I’m writing this in May 2021. It varies, but the global COVID-19 pandemic caused much of the world to push pause on “normal” life and go into and stay in emergency mode since March 2020, or earlier. Thankfully, amazingly safe and effective vaccines now allow us to realistically envision a return to “normal.” That said, I’m telling you, “Don’t do it.” Yes, absolutely, do get vaccinated. But, no, do not go back to “normal.”
My decades long career has been one of leading organizational change, which is to say cultural change. I have done this at a number of different companies, with organizations of varying kinds, sizes, and corporate levels. In each case, because people are people, the most difficult part, the least predictable part, the whackiest, the one of greatest leadership challenge, was the initial period of disruption.
This initial period of disruption is normally the most rocky and dangerous part. Getting traction, building momentum, and staying on course is made difficult and dangerous because irrational forces, usually fueled by suspicion, skepticism, cynicism (not always undeserved), driven by evangelists of negativism and passive-aggressive saboteurs, create a strong, gravitational-like force restraining your change effort. And the amount of leadership energy and political capital required, and the duration for which it is required, in order to escape this gravitational pull is immense.
Well, the global pandemic has already induced this disruption. Thanks to the pandemic, people are already in the mode of operating with uncertainty and being comfortable with volatility and ambiguity. The global pandemic just gave leaders a free pass on what is the most difficult and dangerous part of any change effort.
Do not let this rare opportunity go to waste. Do not let the height of your post-pandemic aspirations be to “return to normal.” Return to awesomely better.
I am willing to bet next week’s grocery money that hospitals and clinics will not return to normal, but will take what they’ve learned over the course of the pandemic, will make sure that they return to better than what was previously unimaginable. And I hope to God that somewhere in this great land, there are enlightened and motivated educators who will take this opportunity to blow up our outdated system of education and, drawing on everything that has been learned about learning, redesign a new system from the axels up.
So, what about you? How will you use this pandemic provided free pass on disruption to make the organization that you have the good fortune to lead one that is not merely incrementally better, but one that is dramatically, breath-takingly, something-employees-will-talk-about-years-later, better?
I repeat, do not let this rare opportunity go to waste. Do not let the height of your post-pandemic aspirations be to “return to normal.” Return to awesomely better.