A work crisis has passed: So you feel like you can breathe a big sigh of relief and move on.
Not so fast!
Leaders want to do more than “just get over it” in any crisis – from a department shakeup to a pandemic-fueled upheaval. Focus on stability before moving full steam ahead.
“It’s here where many companies drop the ball. Some semblance of normal life returns, work gets busy, and it feels like there is no more time to spend on the trauma,” say Mark Goulston and Diana Hendel, authors of Trauma to Triumph: A Roadmap for Leading Through Disruption. “But if you stop now, the impact of your initial hard work will be lost.”
It starts with the right conversation after a crisis has seemingly passed.
Here’s what to do:
Take a ‘Look Back’
Also called an “After Action Review” or “Postmortem,” a “Look Back” is a structured review to figure out what happened, why it happened and how to handle it in the future.
Do it as soon as you recognize the crisis has ended – for instance, once you confirm everyone is safe following a natural disaster or when operations are running after a sudden disruption.
The goal is to recap the events, gather facts, get feedback and identify gaps in protocol or lapses in performance.
Step 1: Gather a team
Ask fellow leaders and employees who have different, level-headed outlooks to join in.
Pick a facilitator and recordkeeper. Use a flip chart if you’re together or a digital whiteboard if you’re in a Zoom meeting.
Step 2: Establish ground rules
Either call on your usual meeting protocols or create rules for this special purpose. The authors recommend these:
- One person speaks at a time.
- No one points fingers.
- Be honest and transparent about what was seen, heard and done.
Step 3: Lay the groundwork
This isn’t an easy conversation, so it’s important everyone understands and agrees to:
- hearing and accepting different points of view
- allowing people to express emotions and opinions, and
- getting a full perspective of what happened before making decisions.
Step 4: Ask the right questions
You want some structure to the “Look Back” conversation so you’re sure you learn from the work crisis.
Answering the right questions – not necessarily all of them – will help.
Goulston and Hendel offer these:
- Positives: What went well? What were our strengths? Where did we shine?
- Negatives: What went wrong? What were our weaknesses? Where was there confusion or conflict?
- Process: Which processes were followed and not followed? Why didn’t people follow processes? Were they overwhelmed or unaware of plans, processes or policies?
- Policy: What happened that wasn’t covered in a policy or process? What policies were unclear and which inhibited rapid decision making?
- Communication: What helped or hindered communication with employees and/or customers? What questions remain and how will we communicate the answers?
Step 5: Act
Document and summarize. Note who will take what actions and by when.
That’s when you can put the crisis in a rearview mirror.