Figure out who’s driving: Opportunity or Crisis

“There can’t be a crisis next week. My schedule is full.” Henry Kissinger

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend fill up my schedule working on the next cool thing than running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

To be able to have schedules low on dealing with crises and high on leveraging opportunity, first understand what’s currently shaping people’s time. A common measure we keep our eyes on is operational vs. capital spending – how much is spent on “keeping the lights on” and maintaining the status quo as compared to how much is spent on investments in new technology. The goal is to decrease the former and increase the latter. Another, more nuanced aspect of analysis is identifying the drivers of investments, programs, even daily operational tasks. What triggers the work – opportunities or crises?

A wealth of opportunity triggers is indicative of an engaged, developed organization that understands the business mission and market. Signs include strong alignment of IT resources to strategic investments, seamless collaboration, and high stakeholder satisfaction with delivery. Simply put, when opportunity triggers are prevalent, people are working on stuff that is going to make things better – delighting customers, improving revenue, accelerating growth.

Work triggered by crisis is inevitable. Equipment breaks. Storms happen. Even opportunity can arise from crisis – if you aren’t currently lurching constantly from one catastrophe to the next within the same sub-optimal construct. An abundance of “been there, done that” crisis triggers indicate weakness and lack of maturity.

1.       Broken triggers. When help desk tickets are more “it’s broken” than “how do I…” it’s an indicator that technology is insufficiently maintained and managed. Accelerating change and increasing reliance often requires more resources to assist and educate people with technology. However, resources to support the new will be constrained if the existing is out-of-date and creaky.

2.       Firefighting triggers. Are meetings all about problem solving and barely about new ideas? Does the organization struggle to find time to discuss innovation and develop new skills? Well-conceived, planned and executed projects are less likely to experience crises and have operational issues. One intangible of a quality implementation is more time for opportunity-seeking vs. break-fixing. As Drucker says, strategy is a commodity, execution is art.

3. Talent triggers. Always scrambling to hire critical roles, whether database admins or analytics gurus? Exhausting your “go-to” people? Good leaders know to stock up on good talent before the need is there, so that opportunities can be accelerated, not delayed. Also, remember that while compensation is important, talented employees value being surrounded by other talented employees. Revive or remove dead wood.

4. Last but never least > security triggers. Lack of investment in cybersecurity has dire consequences. Organizations must have the talent, technology and processes to combat the relentless onslaught or risk constant distraction and anxiety. Most high profile breaches could have been avoided if leadership had paid attention to this issue.

Is opportunity or crisis the primary driver in your organization?

“I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.” Denzel Washington, actor

Worth considering:

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