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Here we go again: Strategically well positioned through the Corona autumn
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Here we go again: Strategically well positioned through the Corona autumn

Marlene Amalie Magerl

Autumn is here – even if we may not want to admit it yet after this incredibly beautiful summer. At least here in the Netherlands, September showed its good sides and I have high hopes for a wonderful, golden October! At the same time, a topic is slowly starting to stretch its arms back into my feeds on social media, my news apps, and other media like an octopus stretches its tentacles. It’s all about the sorry C-word, Corona. The data is clear, we will be dealing with our unwanted companion again this fall and winter. As a workplace mental health consultant, I’d like to share in this article a tried-and-true strategy that can help us in the months ahead.

How flexibility succeeds strategically

When it comes to flexibility, I regularly see my clients fall for a belief system: If you plan, you are not flexible and you take a lot of liberties. However, this is not entirely true. If you don’t plan, you have to decide everything spontaneously (and then well!), taking into account many internal and external factors, interests and potential consequences. In the case of Corona, for example, this can mean that work has to be done in the home office again very quickly, colleagues who have fallen ill are absent or there are other operational difficulties that have to be compensated for. In the past, private life has also been complicated by daycare closures and lockdowns. What is needed, then, is planning similar to a game manual that anticipates potential scenarios and includes well-considered solutions in advance. In business administration, we know this procedure from scenario analysis, which is used in the field of innovation and risk management. The approach can be applied very well in the current situation: Organizational and individual, professional and private.

Short guide for scenario analysis

  1. Setting the scene: What is the area of interest right now? For what exactly do we want to evaluate and analyze different scenarios? Business example: corona cases in a particular department. In the process, the current actual state should also be well illuminated. What is the division of labor in the department at the moment? Who has what key roles? What are the influencing factors? Who needs to be at the table to design a good strategy? The more representative the team, the more meaningful the result.
  2. Making forecasts: We know the situation of the last few years and, based on current forecasts from the scientific community, we can estimate quite well what impact Corona will have on us and our work in the coming months. Here it is now important to identify key factors. To stay with the example: It is about factors that influence the ability to act in the department, positively and negatively. I personally find metaplan cards super here to visualize the factors vividly.
  3. Form scenarios: Various possible scenarios are now being worked out in concrete terms. Here, it makes sense to first take a good look at the extremes: One scenario considers all positive factors (what if no one gets sick?), one all negative factors (what happens if shit hits the fan?) and then one or more in between, depending on how many realistic (!) combinations of influencing factors there are. Now here you can super bring the metaplan cards together in different combinations to see what is realistic and what the corresponding scenario would look like.
  4. Design strategies: Finally, a strategy is designed for the scenario that seems most likely. It is not so important whether this assessment is 100% correct, because we also take into account the other scenarios, for example for alternative strategies when certain events occur. Here the “What happens if…” principle helps enormously to become concrete.
  5. Visualization: If you are a bit creative, you can display the results graphically at the end. For example, by pinning your metaplan cards to a poster and drawing in connecting lines, this creates a kind of flowchart. Now everyone knows what to do in which case and there is a good basis for discussion in the event of an emergency.

In summary, the planning we do here is not an instruction manual, it is about playing the game well, taking into account the relevant factors. Once these are in place, we can make the necessary preparations in advance for the most likely scenario. Are we still positioned in such a way that we can quickly switch back to the home office? Do we need to train colleagues in certain key activities to ensure redundancy in case of illness? Are there any long-term projects that could be put on hold for the time being without any short-term consequences, if the worst came to the worst, in order to take the pressure off the team?

Scenarios also help privately

This procedure sounds totally complex at first. But it is not at all. Many of us already use scenarios privately, especially when the same thing goes wrong over and over again. Let’s take the example of the dishwasher that never wants to put itself away. Then they sit down at a table and put together what didn’t work. The frame is staked out. We then also consider together with our loved ones what could have caused it. Too much exciting after dinner, time pressure after breakfast in the morning, not feeling like it, and so on. Maybe no one really feels responsible and they secretly hoped someone else would do it. The influencing factors are named. Then we look at how we would like it to be in the future and what happens if it goes completely wrong again. The scenarios are designed. In the end, we agree on how we want to handle it in the future and how we can ensure that the ideal occurs. The strategy is set. In the family environment, visualization is often not done, but maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to put such agreements on paper?!

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Good planning is essential for well-being

In terms of well-being and mental health, such a predefined strategy is also totally helpful: the stress level is lower because not everything has to be decided ad hoc, there is more capacity for communication and mutual help, and the overview is not lost so quickly. The overwhelm is bound to come back at one moment or another. At the same time, we are also better prepared for this thanks to our scenario analysis.

If we can consult our strategies designed with a cool head in difficult situations, we will have both more time and mental flexibility to cope well with the challenge. Then we can take care of the really important things much better: For example, sending a big bouquet of flowers to the sick colleague who just had Corona for the third time. Or schedule more time for consultation with our team members who just need more content support. Enable a better division of labor despite daycare closures than in recent Corona waves. Because in the end, that’s what matters most in a crisis.

About the author

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Marlene firmly believes that a human, inclusive economy is more productive and profitable. If you want to revolutionise your industry today, you will have to look after your greatest resource: Employees! She approaches this topic from different perspectives: Marlene is a certified systemic consultant and business coach with an additional focus on systemic organisational consulting and organisational development. She studied business and medicine at renowned universities, including the University of Groningen and Cambridge. She is also part of the management team in the family business Koamed, a service provider for occupational medicine and occupational safety. In addition to her entrepreneurial activities, Marlene conducts research on work and mental health in young adults at the University of Groningen and is a doctor-to-be. Marlene wants to make the economy more human and prepare her clients for the working world of the future!

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