The impacts of the “Great Resignation” are keenly felt by teams and individuals across the globe. Few teams remain unaffected. It is like a pervasive wave that is causing turmoil and is destabilizing teams and organizations. As leaders fail to respond adequately, the cycle of attrition continues to cause churn and chaos within the organization. 

I felt that it was important to address this in response to conversations with several people about the situation they are facing in their organizations, and how they are on the cusp of walking out the door as they simply cannot take it any longer (research indicates that close to 1 in 4 are considering leaving their employment). The situation of constant churn and chaos has become untenable for so many people. They are burning out, and losing the will to show up every day with a positive can-do attitude. They can see that this just isn’t working. They are unable to have real conversations with their executive leaders and cannot influence the changes needed to stop the madness.

Karen Walker recently interviewed Laura Baldwin from O’Reilly Media on what Baldwin called “The Great Destabilization”. In the article for Forbes, Baldwin asserts that “one overlooked outcome of the great resignation is the great destabilization that hobbles companies as they lose productivity and innovation”. She goes on to say “I’m concerned about framing the story from an individual perspective.  It is crucial because it’s the individuals leaving or creating that hole. But what it’s doing is destabilizing companies. The effect of what I call the significant destabilization will not be seen for a matter of months, if not longer.”

Walker suggests that re-stabilization is a good framework to address the loss of stability and effectiveness when someone leaves a team.

This was a call to action for me – I felt that it was critical to reframe this to lay out how we can solve this problem quickly — as clearly there is no time to waste. 

The Great Destabilization

This destabilization is a direct result of a long build up of working practices where organizations are “doing more with less”. Teams have been “flat out busy” for a long time – let’s not kid ourselves, this isn’t a recent occurrence. 

As teams focus on doing the work, they rarely take time to review and improve their process or working methodology, develop best practices or document their standard operating procedures. New employees are trained on the job, learning as they do the work. 

Resource gaps on the team has meant that there is no spare time for process improvement, so the knowledge remains firmly in people’s heads – so much so that employees frequently have to work extra hours before or after a vacation to catch up or worse, check in while on vacation to ensure that the work continues in their absence. As people now leave organizations in droves, companies are now experiencing the real impact of this tactical way of working. 

The Great Destabilization, as shown below, is a vicious cycle that will continue to churn until executive leaders hit pause to address the situation strategically.

churn circle

How To Break The Cycle

When we are stuck in a rut, we need some type of pattern interrupt to jolt us out of our situation so we can look at our world differently. For many, the COVID pandemic was that pattern interrupt that caused them to say “enough”, and hence the great resignation. 

It’s now time to hit the pause button, and to take stock of where we are, how we got here, and how we can dig our way out — I call this a “Situational Assessment”.

A situational assessment is a way of gathering, analyzing and discussing information, to determine underlying factors that are causing or affecting the situation, and identify options to move forward. 

While that might sound like a lot of effort, especially as everyone is overwhelmed already – who has time to plan?

However this can be done simply in a short workshop with your team.

In your workshop, have a discussion on:

  • WHAT – describe the current situation, what is happening?
  • WHY – what are the underlying reasons for the situation? (Channel your inner two year old self and keep asking why until there are no more answers).
  • WHO – who is impacted and how is it impacting them?
  • HOW – what are your options to move forward? 

The SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) assessment framework works well for this conversation, if you need to jump start the conversation. You can also use the “Start, Stop, Continue” method similar to retrospectives as I outline in this blog article.

Some tips and additional resources:

 

Your Restabilization Plan

To communicate this upwards to your executive leadership team to get their support and buy-in, you will want to take the time to frame the information gathered into a visual assessment dashboard that clearly shows:

  • The situation
  • Current impacts 
  • Future risks to the organization 
  • Opportunity cost
  • Root cause (several risks/impacts may roll up to a key root cause)
  • What is required to remediate the situation
  • What decision needs to be made or where do you need support from executives?

Align the impacts and risks to metrics that the executive team cares about – such as strategic priorities, revenue, customers, reputation, growth, delivery, operational disruption, etc. 

Be clear about the root cause and what it will take to solve the real problem. 

Be clear about your ask of them.

And be crystal clear about the risk, impact and opportunity cost of doing nothing. 

If you are facilitating this conversation as an executive leader, start by establishing a “safe” environment where the team knows that they can speak freely and that you welcome their input and there are no repercussions for them speaking their mind. 

They will only do that if you have established trust and credibility with you. If you feel that this might be a barrier, bring in someone external to the team to facilitate the conversation with you.

If you think that you don’t  have the time to do this now, consider how you will find the time in 3 or 6 months when additional team members leave with key knowledge and skills in their head. There is no perfect time to do this work, you have to make the time.

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I hope these insights inspired you to take action.

If you’d like to explore having our help to facilitate a short workshop with your team to develop your Restabilization Plan, reach out so we can find a time to talk. We can help you find the on-ramp so that you can pull your team together to quickly assess the situation, develop your restabilization plan and then take action to move forward collaboratively, with renewed enthusiasm and energy. 

 

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