What to do when you don’t know what to do? At the moment the global Covid-19 outbreak urges political leaders to lead without knowing all the details and outcomes since we are dealing with a new disease. They must make a 100% correct decision with only 50% or less of the information available with the lives of people at stake. Of course, this is impossible, because of all the distractions from volatile political situations in many countries to the 24/7 onslaught from social media. How can our politicians do their important work with this background noise fighting for their attention?
Now making the right decision in an extreme uncertain situation is not only important for the leaders of our countries, but also for owners of companies, shops, travel agents, airlines, banks and…….veterinary practices. We are talking about the future of these companies, jobs, a continuum of care, your daily income, your practice!
In these situations, it is important to demonstrate the right leadership for your employees and your customers. The good news is that it has been done before, the bad news is that circumstances are always different. However, let’s see what we can learn from the past and from scientific research.
The global threat of the Covid-19 outbreak and the impact it has on us, in general, and in your veterinary practise can be described as a “Wicked Problem”. What wicked problems have in common is that there are no simple solutions to it. The problem is complex since there are a lot of intertwined things happening (infection pressure, angst, lack of medical care, travel restrictions and bans, differences between age groups regarding susceptibility, globalization of the economy, lack of scientific evidence, lack of knowledge of the pathogen to name a few) so the problem cannot be solved in isolation. Finding a solution for one problem (like a lockdown) creates another problem (when to open up again). There is no idea or a clear definition of success. There are no clear right or wrong solutions, only better or worse developments. Uncertainty and ambiguity are inevitable and there is not correct analysis available. With these problems, we need political collaboration since scientific processes take a long time.
As a leader to solve a wicked problem, it is important to ask questions and listen to what people really need. Engage with the people you are responsible for in the clinic and your customers and create collaboration.
Expand the conversation to other stakeholders i.e. banks, local authorities, suppliers, local companies, competitors, social services, medical professionals, etc. to stay tuned and find out how you can help each other out. There are big government support operations happening in all countries to keep society going, maintain employment levels, income support, company support etc. Inform yourself or make sure you are being informed of how this would work for your practice.
Realize that there are no fixed and readymade solutions for this situation and communicate this with your staff and customers. You have to switch to “emergent” practice whereby you learn what works and what not on the go. The relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect. You have to probe, sense and respond to new situations.
Do not stick to a plan that doesn’t work. Share failures and explain why, but also do this with successes. Deploy what you have learned.
Referring to a higher purpose, the higher goal i.e. the continuation of care for the animals even in times when humans are threatened by a new virus will help. Particularly if you put everything you do and try into this perspective. Pets, production animals, horses will stay and will remain in need of your support and attention now and in the future, no matter what.
Foster a culture whereby creativity, ideas and approaches are shared openly and constructively and do not forget to include your customers. Reach out to them.
Be clear what you expect from your staff and again frame it to a higher purpose, the why of your business!
Have the foresight to think about the future and how things would look in one or two years time. This is the time to work on your company not only for your company. Reach out for support from professionals when needed. The Oculus Insights team is there for you, wherever you are!
This is the time to make the difference for your staff, your customers and yourself.