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Jenny Williams | 4 June 2020

Deciding what’s most important right now – times have changed!

COVID-19 has brought with it a huge amount of upheaval for businesses.

Many have had to slow down, stop or change in response to the lockdown and the current economic environment.  The world of working has changed, and we are only just beginning to understand what the new ’normal’ might look like.

In times of disruption, it can be hard for leadership teams to figure out what’s most important and what their organisation should be focused on or doing right now.  That’s why, in times like this, it’s critical to pause and think through what your priorities are.  There are three things to consider as you do so:

1) Purpose, Vision, Strategy

Your starting point should always be the purpose of your organisation – your why.  In most cases, if you have a strong purpose, this won’t have changed as a result as COVID-19, even if your services or products have.  Your purpose is your first consideration when looking at your priorities – everything on your list should support you to meet your purpose. If it doesn’t, take it off the list!

For many of us, our vision is the north star we have been aiming for.  At a time like this, that north star can feel lightyears away, and even unachievable.  It’s ok to revisit your vision, or to shift your focus to a shorter term mission instead.  Whether you have a vision or a mission, your priorities need to be moving you forward in that direction.  If not, put them on hold for now or discard them.

For most of us, our strategy has changed.  2020 is not shaping up to be the year we thought it would be and what we hoped to achieve this year is now on the backburner.  It is critical to revisit your strategy and make changes in response to the current climate.

2) Involve your team

It is also important that employees have absolute clarity about what is important right now and what they themselves should be prioritising.  By sharing your purpose, short term mission and your revised strategy, your team can exercise their own judgement in terms of what they prioritise day to day.

At Humankind we strongly believe in taking an employee centred approach to everything we do, sharing transparently with our people the position of our business and seeking their input into what we do and how. 

Our employee centred design mindset is based on two core beliefs:

  • Employees represent one of the greatest sources of performance potential in an organisation. Great employee experiences inspire people to perform.
  • The solutions that you seek lie in the population you’re serving. Employees are in the best position to tell you what’s going on and should be involved in solution design.

This is never more true than when looking at what to prioritise and identifying what will move the needle the most for your customers, community and employees. Seeking your teams views on what is important and what should be prioritised right now may uncover priorities that might not otherwise reach the top of the pile.

3) Guiding principles

Together with your organisational values, guiding principles help you to stay laser focused on what is important as you put your strategy into action and to ensure your Leadership Team is united in making decisions.  They assist you to execute your priorities in a deliberate way, fit for your organisation and pay attention to what’s most important right now. These principles may be unspoken but there is power in speaking them out loud and sharing them with your employees.

At Humankind, the guiding principles we have been applying during this time have been:

  • We learn and adapt quickly (we acknowledge we may not get it right the first time and definitely don’t have all the answers but apply what we know works and adapt if/when we need to)
  • We connect with our people (team and clients) more than ever before
  • We leave no stone unturned in recognising how we can support our community
  • We recognise the importance of celebrating achievements (big or small)
  • We harness the power of our team to live our purpose in every way

If you are a growing business, or a team within a large enterprise, we must all prioritise how we spend our most precious recourse, time. The world has changed and therefore so have many of our priorities.

Let’s all focus on making a difference for others (purpose), keeping the main thing the main thing (strategy), doing it with our team (employee centric) and communicating how we will execute (guiding principles) to deliver the best outcomes for our customers, community and team.