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Navigating decisions in uncertain times: Potent questions for a crisis situation

When making critical decisions, it is essential that we get away from the immediate in-your-face circumstances that seduce the decision maker into actions that have no long-term viability and may actually curtail future wiser decisions. Some authors describe it as stop-and-take-a-breath pause. In practice, this is achieved by employing a holistic worldview of the crisis and your place in it. To build the ‘rich picture’ of the crisis, you need to sweep in multiple and diverse perspectives into the one canvas.

Techniques for rich picturing include storytelling and conversation mapping.

For example, one can initiate the stories with questions like:

· Tell us your best or worse experience caused by the current crisis?

After maximising the number of stories, you can quickly collect, cluster similar points that come from the different stories. Before you settle on a decision, check whether you have each of the clusters you consider significant to the future covered.

Seed the conversation mapping exercise with potent questions that will elicit robust sharing from the diverse experiences’ participants. Here are four questions McKinsey & Company suggested could be asked at times of crisis:

· What is most important right now?

· What might we be missing?

· How might things unfold from here? and

· What could we influence now that could pay off later?

Identify patterns of ideas that emerge across the conversation maps and either use them to stimulate the design of new initiatives to improve the situation, or as with the story clusters, check to see if your potential decisions cover the emerging issues.

Multiple benefits are achieved in pausing in this way.

· Teams and stakeholders gain a shared sense of ownership of crisis impact and actions to improve the situation.

· Motivation and commitment to a common cause is reinforced.

· Blind-spots, only visible from weak signals, are identified.

· Trust and confidence in leaders are enhanced.

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