Anticipate, Prepare, and Decide

Last updated: Sep 29, 2020

The best leaders constantly strive for peak performance and efficiency. But those ideals are usually held under the premise of “normal” circumstances. What happens when things go sideways? I’m reminded of this gem from Maj. Richard Winters: Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind. In the last six months, this principle became particularly meaningful for USF Corporate Training and Professional Education. A new way to conduct business was in order.


I attended several meetings with USF colleagues during the early part of 2020. The university was keeping a collective eye on the coronavirus affecting the globe’s eastern hemisphere. As the weeks passed, it was apparent the contagion would make its way to the United States. Its extent, though, was still unknown. In order to protect the health of students and staff, what measures might be taken? In light of the threat, the possibility of completing the remainder of the semester via online instruction was on the table. The problem had been anticipated.

 

The time had come for us to prepare to overcome the obstacle. How would our office manage a possible shutdown? Some of our classes were already taking place via internet connection. But in order to continue offering our full schedule without interruption, we would need to move all of our programming to a live online format. We quickly alerted our instructors to the prospect—especially those that had, up until that time, only taught face-to-face in the classroom setting. They understood the situation and were on board.

 

Maj. Winters uses the image of a ridgetop in battle to convey that the time for action is at hand. It’s not the place to be drawing up a strategy. By then, it’s too late. Thankfully, our office was ready to go. By the time a majority of the country was under a shelter-in-place order in mid-March, we had smoothly transitioned our traditional classroom courses to an online platform. Because we were able to anticipate the problem and prepare to overcome the obstacle, the decision to carry out the contingency plan was swift and resolute.

 

Norms are occasionally disrupted. It’s inevitable. Budget for difficulties just as you would for expenses and salaries. Move ahead confidently when you’ve prepared for a crisis. While there’s no guarantee of success, a prolonged delay in response will, almost certainly, be costly—requiring additional time and resources to mitigate. Through anticipation, preparation, and timely decision-making, you’ll give your team the opportunity to withstand—and, possibly, even flourish in—the most challenging predicaments.