November 4, 2020

Leading in Turbulent Times | Step 1 of 5: Establish Immediately

Get Lean

When crisis hits, the first thing you need to do is pare down your organization’s goals and priorities to the 3-5 that are the most mission-critical.

When uncertainty surrounds our professional and personal lives, things become less familiar and less predictable. And when things become less familiar and predictable, each task takes significantly more time to complete. As a result, you simply can’t take on — much less accomplish — as many things as you once could. 

Take, for example, what happens when people are forced to work from home or any new location. Meetings are clunkier, internet is slower, and files aren’t as handy. Some experts estimate that people are about 40% less efficient when they first begin working remotely.

It’s human nature to try to keep all the proverbial plates spinning. Unfortunately, it just can’t be done. 

You might be able to keep pace for a period of time, but before long you’ll be giving maximum effort and falling further and further behind. Biting off more than you can chew can result in a downward spiral.

This is why we need to quickly zero in on what’s essential and what’s not. To counteract the potentially catastrophic consequences of having too many priorities and too few resources, you’ll need to make some very bold and immediate adaptations.

Narrow It Down

First, assess this new environment, and make a list of all the ways the crisis has impacted and may continue to impact your mission.

Next, grab your annual plan, and make a list of all the things you aren’t going to do. Remember that now is the time for merciless prioritization. 

Once you have your list of all the things you aren’t going to do, your next task is to identify 3-5 mission-critical priorities that will allow your organization to most effectively serve your constituents and maintain your infrastructure over the next 30-90 days. 

Then, spell out each of the steps necessary to accomplish these 3-5 priorities. To ensure everything stays on schedule, you’ll need to systematically monitor the “what,” “who,” “how,” and “by when.” This will serve as your interim plan for the next 30-60 days. 

By taking an eraser to all the things that are no longer feasible or worthy of your time, you’re taking control of the situation and ensuring that your nonprofit won’t get buried in an avalanche of fruitless tasks and activities.


The Short Version

  1. Survey the environment, and assess whether your current goals and priorities still apply.
  2. Make a list of everything you’re not going to do.
  3. Taking your new environment into account, write down your 3-5 mission-critical priorities.
  4. Identify the resources and personnel—as well as timeline — needed to execute on your priorities.