Berger Leadership Blog

Aug 28, 2020
Categories: Organizational Change

How to harness chaos to stay successful

Dan BergerOur world is a chaotic one – now seemingly more than ever – but we constantly try to predict and analyze forecasts that guide our business decisions to ensure success. So, what do we do when we experience a "black swan event" that completely changes our models?

For those not familiar with a black swan event, it's commonly used in economics and finance to describe an event that is essentially impossible to predict, often coming with negative outcomes. The coronavirus pandemic falls into that category. We didn't see it coming, it brought our economy to a standstill for weeks – and it is still imposing lingering consequences with its uncertainty as we attempt to balance health concerns with economic ones.

In times like these, leaders would benefit from approaching crisis through the lens of chaos theory. This article from Anita van de Vliet in Management Today explains the premise of the theory, which "suggests that management should place more emphasis on adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurial creativity to cope with a future that is inherently unknowable."

I've long encouraged leaders to prioritize adaptability in their business models. If your organization is bloated, it's harder to change the direction of the ship. A crisis like the coronavirus pandemic underscores the importance of being able to quickly adjust your operations when the way you've typically done business is thrown out the window.

At my organization, we strive to operate as leanly as possible – investing in employees and areas that will allow us to operate effectively but more importantly, continue to deliver the industry's best in advocacy, education and compliance assistance. Efficiency is key when prudently managing your budget.

In today's world, a key component of adaptability is having the technological capabilities that allow you to continue operations from anywhere. In recent years, tech investment – from bolstering our internal systems and databases to online platforms that allow our team to work remotely – has been one of my focuses. It's also been a focus of the entire credit union industry, which allowed most institutions to seamlessly move staff to work-from-home when the pandemic hit. Those that haven't made those investments were paralyzed and had to scramble just to catch up.

The pandemic is a defining moment in the resiliency of your team and organization. How quickly were you able to adjust operating policies? How is your team staying engaged and connected to one another? How well are you meeting the needs of your members/customers?

There are many lessons to be learned from this year. But paramount, I believe, is that organizations need to be flexible and able to pivot quickly. Invest in the people and technology that will keep you moving forward, regardless of the circumstances.

Now is your chance to build a runway for 2021 and be prepared for whatever is thrown your way.

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About the Author

B. Dan Berger, President and CEO, NAFCU

Dan BergerB. Dan Berger first joined NAFCU in 2006 and helped turn the association into the premiere advocate for the credit union industry.

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