The pandemic crisis management equation

Blog, Crisis Management, Future of Work, Leadership

The pandemic crisis management equation

Blog, Crisis Management, Future of Work, Leadership

By Lisa Taylor

The BEDMAS of Omicron

Last week was another crisis response week after an almost two-year cycle of non-stop crisis management. My morning review of social media, newspaper columns, and call-in talk radio reflected all the frustration, disappointment, anger, and uncertainty I expected. I felt it too.

It got me thinking: how do I provide managers with a different way to focus on what’s important when everything is urgent? Over the last two years, I have been using a Future of Work equation to show how the world of work was changing pre-pandemic and what the coronavirus’ impact has been on leadership and decision-making. Perhaps this week is a good time to turn to a different type of equation to help see us through this rough introduction to 2022.

Almost daily on Facebook, a friend challenges me to solve a math equation that typically requires an understanding of the order of operations to get the answer right. The standard mathematical order of operations calls for problems to be solved based on the type of action to be performed, rather than the order in which they appear. For example, 5+8(5-2) would be 29 (5-2 times 8, plus 5), not 39 (5 plus 8 times 3). In comments, people post their responses while chiding those who answer the question by doing the math from left to right.

Taking things one step at a time or one day at a time right now may not lead us to the right answers for ourselves, our teams, or our organizations. There is no magic or five-step plan that will get us out of the knots of issues we currently face. But the order in which we attempt to untangle each thread makes a big difference. So, as a throwback to Ms. Figuereido’s grade nine math class, I wondered if we couldn’t use BEDMAS to identify the right order to untangle business operations today.

Brackets: Start by recognizing and addressing the activities and actions that keep people separate from their work, like childcare or eldercare. How can you best help team members who can’t fully engage in their work because something is a real and current threat or challenge? How can organizational resources be allocated in new or creative ways to help employees solve the equation within their brackets so they might resume being critical contributors to the organization?

Exponents: Right now, there are one or two key challenges that pose an exponential impact for your team. When up to 30 percent of workforces are anticipated to be ill or isolating at any given time over the next four to six weeks, for many teams that challenge will be scheduling and staffing. What is a short-term approach you need to take to get out ahead of exponential impact within your workforce? What resources do you need to stay ahead of the challenge? Who in your community and supply chain can you count on to partner within creative ways? How can you communicate these changes to your best customers so they champion your success as a business?

Division and Multiplication: How can you divide limited resources (including cash on hand, staff, product, etc.) so your organization can get through the next few weeks? And where can what you have learned over the past two years help multiply the results you get from any change you implement right now? Focus on what will make the most difference as you streamline your focus without losing sight of near-future market opportunities.

Addition and Subtraction: Making quick simple changes can feel productive and this is where many organizations focus during times of crisis. We search for incremental “quick wins” such as a new process step, menu item, or product line to add or subtract from your current offering. But just like in the Facebook quizzes, starting with what you might add or subtract won’t get you the answers you need. Do this step once all the others have been solved. Otherwise, you might be busy making change that doesn’t actually help solve your core problems.

These next few weeks are going to be challenging. Rather than talking about the bracket and exponential issues in general terms, let’s get down to solving them. Business by business, community by community, we can support each other through the unfortunate equations we find ourselves confronting, where nothing seems to add up and knee-jerk, reactionary approaches to complex problems have left us in a trust deficit with our leaders.

Let’s apply this order of operations to your own pandemic work and workforce equations to solve the difficult problems in front of you.

Read the Future of Work equation.

Challenge Factory’s free decision tree helps you tackle COVID-19 policy changes and decision-making. Check out the sneak peek below.

With contributions from Emree Siaroff and Taryn Blanchard.