LeadershipLeanLean OfficeProductivity

How to Manage Chaos & Uncertainty

By Ron Pereira Updated on April 2nd, 2020

One of the most efficient ways to work through an obstacle, or uncertainty, is to learn as fast as possible through experimentation. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have been facing lots of change and uncertainty over the last few weeks as the world deals with the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to content development duties, a large part of my role here at Gemba Academy has me virtually coaching folks through our Lean Practitioner & Six Sigma Certification process. And since many companies are now asking folks to work from home, these coaching calls have been quite interesting over the last few weeks.

A constant theme I’m hearing is how difficult it can be to find balance since many are homeschooling kids for the first time (as well as many other things) while also trying to do their work from a makeshift home office.

Heck, I’m typing this article from my son’s bedroom since I no longer have a home office and needed a desk to sit at since we’re also working from home. So, believe me, I get it.

The advice I’ve given out a number of times during my recent coaching calls, and am trying to practice myself, is to leverage some sort of personal Leader Standard Work while planning before and reflecting after each day like scientific thinkers.

Specifically, here’s how this might look.

At the end of your work day, take out a piece of paper and write, or document electronically if you prefer, what you hope to accomplish the next day. At a minimum, what are the 3 most important tasks you must get done? Write them down and be as specific as possible including when you intend to do these things. And, yes, if homeschooling your kiddo(s) is part of the plan note this accordingly.

Once these “next steps” are documented it’s time to document what you think is going to happen. Make a prediction. You don’t need to write a novel here. A sentence or two per task will suffice. And if you use something like MS Outlook or Google Calendar, be sure to build these tasks into your calendar. This entire process should only take a few minutes once you’re into a daily routine.

Now let’s fast forward to the end of the next day. It’s time to note what actually happened and what you learned. If you didn’t get a task completed, do your best to note what happened and what you learned. If you got everything completed you should also note what happened and what you learned. This will complete the learning loop since you will have documented your plan, what you thought was going to happen, what actually happened, and what you learned.

And as you probably guessed…once this learning loop is complete it’s time to start the process over by looking at the next day and writing down your next steps/plan and what you think is going to happen.

The feedback I’m getting from folks using this approach is that they’re no longer feeling as overwhelmed by uncertainty. And while there’s still some chaos with kids and dogs running around…it’s definitely easier to cope with when there’s a specific plan and daily reflection process in place.

Finally, many of us are facing more uncertainty and fear than ever before. And while I don’t want to pretend I’ve not had my share of freak out moments (just ask my wife and kids) I am desperately trying to remember these very wise words from one of the greatest thinkers of all time – Marcus Aurelius – who once said, “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Stay safe friends.  Thanks for reading.

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