Leading Through Uncertainty

by Lowell Bryan and Diana Farrell, The McKinsey Quarterly, Number 1; 2009.
The global financial crisis is forcing leaders to recalibrate. Wildly vacillating financial markets make planning more difficult, especially when no-one seems to know the depth or duration of the financial downturn. While McKinsey Quarterly authors Bryan and Farrell target corporate leaders in this piece, their approach also applies to nonprofit and government heads. Bryan and Farrell assert that even as senior executives confront uncertainty they should nurture organisational flexibility, awareness, and resilience. Their two-by-two matrix depicts future scenarios contingent upon the length of time global credit and capital markets remain volatile and the severity of the recession. These scenarios matter to leaders who are making decisions about capital outlays, budgets, and organisational development. They say that leaders must take a more flexible approach to planning and develop multi-pronged strategic action plans, not just one. Each plan must be action-oriented so that when the future becomes more certain, managers can nimbly make operational decisions. During a financial crisis, options such as streamlining personnel and mergers between other organisations doing similar or redundant work tend to arise. A featured case study of Cisco Systems shows that when it was forced to streamline, leadership thoughtfully redesigned roles and responsibilities to yield greater cooperation among functional areas moving forward. The authors conclude that the next year or two will offer profoundly new market dynamics. The future will belong to leaders who remain calm and prepare their organisations “for whatever the world throws at them.” To access the full article see: www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Leading_through_uncertainty_2263

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