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Now is the period of "RE"

The more we survey the organizational trends landscape, the more we recognize that, collectively, we have entered a period of “RE.” Smart leaders of organizations of all sizes, missions, and sectors are reassessing, reframing, refocusing, rediscovering, and rebalancing how they do business. Taking the lessons learned from two of the most difficult years in the past century to heart, these leaders are taking the difficult – but very necessary – step back from day-to-day operations to determine what is working and what needs to change to keep their teams on course to achieve organizational goals.

The critical first step in any attempt at “RE” is taking a hard look at organizational alignment with strategic goals: the reassessment. This applies to both the organization’s activities as well as its very structure. To identify areas to improve, leaders must quantify where they are and where they want to be; the opportunities lie in bridging the gaps between the two. A best practice is to involve representatives of all levels and types of stakeholders in the organization’s success; front-line workers, clients, and senior managers all bring valuable – and variable – points of view to any discussion of goals and paths to attaining them.

Actor and author Michael McMillian once observed that “you can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” The same is true for organizations: to be successful in achieving their goals, the organizational team must keep moving forward. The role of leaders is to determine the destination (strategic goals), with managers plotting out the course (strategic plan). Reframing, refocusing, and rediscovering are all “REs” that hinge on the answer to one key question: “how does what I am doing contribute to achieving our goals?” Every member of the organization, no matter their role or level of responsibility, should always have a clear answer to this question. Without that clarity of purpose, organizational teams can become bogged down in activities that detract from the overall mission.

Many organizations are emerging from the reduced operations, interrupted supply chain challenges, and disconnected workforces wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the moment for leaders to spark a renewal of excitement and engagement among their teams by rebalancing their approach to business as usual. Opening up to change, seeking input (not just feedback) from workers, and highlighting the why as much as the how in what teams do demonstrates organizational commitment to them and their performance far better than monthly Zoom check-ins or bringing donuts to the staff meeting.

Finding the time to stop, step back, and evaluate our organizations with a critical eye is hard. There’s never a convenient opportunity to take a pause, which why so many of us fail to do it, despite the best of intentions. But if we have learned anything over the past year and a half, to navigate in changed environments, organizations must evolve or risk failure. Embracing the periods of “RE” gives leaders the tools to do just that.

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