April 15, 2020
Boxer, actor and modern philosopher Mike Tyson famously said that “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face“. Well, we all just got punched in the face. Now what?
I have come to appreciate that there is true wisdom in Mr. Tyson’s words. When we look at what is happening around us with the current COVID-19 situation, it seems like the plans to deal with the situation fell short. But that really isn’t my point.
It is actually less relevant to me right now if a particular leader had a plan or not. If they did, great! If they were able to pull a big binder off the shelf that contained all the scenarios and recommended options for responding to a change like the pandemic, then that is wonderful.
I hope most leaders did exactly that. And if they did not, I hope they go back later and use a blameless post-mortem to determine where the planning was not sufficient. I hope they learn and adapt.
What is much more interesting to me right now is how various leaders across government and private sector at all levels are responding to the current challenge. I find that I admire some while others leave me wondering just WTF. I mean seriously, WTF?
They say adversity and crisis reveal character. There are so many historical examples of how great leaders have stepped up in times of crisis. Churchill, Ghandi, and Truman are a few that come to my mind. How history will treat the leaders of today based on their actions remains to be seen.
Agile leaders appreciate the value of planning as well as the fine balance between planning and responsiveness. The 4th Agile Value is “Responding to Change over Following a Plan“. So while we certainly want to have plans, a higher value is being able to respond to changes. We need the flexibility, dexterity and sure-footedness to respond to challenges and opportunities. Especially to those challenges that may not have been entirely anticipated.
I like to think we are all leaders. If nothing else we are leading ourselves and taking responsibility for our thoughts, actions and behaviors.
I want to encourage you to be mindful about your own personal leadership during this time. I hope that all of us can focus on responding to change in healthy and productive ways.
We all got punched in the face. What happened to us is not really all that interesting. What is both interesting and important is how we respond to that punch. Now what?