This morning (Monday, Feb. 20th) I drove from my home to my office in Marion in very dense fog. As a matter fact, I had heard on the early news that there was a severe fog alert out for the morning. It has been a long time since I have driven in such dense fog. As I drove the back roads through the country, I realized that these are very familiar roads to me…I drive these roads several days each week. I know where all of the stop signs are, the curves and the valleys along the road. I know where to turn, where the speed limits change from 55, to 45 to 35. So, one might say, I could drive on auto pilot in this fog. However, I think we would all agree, that would not be a very wise thing to do. As we all know, things can change. Some areas as we are driving in the fog may be easier. It may not be as dense in certain areas and allows us to see a bit further ahead. At other times, there might be an obstacle in our way that we don’t see until the last minute, such as a deer crossing the road (which, fortunately, did not happen to me). The dense fog complicates this because it impairs our visibility. So, I found myself driving slower, being more intentional, more cautious and making sure I was aware of all of my surroundings.
This got me to thinking about the parallel for many organizations. Some organizations navigate very well through the fog. Others have a difficult time seeing what is ahead. Visibility is limited. There are obstacles in their way they don’t see. And this impacts their effectiveness, their employee engagement, turnover, the ability to attract and retain a qualified workforce and most likely, their overall bottom line.
Organizations need to have a plan when the fog rolls in. And there are times when that happens – suddenly and unexpectedly, whether it is due to outside forces (i.e. the economy) or internal forces (change in leadership, shift in supply and demand). How can organizations be strategic about navigating these treacherous roads? There are several things that can be done.
Begin with a mission and vision that serves as the foundation for all that you do. This is your organization’s lighthouse in the dense fog. It helps people see their way. Establish a long-term strategic goal and develop an action plan with S.M.A.R.T. goals. And then use it…refer to it…update and refine as you go along. Get input from your employees – the ones who are doing the work. You would be surprised how many great ideas they have – they just need to be asked and given the opportunity to share them.
Once the fog lifts and you are comfortably back ‘in the driver’s seat’ with clear visibility ahead, be sure to say thank you to those who helped get the organization through the fog…i.e. the challenging time. Begin to look ahead and plan for the next time the fog rolls in…because, as we all know from experience, it will.