As I looked at the empty streets of New York on my way to an almost deserted airport, the gravity of the current pandemic was not lost on me. The anxiety and sadness is palpable. Every decision made by our government, our clients, and our friends seem to happen within the context of tremendous emotion. In a time when good decisions are most important, it is not a time to use emotions as a substitute for reason. Emotions exist to motivate action, not to make good decisions.
To help clients generate insights apart from emotions, we incorporate systems thinking, which I embraced several years ago. Systems thinking is a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the way that a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. It is particularly useful in addressing complex problems.
Healthcare and modeling experts are using systems thinking to address potential Covid-19 outcomes, ranging from what happens if we do nothing to ramping up testing and quarantines. (see chart)
Psynet Group incorporated systems thinking in a conversation with a client a few days ago in helping them decide whether to close one of their operations in response to the pandemic. In struggling with the dilemma of closing the office to keep their workers healthy at the cost of their income, the team wavered. One senior leadership team member even quoted the Federal Reserve Board finding that 40% of Americans could not cover an unexpected $400 expense, a figure that is likely higher among hourly workers such as those within our client’s organization.
The right decision seemed to be elusive as they discussed near term versus medium/long term impact.
We coached our client through the various options and corresponding strings of consequences. For example, the inability to pay bills will lead to a spike in stress for the employees. High stress suppresses the immune system and makes the workers more vulnerable to illness, etc.
In the end, the client reached a decision that they felt addressed the needs of their employees, their customers, and society as best they could in these unprecedented times.
We began helping our friends and clients think through their pandemic strategies earlier this week. Our help will certainly not alleviate all painful decisions. We believe, however, that our systemic thinking approach, combined with wisdom and experience gained from working with organizations through past crises, will significantly increase the odds that you will make the optimal decision.
We are offering this service for free because in times like this, your decisions not only benefit your company but benefit our world. Information and insights are crucial right now. We’ll fill you in on what we are learning from others right now and ask that you will do the same.