The butterfly effect of COVID19**
Years before Apollo XIII was launched, thousands of spacecraft concepts, systems, procedures, support facilities and human resources had been designed, developed, integrated, tested and rehearsed to a point of presumed perfection. By April 11, 1970 Lovell, Swigert, Mattingly* and Haise had spent thousands of man-hours working as a team with a sea of managers, engineers, scientists and technicians rehearsing on Earth every single possible and imaginable situation that could happen in space.
Then, as my Navy CPO would say – “Sir, $#!7 happened”.
We know the story has a happy ending. Even though the crew never got to Fra Mauro, they got back home safely. To do so they:
“Dug deep”, harkening back to knowledge amassed throughout years of academic learning, military training and life experience.
Repurposed their available resources and adapted to their new world.
Flew the damaged Odyssey for 5 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes, 41 seconds (an eternity or so) back to the South Pacific Ocean.
One faulty sensor within a network of hundreds of thousands. A simple flip of a switch with a single finger. The most minute of interactions dramatically changed the “how” Lovell and crew would get back home and complete their mission.
COVID19 may not have changed the mission of your business, but it is fair to say that it has, or will change the “how” you run it. So how do you get your business through this pandemic successfully?
Your business has an incredible pool of knowledge in your employees – listen to them. Better yet – ask them how they would do things better in the post-COVID19 world. Who is “them” you ask? You know, the folks that roll their eyes in meetings when they spot insanity. The folks who always get the work done, circumventing the five steps that add no value to the outcome but rather add wasted time, money and effort. Rookie or SME, newbie of founding partner “them” have knowledge that used as a collective force of change can be unstoppable and beneficial to your business. While the Apollo XIII procedures were mature and sound, it was knowledge that acted as the base of the mission’s success.
“Sacred cows make great hamburgers”, so be a voracious carnivore of opportunity. Businesses that insist on sticking with a 2019 playbook that has only a few dated plays will face hard times. Just because it was done like that a year ago or even six months ago, it doesn’t mean you have to do it the same way now. The playing field has suddenly changed and Darwin has a theory about this. Some businesses went from a work force packed in cubes to a distributed model that works from their home. For those companies seeking new employees that can work from home, the market place went from local to national. That means that a computer engineer in Georgia or Wyoming is going to command the same salary anywhere in the nation, so adjust your budget plan accordingly. If you work in sales, your world went from “TSA heaven” to “WebEx paradise”, so adapt to survive. The Apollo XIII crew cobbled scavenged parts and adapted them to work in ways they were not intended to work.
Lastly, the Apollo XIII crew and team “flew the aircraft”. They spoke the truth, dispensed with the “nice to do” and focused on doing the job to the best of their ability. If they received guidance that was questionable, or saw better options, they discussed them putting their bias or ego aside. Whether you’re on the production floor, dialing from the phone bank, in the IT room or “WFH” like Mattingly, everyone has a job to do, and everyone’s actions have to be synchronized like a gearbox. Maintain focus on your mission like the Apollo XIII crew so you land safely on the other side of COVID19.
Necessity may be the mother of all inventions, but that doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch every time. Sometimes the best invention may merely be lean revision of your current business’ processes and workflows that allow you to dig deep, adapt and perform.
“Come in Houston, we have a solution here”.
*Mattingly was quarantined at the last moment because exposure to rubella. (Coincidence?)
** The Butterfly Effect: With reference to chaos theory, is the phenomenon whereby a minute, localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.