4 Steps to Dealing with Uncertainty at Your Organization

By Dr. Richard Plenty and Terri Morrissey
The following is adapted from their book, “Uncertainty Rules? Making Uncertainty Work For You”


If one thing is certain, it’s that there will be uncertainty in all of our lives. In our research and work, we have learned first-hand that most people need better ways to deal with it.

Dealing well with uncertainty provides us with tangible opportunities to find innovative and practical solutions to complex problems. We live in an information-rich, connected world where people are better educated than in the past. In this context, we have the capability to think through, address, and resolve many of the challenges associated with uncertainty – and develop our own competencies along the way.

Want to learn more about making uncertainty work for you?

Join us at our webinar on May 26th at 12 pm EST

In “Uncertainty Rules?” we offer our research and experience backed methods that leaders can take for making the most out of uncertainty, starting with these four key steps:

Step 1. Make Time to Think

Carve out some time to think and reflect. Initially many people will say this is impossible, as their day-to-day responsibilities leave them no capacity for anything else. Yet after years of working in this field with many extremely busy individuals we have yet to come across a case where, with some imagination and sacrifice, this cannot be achieved. If we cannot take charge of our time, we cannot take charge of our lives.

Step 2. Think Strategically

Once you have made space and time for yourself, put things into perspective with objective critical thinking. It’s a time to challenge, test assumptions, and take a cool, hard look at your situation, focusing on the big picture and understanding how you personally – and your organization – fit into that. Some questions you might consider include:

  • How would you describe your current position?
  • What would happen if you were to carry on in the same way?
  • What possible future scenarios can you imagine?
  • What is your ideal future, and what do you need to do to make it happen?

Make sure you reflect on your broader purpose in this process – and take time to assess whether what you are considering is really what you want.

Step 3. Explore and Experiment

In an uncertain environment, it is rarely possible to find ready-made, ‘off the shelf’ solutions; rather we need to develop unique alternatives that fit our specific circumstances and move us in the right direction. Our plans and ideas generally need to be tested, refined, and adjusted. Exploring your options is done best in conjunction with others, in an environment of collaboration, communication and creativity. Develop a number of options and try them out, giving yourself an opportunity to fail without major consequences. Build rapidly on what works and drop what doesn’t.

Step 4. Act Decisively

Having found something that you think should work, the final step is to implement this decisively and rapidly. It is at this stage that you need to develop a clear implementation plan, breaking things down into manageable chunks with clear objectives, targets, activities and responsibilities. It may not be easy, but the work is worth it. Have the courage to act and shape your own future.

Want to learn more about making uncertainty work for you?

Join us at our webinar on May 26th at 12 pm EST

Authors

Dr. Richard Plenty
Dr. Richard Plenty is the Managing Director of the international organisation and leadership development practice, This Is…  and is a Visiting Teaching Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin. He started life as a physicist before becoming an organisational psychologist, and has lived and worked in Europe, North America and Asia. He has worked with airports since 2005 and has co-authored Airport World’s regular People Matters column since 2014. His book “Uncertainty Rules? Making uncertainty work for you,‘’ written with Terri Morrissey, was published in April 2020. He enjoys playing the saxophone, guitar and tennis.

Terri Morrissey
Terri Morrissey is the Chairperson of This Is…and is a Teaching Fellow attached to the Centre for Innovative Human Systems in the Psychology Department of Trinity College Dublin. She is a former Chief Executive Officer of the Psychological Society of Ireland (2015-2019). She has extensive consulting experience in major global organisations and is a business and Executive Coach. She is a Principal Member of the Association of Business Psychology, a Member of the British Psychological Society and an Affiliate Member of the American Psychological Society. She also co-authors the People Matters column for Airport World and is co-author of the book Uncertainty Rules?

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