Dr. Amel Karboul

How to make decisions in such a chaotic situation?

Today’s finance and somehow also world crisis is challenging for many leaders. The tools they have learned, the experiences they have made are no longer helpful. Reading the newspaper every morning, you find tons of reports about top manager who are paralysed with fear, even panicking, mainly because they just do not know what to do. They do not know what impact their decisions will have. To put it in a nutshell they lost all CONTROL!

Today’s situation is not just complicated or complex – it is chaotic. The turbulence is extremely high; there are no cause-and effect-relationships – so no point for looking for right versus wrong answers. The number of unknowable is increasing and everybody is under pressure to make decisions but we all lack time to think. Which results in high tension, pressure and even burn out. It is however a great chance to learn. I do not want to sound sarcastic, but we – as systemic consultants and researcher in the field – are preaching since many years that leading in complex and chaotic situations will become the norm and that leaders should start practising. Today you can start. How? Using a paradox approach, a combination between:

On the one hand: Acting, looking for what works and what is helpful instead of seeking right answers. Provide clear and direct communication even about the unknown. It is better to stay in contact with your people, sensing what is going on, responding to emerging situations – rather than waiting for the right answer to come before you communicate and getting yourself and your staff into deeper panic mode.

On the other hand: Set up a parallel process and teams who have the only task of sensing the situation and looking for opportunities and chances offered by this situation. It cannot be everybody; it cannot be you in that moment since you need to show presence to handle the chaos. However a small group of people who get a “free space of innovation” can make a tremendous change once the crisis has decreased in urgency.

common sense but not common practice