In order to allocate scarce resources most effectively, there must be unmistakable priorities. Leaders must model priorities-based decision-making.
4. Ability to release people and things that no longer serve the organization’s mission well
Everything that is done must contribute directly to the organization’s mission. Anything that is not mission-critical must be jettisoned if the organization is to thrive. This is a time to gain exceptional clarity about what the organization does, and why.
Although accountability was a critical success factor for thriving in more stable times, it often fell by the wayside when leaders were willing to settle for less than excellence, or for a lower standard of performance, when resources were more plentiful. In volatile times, however, the ability to thrive demands accountability at all levels.
6. Creativity and innovation
About the only thing we know for certain about these volatile times is that there will be continued turbulence. Things we cannot forecast with any certainty include what new challenges and opportunities will present themselves, and how we can handle them. What we can do is encourage and reward those who apply their creativity and innovation to address the opportunities in ways that help the organization succeed.
How many of these critical success factors does your organization have?
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6 Critical Personal Success Factors for Embracing Volatility
The volatility that affects organizations has significant impacts on people as well. To be able to thrive personally and professionally, individuals must make self-care their top priority.
Here are six critical success factors for embracing volatility in ways that will allow individuals to thrive both personally and professionally:
1. A clearly articulated personal “big picture”
Create your personal “big picture” and make it your touchstone. Set clear priorities based on this picture, and base all decisions on the extent to which their outcomes are mission- (big picture) critical.
2. A focus on personal strengths
Identify and focus on your strengths; let your weaknesses go. Peter Drucker, who has been called the “Father of Modern Management” for his prescient and time-tested perspectives on people and organizations, pointed out that the return on investing in one’s strengths far exceeds the return realized from the time and effort spent trying to shore up weaknesses. In economic terms, focus on your comparative advantage.
3. Ability to release the people and things (e.g., ideas, activities, habits) that no longer serve you well
To thrive in turbulent times, you must distinguish clearly between people and things that contribute to your success and those that detract from it. To the extent possible, dump the detractors and surround yourself with the supporters; this is not the time to wax sentimental about people or things that don’t help you move forward in life. If it’s not possible to avoid people and situations that suck the energy out of you, then minimize the time you spend with, or on, them.
4. An opportunity-focused perspective
Individuals always have control over how they experience any given situation. One of the most important ingredients for success is to continuously seek opportunities, even when they are not immediately apparent. Because we tend to find the things we search for, people who actively look for the positive in every situation are very likely to find it.
5. Situational agility
In the more stable environment of days past, complacency used to be sufficient for individuals who were content with the status quo in their personal or professional lives. Volatility, however, has changed the playing field: to be in the game rather than watching from the sidelines requires a more pro-active stance. In particular, it requires that individuals who wish to thrive be willing and able to practice dexterity, and to be open to Plans B and C when necessary. They need to be opportunistic, taking advantage of relevant possibilities as they present themselves.
Self-forgiveness is especially important in turbulent times when uncertainty abounds. Many people are experiencing new situations and doing the best they can to navigate successfully through them. It’s inevitable that they will make mistakes. Learn the lesson, make the necessary course adjustment, forgive yourself, and move on.
How many of these critical success factors do you possess?
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