Taking action amid chaos

Sometimes you don’t have all the information necessary to make a decision – sometimes you can’t even identify what information you’re lacking. But there are nevertheless times when you still need to take urgent action. 

Three top American leaders from the US Air Force and Navy share their experience in making complex operational decisions in a hostile environment:  

 

  • Strive to work on three fronts at the same time: the immediate front of daily operations, the future-plans front – after the crisis – and, finally, the transition between the two. Allot different teams to each of these fronts.  
  • Don’t make decisions alone. Clues to the solution are probably to be found outside your past experiences. Seek out atypical profiles, people who have a different approach. Look for the expertise you might be missing externally.  
  • Learn to delegate more and accept mistakes. This will ensure that your team is really committed and has the necessary maneuvering room to find and implement the solutions you need.  
  • Mobilize everyone, not just one task force. Everyone in the organization needs to feel motivated to carry out whatever action he or she deems pertinent at their level.  

 

But the military leaders emphasize that these recommendations are useless unless you devote enough time to learning from past decisions, including admitting and sharing mistakes. 

   

To go further: “The war on the Coronavirus” by Michael B. Donley, C. Robert Kehler, Eric Olson and Yuval Atsmon (McKinsey Quarterlyjune 2020).