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A possible answer to the uncertainty in 2019.

Date Posted: July 4, 2019

“We are in difficult times, as everyone has been before. We can only claim different difficulties.”

J.L. Borges

It seems that time has gone by faster than normal in 2019.

It is already July.

Suddenly, the third quarter has begun and the mindset of a large number of people in Mexico is of uncertainty and unrest. Political, economic and social international conditions, both domestically and internationally,  have imposed this psychological state in the last twelve months.

For some generations, it is one more crisis to survive, of so many that they have lived through, although they certainly are quite tired. For others, it is a first real crisis to face, and it is taking  them by surprise.

No one seems to be able to figure out what awaits the country. The conversations in business and social meetings are nurtured in comments and opinions, however the variables for real planning in the personal, professional and organizational domains remain difficult to understand, to evaluate and  more complicated to forecast.

The design of scenarios is increasingly confusing. The assignment of probabilities almost impossible.

In this context, carefulness, savings, risk aversion, cost reduction, the halt on growth plans, the delay in decision making, the over-analysis of disbursements and the microscopic care of cash flow are, simultaneously, consequence and cause of a cold sensation of stagnation at best, and of concern and fear of feeling imminent and inescapable disaster, at worst.

Perception mixes with reality and morphs into it.

Anxiety as one of the factors that permeates the organizational Zeitgeist in Mexico at the end of the second decade of the 21st century.

I´ve had the great opportunity to observe a good number of organizations and their leaders face crises of different natures, both in Mexico and in other countries, in several continents, at least for 30 years.

Those who have not only faced, but have seized opportunities-which usually arise during times of crisis, and some precisely because of it – in almost all cases refer that their best moments have flourished during these uncertain periods.

Performing a function as an individual contributor or leading a complex organization with effectiveness, efficiency and viability in the short, medium and long term, in circumstances of crisis produced by a favorable context, presupposes a configuration of competences and capacities entirely different from those required to face a difficulty generated by adverse economic and political circumstances.

The speed and depth with which these capacities, competences and abilities are recognized and acquired by organizations and leaders, are KPIs for survival.

The conservation and development of the best adapted in its professional and organizational version.

In my opinion, this issue is key and should occupy a good portion of the agenda of board members, shareholders and executives of companies.

The key questions would be:

  • “Do we have the skills, competencies, behaviors and knowledge necessary to face the current circumstance and take advantage of the opportunities in our organization?”
  • “If not, can we generate them internally? Do we need to look for them in the marketplace and bring them on board?”
  • “Why should a high performing professional, with the skills we seek, with the right cultural fit, be interested in our particular company at this precise moment?”
  • “What kind of message are we spreading within the organization that strengthens or weakens our “Employment Brand ?”

A handful of firms and executives transform, adapt, reinvent themselves, undergo metamorphosis and reappear with new strength.

The crisis as fuel for personal and organizational transformation remains only a cliché if it stays in the familiar after-dinner, in the board meeting room, or in the consulting  PowerPoint presentation.

The concept and its language, when they become reality through personal and collective practice and generate the vision and emotional energy indispensable for sustained action, are the necessary fuel for such a transformation.

Allow me to share some points of reference that I have heard from various leaders who have successfully traveled that road  before:

  • “We had a couple of leaders who managed to move from prudent pessimism to proactive optimism and infect people around them”.
  • “We played the last card to generate an organizational culture that is adaptive, creative, proactive, resilient and positive”.
  • “We increased investment in developing competencies required by the new circumstances in our leaders, at all levels.”
  • “We made sure to retain critical talent and that it had opportunities for greater responsibility and freedom of decision.”
  • “We developed a relentless ability to identify top performing talent.”
  • “Even in times of reduced budgets and hiring freezes, we had the courage to attract high performing talent that demonstrated cultural fit.”

    The empirical reality has shown, time and again, that when conditions are favorable, more people are needed, even without all the desired competencies, and that when conditions are adverse, better people are required, with no space for incomplete competencies.

    If we do an exercise of honest self-analysis of human capital and the configuration of its competencies in our organizations, we will probably see certain opportunities for action on which we can act immediately and with priority.

    Echoing Borges’s phrase, there are possibilities to focus personal and organizational efforts and energy on “different difficulties”, change the resolution and color of the lens with which we observe reality and find better quality problems to solve.

    To do it effectively, betting on raising the talent bar and the specific work on the transformation of the organizational culture are competitive advantages that, in trying times, trigger real personal and organizational transformation.