This Is How Your Organization Can Execute Despite Uncontrollable Circumstances

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There are always factors beyond the control of leaders. A post-Covid hangover means the world is full of problems we didn’t create and can’t fix, but which affect us directly: the supply chain crisis, employee shortages and punishing inflation, just because to name a few.

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While external challenges are frustrating, they are not the biggest frustration expressed to me by leaders. His biggest frustration comes from within: his team’s inability to adapt to these external challenges.

Related: 7 Strategies to Grow Your Business When Supply Chain Disruptions Are Everywhere

Have you said something recently that sounds like “Yes (fill in the blank) is a giant problem, but there are still so many things we’re not doing that we could be doing”? If this sounds like your situation, you know your team needs to move beyond feeling hopeless and beyond their current standard operating procedures. However, you also know that simply asking them to do it won’t accomplish anything.

So what is the best way forward? Attack this challenge on two levels: macro support and micro ownership.

Macro support

Let’s start with macro support. Before you ask front-line teams to bear the brunt of these additional challenges, determine what you can do at your level to clear the way for those closest to the work.

Macro support could mean additional investment for people or teams, change organizational boundaries, or eliminate work that might now be considered non-essential. This is where you show that the organization is putting skin in the game.

For example, a Fortune 200 food manufacturer I worked with recently was riddled with supply chain issues. However, they were also aware that many of these problems could be mitigated, or even solved, if the company’s employees had been willing to work beyond organizational boundaries, take more initiative, or anticipate possible problems. Its current standard operating procedure was short.

How was the macro support in this situation? The COO began by organizing a senior-level team with the express goal of helping anyone with a challenge that crossed organizational boundaries. The members of this team were hand-picked leaders who had a reputation for solving problems. Any employee anticipating a supply chain problem now had a way to raise the flag and muster the necessary resources to meet customer needs.

Related: How Your Business Can Overcome the Labor Shortage


Micro ownership starts with each team identifying a goal. Essentially, an outcome that the team could directly influence (in addition to their day-to-day work) that would have the greatest impact on the overall challenge.

Think of it like being in a leaky boat taking on water. If a team’s normal day-to-day job is to remove water from the boat, then that team’s microproperty goal might be to patch a hole. Will patching just one hole in a leaky boat make a significant difference? My decades of work in strategic execution have shown that it is the cumulative impact of these small victories that precedes major breakthroughs.

The result of this single team may be in a food production plant that aims for shrink reduction to offset rising food costs, a sales team focused on prospecting within a segment critical or a manufacturing team that follows an increase in the number of turns with full equipment while dealing. with a shortage of staff.

At first, some people are inevitably thinking, “Hey, boss, if we knew how to do this, don’t you think we’d already do it? We can’t resist!” But in general, it doesn’t take long for a team to see areas where significant gains can be made with some focus and consistency, especially if you’re just asking for a result on top of the day job.

Management pioneer Peter Drucker taught that the most important (and difficult) change people can make is to shift from thinking about their work in terms of activities to thinking about their work in terms of results! Ask someone about their job. Most people will describe the activities they perform, not the results they produce.

The best way to start moving a culture toward a results mindset is to start with a single outcome that they can influence. Establishing macro and microproperty support will not solve all supply chain, employee or inflation problems. But it will prevent uncontrollable circumstances from holding you and the organization back.

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