As we navigate towards the end of the pandemic – and the long-awaited release from lockdown restrictions – the question on everyone’s mind is: When it's all over, what will the “new normal” look like? And what shape will the hybrid world we’ll be working in take on? The quick answer is, other than things being drastically different, no one really knows what will happen next. There is no formula out there to tell us what to do. Whatever happens, the company that adapts the quickest won’t only survive, they will thrive.
What are we all adapting to?
Every instance will be different, but no matter what we do, the key will be to have a plan in place. After almost 2 years of living under a strict set of rules, we’ll be back to having choices. And not everyone will be able to handle that – or know what to do with having so many choices again. This is where great leaders will really earn their stripes. By laying out a plan, they will help limit the overwhelming number of choices available and maintain some structure to the new normal. Of course, things don’t always go exactly as planned – and that’s where the importance of adaptation comes into play.
Build, Measure, Learn
At Thrillworks, we’re already working on scenario planning (more on that later) for whatever the post-pandemic new normal may bring. Once those plans are into action, we also have a system in place to help us track how they work and adapt based on results. We call it Build Measure Learn (BML). And it works exactly how it sounds. We Build a plan then put it into action. Then we Measure not just the results of the plan, but how it came to life and how all those involved reacted to the plan. Throughout every step of the process, we Learn. Then we take those learnings and adapt for the next cycle of the plan.
So, what exactly are we doing at Thrillworks to prepare for our move into the hybrid world? Scenario planning, that’s what. (Told you we’d come back to it.) Scenario planning comes to life pretty much the way it sounds. Leadership gets together to identify several different scenarios that could happen moving forward, then they rank them based on likelihood of it happening to identify a top 5. Next, we come up with solutions for those scenarios (remember BML? This is the B part). Then we look at those solutions to see if any one solution addresses multiple scenarios. If so, we proactively implement that solution. Once the plan is in action, if you said we Measure how it comes to life, you’re right. We track how well we adhere to the original plan and watch how people adapt and react along the way. Finally, after a set amount of time (this is up to you and your team to determine) we get together and review what worked and what didn’t. We ask the question: Do we keep doing this or do we change? Then we take those Learnings and determine the relevance of the original scenarios and solutions and adapt as necessary for the next cycle of the plan. We don’t learn from success or failure; we learn from reflecting on success or failure. Or, to be blunt, adapt or die. (Don’t worry, no one is going to die, it’s just a metaphor.)
All this talk of adaptability probably has you thinking of another A word. Yes, we’re talking about agile. At its core, agile is all about being able to go with the flow; being able to adapt when something unexpected happens. Think of it this way, when you get up on Saturday morning and have a to-do list you’re looking to get finished by noon, you have a plan to make that happen. But if the first thing on your list is to pick up dry cleaning and they don’t open until 11, are you going to stick to your list and wait around, thereby delaying everything else on your list? Or will you adapt and move on to other items on your list then come back to the dry cleaner when they’re open? The former (cough, waterfall) sees one speed bump throw off everything else that comes on the road after it. The latter sees you react to a problem and adapt with a new solution – and is way more likely to get you home and all done by noon. Or, as we like to say around here, agile for the win.
The ability to adapt comes in many different shapes and sizes. The key is being able to identify when it needs to happen and act accordingly. As mentioned earlier, as we step into this new hybrid world, we can’t predict what is going to happen. We can, however, prepare for what may happen and be ready to react and adapt as it all unfolds.