Sometimes things change so much it's hard to know how to get your head around it.
This is certainly one of those times. Where does one even start to make sense of all of this - let alone begin to build a coherent strategic response?
As leaders, hard as it seems, we must find a way to think ourselves out of where we are now. Here's a template to get you started:
Running time: 07' 30" Don't forget to leave your comments below!
Every now and again something happens
that is so impactful that it changes how we have to think -
how we have to address the world around us.
The invention of the automobile; manned flight; two world wars;
9/11; the invention of the internet. And we are in one of those
It may indeed turn out to be more impactful than all of those
- but we're certainly in a world where we're being challenged
as to how to think - just how do we think about what's going
on at the moment?
And one of the bedrocks for me has always been when I'm confronted
with something that I can't seem to get my head around.
is to start with fundamental presuppositions. Presuppositions
are the things that are just that - we assume them to be correct
and to apply. And what we've got to do in the current environment
as leaders for our organizations is to really unpack our
presuppositions and rebuild them.
And there's a specific structure I want to suggest to you, and then I'm
going to give you a specific example -an applied example.
One thing to do if you're trying to find a way to think about
the future and how we respond to where we are is just to
sit down and devote sometime - take about 45 minutes or an hour -
and identify the three most fundamental current presuppositions
you have, or have had, about your organization - your business,
your not for profit, and the industry or market that you
operate in or serve to.
Now I want to give you some examples of those in a moment
or two, but think about the three most fundamental presuppositions
that pre-covid you operated under, and then rebuild with three
things you know will be true in whatever it is we're heading into (I refuse
to say 'The New Norm'l because
I don't know any better than you do whether it's going to
be normal or not).
But rebuild those presuppositions with what you can be
sure of right now no matter how simplistic or fundamental
they are. In fact, the more simplistic and fundamental those
starting presuppositions - new principals, presuppositions are
I'll give you an example -and the reason
this is foremost in my mind is that I did this exercise last
week with a group of people were trying to get their head
around what all of this means for the airline industry.
Obviously hugely impacted
By covid and so I facilitated this template as the starting
point and we spent about two and a half hours in the morning
of the day that we set aside,
first of all identifying the three main presuppositions that
existed pre Covid and here's what they came up with (they're
the industry experts -
It was up to them to come up with what they felt were those
presuppositions). And they were first of all that there was
such a strong inbuilt need and desire to travel
by air that the airline industry would always have sustainable
demand. That was the first one the second one was a little
niche and it may sound a little arcane if you're not in the
industry, but hey, it's what they came up with. It was that there
was a presupposition that post 9/11 and pre-Covid that
there was some residual Zeitgeist or understanding or belief
that airline travel was fun,
fundamentally somewhat glamorous and exciting and we would
get back to that if we just put up with how horrible it had
become. Now, they wordsmith that much more nicely than that -
I'm paraphrasing the conclusions that they'd come to. And
the third presupposition was about making profit from time-shifting
and that essentially predicated that I knew I'm gonna fly
Louis to Chicago and pre-Covid it was just a question of when would
I fly, compared to the pricing that as you all know, if you
have ever tried to book a plane ticket varies, depending
on what the day is. That you pick that by time-shifting by
charging me more to fly on this weekend than on that Tuesday,
the airline industry could make additional profit and that
presupposition - that that would continue - they believed was
one of the things that does not exist.
What were the presuppositions that they could get their heads
around to start thinking about a way forward through this?
First of all, most simple of all, there will always be reasons
in whatever it is that turns into being the new norm,
there will always be reasons why people have to travel by
air. Now they may be much reduced and they will be very different.
There was a long discussion about the difference between the
need to travel for business and personally, but there will
always be a basic need, (so) how can
we start with that point.
Their second presupposition was that even with a reduction
- a vast reduction - in people traveling because of major
behavioral change that will not happen - people get used to
meeting like this on the internet, Zoom etcetera, but there
will be a continued increase in moving things around. We're
buying more and more stuff
that's gotta get from point A to point B, so that presupposition
that the would be a rise in the movement of things was
the second point that they put in place. And the third one
The industry will need to answer the question.
Why should I?
Before, the default behavioral response would be let's meet
Tuesday the 15th.
I'll book a flight.
The default behavioral response will not be (subconsciously
at least) why would I do that?
And so the industry has got to address those. Now are those
three starting points - new presuppositions -
perfect? Are they even right? Would they have been different if
there'd been different people in the room?
Yes, of course, but I can assure you they give a really strong
start for what turned out to be a really highly profitable, useful
day trying to build a starting point to think about the
unthinkable. So if you're feeling a little bewildered about
where to start trying to rebuild your understanding of where
your industry is, your business is, your church, your not-for-profit,
start by unpicking your existing presuppositions and building
back up again with three things that you can say for sure.
No matter how simplistic they are.
I hope that's been helpful.
My name's Les McKeown. If I can help you in any way in this
just reach out and let me know. Leave some comments below
on this and let's think our way out of this.