When nothing is normal: Managing in extreme uncertainty

In normal times organizations face numerous uncertainties of varying consequence. Managers deal with challenges by relying on established structures and processes. These are designed to reduce uncertainty and support calculated bets to manage the residual risks. In a serious crisis, however, uncertainty can reach extreme levels, and the normal way of working becomes overstrained. At such times traditional management operating models rarely prove adequate, and organizations with inadequate processes can quickly find themselves facing existential threats.

Uncertainty can be measured in magnitude and duration. By both measures, the extreme uncertainty accompanying the public-health and economic damage created by the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern memory. It should not be surprising, therefore, that organizations need a new management model to sustain operations under such conditions. The magnitude of the uncertainty organizations face in this crisis—defined partly by the frequency and extent of changes in information about it—means that this operating model must enable continuous learning and flexible responses as situations evolve. The duration of the crisis, furthermore, has already exceeded the early predictions of many analysts; business planners are now expecting to operate in crisis mode for an extended period. Leaders should therefore begin assembling the foundational elements of this operating model so that they can steer their organizations under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

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Πηγή: mckinsey

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