Unlocking the secret to Operational Resilience occurs when leaders discover that careful efforts to prevent faults and error at best get us 99% of the way there.
Resilient leaders expect the remaining 1% will occur 100% of the time. Plus, the 1% involves uncertain, unpredictable, and dynamic events requiring behaviors informed as much by art and rhetoric as science. This simply means resilient leaders spend equal time guiding their organization to be just as adept at responding to disruption and restoring stable operations.
The 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic is proof. Business leaders have been stretched into unfamiliar territory forcing them to use new tactics to respond intuitively with limited information to remain viable. With restoration clear, now more than ever is the time to ask yourself…. What are we not seeing? Where have necessary and healthy actions introduced new exposures? What will be the chronic results of interim choices? Aside from stunned and tired, how healthy is your organization’s culture?
In recent weeks, our team has been working to help clients make sense out of those very questions. [See our recent blog on Normalized Risk] Good news, your own system holds the answers. We see dramatic differences among senior leader behaviors; some will become more resilient, more competitive, higher performing, future industry leaders.
It’s not all bad, the pandemic has galvanized leaders and teams in ways only possible during real trials. Our workforce is emerging generally healthy. Our nation’s critical infrastructure remains intact. And, we have reimagined processes and discovered new sustainable ways of working.
But we should see warnings as well. The pandemic has forced leaders to distribute decision-making to the most practical level. But empowerment without boundaries and context can foster a “Get it Done” mindset. Leaders have pressed previously immutable rules and standards rendering procedures as now optional; abnormal operations have become normal. And new gaps in operating discipline have created pathways for preexisting dormant weaknesses to spread.
So, what should we do? The answer can be found in the experiences of your empowered leaders, weak signals from performance outcomes, and the mindset of your workforce.
Engage Your Empowered Experts
To begin, engage your leaders to ensure the features of healthy empowerment are present. Do they fully grasp how their choices contribute to the success of the organization? Do they have the competencies needed to think critically and solve problems? Are they thriving in the authorities and empowerment?
Listen for Early/ Weak Signals
In nearly every incident from major industry altering events to low probability, high impact near misses, warning signs have been present but overlooked or ignored. Scorecards are an obvious place to look, but they do not always tell the whole story. Create venues for sharing and learning, monitor procedure utilization, foster team learning, and investigate subtle human factors in incidents to reveal early and often weak signals of trouble.
Measure Mindset to Uncover Drift
Finally, probe the prevailing mindset of your organization to expose drift. A mid-century sociologist, William Isaac Thomas, put it best, “If men (women) define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” If true, this means how our employees interpret a situation causes the action they take, and their actions become results both positive and negative. Fortunately, mindset can be quantitatively and qualitatively measured and improved. Measurement is done through surveying, pulsing, observing, and engaging. Improvement can be done through intervention and connection.
To learn more Operational Resilience and how to uncover and improve mindset in your organization, visit us HERE.