The organization development practitioner is not tooled to support managers in a crisis of the present dimensions. As it is, the standard OD practitioner over-relies on outdated values, pre-packaged tool kits and one-size-fits-all products. The present crisis is way over the head of our profession as it has been degenerated in the past two decades.
Furthermore, the severe cash flow problem of clients will put most OD practitioners out of work almost immediately. The externals will go first, quickly followed by the internals. So a few of us may have something to say, but no one will have money to pay.
And this is a war, not an organizational crisis. The enemy is invisible, but there is as a war going on. Even In civilian organizations, OD is, at best, a luxury.
But OD in the military is not a luxury, because the army is geared for severe crisis. I was lucky enough to serve as an OD consultant in the military, both in peace and in 2 wars. Thus, I do have a few tidbits of advice which I have put together. Here are a few ideas that managers might want to consider.
- There is no time to waste. Control priorities by strong focus and massive de-focus.
- Over-communicate your key messages. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.
- Be aware that some very average people can shine in a crisis. Furthermore, some top performers crack under pressure.
- Promise nothing, because you just don’t know. Your credibility is your most important asset.
- Be fair, because when this crisis ends, and it will, being fair is what you will be most remembered for.
- Encourage short cuts however, don’t throw the rule book down the toilet because an organization can easily spin into chaos. Manage the balance between fast and orderly, re-calibrating the balance constantly..
- The more pressure there is, the more important it is to remain calm when addressing others. If you cannot do so, I have no advise for you.
- Sideline incompetent people around you as soon as possible, if at all possible.
- When in doubt, encourage fierce opposition to the ideas you propose, and once you have made a decision, enforce with heavy hand if necessary,
- Never forget the day after. As I mentioned before, when the crisis ends, you will only be as strong as your honesty, integrity and sense of calm that you have projected in these most difficult of days.