Last week, we wrote an in-depth guide to leading during a crisis—how they affect an organization and strategies to get through them. The advice also applies to any business situation involving a major change as, at their core, that’s what crises are: situations of significant change.
One of the keys to navigating a crisis—or a big change—is what organizational psychologist Edgar Schein calls adaptive moves. In Schein’s words:
By calling them “adaptive,” I am emphasizing that they are not solutions to “the problem” but actions intended to improve the situation and elicit more diagnostic data for the planning of the next move. By calling them “moves,” I am again emphasizing that they are small efforts to improve the situation, not grand plans or huge intervention.1
When dealing with a crisis, you may have a good hypothesis of how things will end up. But, since instability is introduced into a stable situation—the status quo of the company—you can’t be 100% sure of all the effects of a crisis or major change.
So, when dealing with a crisis—especially at first when you have less clarity about the repercussions of the changes—it’s best to take small steps, to make adaptive moves.
Make a decision based on your understanding of yourself, your organization, the stakeholders, and the situation. Evaluate the effects of your actions and any new information. Repeat.
In doing so, you get to constantly iterate: you make a move and analyze the results. Eventually, all these small moves will add up to a big response. This will put you in a better position to navigate the crisis than if you just tried to implement a response from the start and hoped that the original plan worked perfectly.
To recap the strategies we suggest to incorporate adaptive moves into dealing with a crisis, we put together a slide show overview of our 5 Strategies for Leading During a Crisis (or any change) guide:
- Edgar H, Schein, Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster, 2016. ↩