Addressing Uncertainty

Uncertainty is talked about a lot in management books but it is often difficult to translate this rhetoric into action.

News reports convey a chorus of voices calling on governments to create certainty. We are told repeatedly that uncertainty adversely affects decision making, business planning and investment creating a short-termism in organisations. Meanwhile, business gurus are recommending that we need to be long-term in our planning.

Given the current political and policy uncertainties across the Americas, Europe and Asia, look set to continue it would surely be prudent to look at how fresh management ‘mind-sets’ might incorporate uncertainty as one of the pillars of management training and in communication with staff.

The first rule in this new kind of management thinking would be to “never rely on past assumptions”. The old world of five-year plans and slow-moving market variables is long gone. A new kind of strategic thinking is needed.

Management needs to detect, interpret, and translate patterns in politics and macroeconomics and to explore the implications for their business. One solution is to use face to face conferences, forums and workshops to build awareness of how to incorporate ‘uncertainty’ into the thinking and management processes across functions and hierarchies. Adding scenario planning to your agenda will help drive an understanding of what challenges uncertainty will bring and help to develop the skill-sets needed to address them.

Convening your staff in a conference environment to provide fresh thinking around dealing with uncertainty brings it ‘into the spotlight’. It will help focus your colleagues’ minds on the issue and build familiarity. The objective would be to spread the responsibility for identifying business options and opportunities despite or because of ‘uncertainty’ – a more ‘positive’ managerial outlook.

If done well, you are likely to foster a more resilient, agile, management mind-set that can deal with the challenges that uncertainty will almost certainly bring. You may not be able to identify them precisely now but your leadership and managers will be in a much better shape to deal with and take advantage of them when they arrive!

This post was originally written for the January 2017 issue of Stand Out Magazine.






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