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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • May 30, 2020
  • minute read

Why Those Great New Tools You’re Using will Prevent Your COVID Recovery 

With the arrival of the COVID crisis, we've all had to adapt to new tools, new ways of doing things.

Some organizations are adapting better than others.

And the counter-intuitive fact is, those organizations that are finding, using and adapting to new tools and processes best, are the least likely to come out of this well. 

Weird, huh? And if that's the case for you (or your organization, division, department, project, group or team), very scary.

I explain why in today's video:

Please leave me your questions and observations in the comments below!

(psst:  you can also read the transcript )

Running time: 07' 55"     Don't forget to leave your comments below!

Read Video Transcript

I've shared before a number of times that one of the things I've learned over the years, is that when faced with a really difficult time - a difficult situation like the one we are in at the moment with COVID-19 - the single most important starting point for me is finding the right way to frame where it is I am, what it is that I'm trying to grapple with- just finding a way to get my hands around it, so to speak.

And one of the tools that's been immensely powerful for me is to think - in this situation, what would I like to have in my hand? What would I like to be holding, right now, to help me with this thing I'm grappling with. 

And I mean something very specific by that.

What I mean is - Do I need a tool, a particular thing like a wrench or a hammer to work with in this situation that I'm in. Or do I need a tool kit? Or thirdly, do I need a blueprint to work from.

Let me make that specific.

So probably one of the very first things that we all had to do in about March - whenever this all started - was to find a tool, a specific tool, to respond to the need for the vast increase in virtual meetings.

And so for just about all of us, we either had to start doing virtual meetings from scratch, or do much more of them than we've been doing before. And so we all got Zoom, or GoToMeeting or whatever it was, and we have learned how to use that tool.

Now if you're a front line employee, then you very much need that tool. If you're an employee at all, you need that tool.

If you're a manager hit by the same situation and you're thinking what do I need to deal with this? Yes, you need the tool. You need to go get Zoom as well. But as a manager, you actually need a toolkit, because it's not just about the tool right? It's about using the tool to do things.

So I need a toolkit that's going to help me not just get online, but have effective meetings and make sure my team make effective and implementable decisions. And so, if you're a manager, you've probably built up a toolkit over these last couple of months - e.g. timers; or you worked out ways in which to poll each other; or you got communication processes that made sure everybody the right information.

So it wasn't a single tool. It was a toolkit that you required.

Now here's where the difficulty comes - If you're a leader, it's easy to get transfixed and focused on the tools and the tool kit.

But tools alone - even the best tool kit in the world - will not get your organization out of this current COVID crisis and back to thriving.

And not only that, I'm going to go beyond that and say that the more you focus on the tools, the less likely it is that you're going to emerge thriving, early out of this current crisis.

I will happily bet anything I have that the service organization in whatever your industry is that comes out of this, highly innovatory, knocks it out of the park, does well, will not be brilliantly fantastic at Zoom meetings.

They'll be okay, but they're not focusing on that. They're happy with scrappy because they know that it's not getting good at being on Zoom that's going to innovate and get them out of this current situation.

The restaurant that reopens and thrives I guarantee it is not going to be the one that's got the absolute best funkiest looking masks and shields for their staff. It's going to be the restaurant that, sure, has got what they need there, but moved past all of that very quickly and thought about innovative ways to please the customers.

The church that's going to gain back its congregation isn't going to be the one with the most up-to-date laser tool to set their social distancing distances in their pews. Sure they'll adhere to that, but that's not what they're tied up of it.

And you know, I see so many leaders at the moment who are actually trying to show their leadership by being the top dog with the tool. "Hey, I'm so good at virtual conferencing. Look at me. I'm a leader". "I've got this home working thing down. I'm a leader".

If you're the leader of an organization or a department, or a division or a team, I want you to think very hard about this. The tools you're using could be what will prevent you from getting through this.

I'm not saying you shouldn't be using them, I'm saying they're just tools.

What leaders need... - sure, have people put the tools in place, have your managers put toolkits in place... but you need to be building a blueprint. A blueprint for success.

And a blueprint is not a checklist of tools, no matter how good the tools are. A blueprint is a wholly different thing.

Now in the next video, next week, I'll talk about what a really effective blueprint is, what it looks like, and what it does - but what it isn't is just a collection of tools, however good they are.

So here's what I'd love you to do just as an exercise this week. I'd like you to jot down the top three tools that are proving most beneficial for you in this current situation. Maybe it is Zoom. Maybe it's your hand sanitizing stations. Maybe it is some process you have in place for using Slack or Band or some other type of a communication process to enhance prayer groups in your church.

Whatever it is, write down the top three tools that you're getting the biggest bang for the buck from right now, and I want you to think about how they might be limiting the way you're thinking.

I want you to think about whether or not you've gotten fixated on the tools and they're limiting where you might go. And one practical way to do that is imagine somebody took them away tomorrow. If somebody took - just start with one- if somebody took virtual conferencing away tomorrow, what would you do? If somebody closed down the communications channel that you're currently using what would you do?

So as I say, next week, we'll look at blueprints - how blueprints use tools to achieve goals rather than being dictated to by the tools themselves.

I'm Les McKeown, wherever you are, please scroll down leave me some comments, and let's have a great week.

Other posts in this Covid-response series
Leading From 5000 Feet
Are you Part of the One Percent?


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  1. I always tell my Clients that the quality management system I helped them set up is not just a framed certificate on the wall.
    An effective quality management system, once in place, implemented and certified, is an effective tool that will help organizations plan strategies against business risks, exactly like this pandemic that is gripping the world.
    If a QMS is used to its utmost potential, an organization hit by the pandemic:
    -immediately (at a planned schedule) hits the drawing board and implements planned counter-measures (i.e. business continuity plans) during the lockdown;
    -quickly assesses the situation and adapts its strategies to actual threats (i.e. update its risk tables);
    -re-assesses on a weekly basis and improves its tactics until the pandemic is over.

  2. I love these 7 minute talks. So helpful to me every week. Most importantly they make me think. For over 12 years I have been booked solid 4 months in advance. And it dropped to zero. Working on making the blueprint.

    Thanks again. Margo

  3. That was a really great thought. I’m in higher ed, and we’re focusing so much on how to get by next semester. No so much tool focused, but just focusing on the immediate future. You made me think that I should be realizing that the environment has changed and my thinking needs to go beyond the immediate future and start thinking about how we can innovate (not adapt) to the new environment. Thanks for the nudge.

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