Shifting with the sands: COVID-19 and changing values

Anette’s last piece for Oxford Answers was referenced in the Financial Times. ‘In many ways, lockdown is intellectually easy . . . as a remedy it is clear-cut. The exit strategy is much less clear,’ she was quoted. This is her latest piece for us addressing that issue.

In organizations (and societies) with competing cultural values when it comes to risk, how should our leaders create and manage consensus? And how do we define what is it we are prioritizing today versus tomorrow? These answers go right to the heart of leadership and strategy. Leaders must acknowledge the existence of multiple values at risk and foster a process that allows continuous discussion to take place about competing and conflicting priorities. Such processes need to have certain characteristics. Previously, we talked about psychological safety – we now extend that with the notion that it is important to wipe the slate clean after each “priority contest”. Particularly in situations such as the Covid-19 crisis, when organizational action, by necessity, becomes a series of temporary compromises. Leaders must not alienate any of the “cultural tribes” within their organization, standing up for one value or another. Their job is to keep these voices in dialogue, and tend to an uneasy equilibrium by fostering as series of compromises. Tools such as RiskTalk can facilitate the process of successfully “shifting with the sands”.

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