How to Keep Perspective to Lead Your Company Through the 7 Phases of This Great Disruption

in Small-business

Welcome to The New Ab-Normal.

Now is the time for all good business leaders to gain some perspective on this clear and present situation.

Perspective is a key leadership skill that is necessary to keep the vision, stay in touch with reality, look beyond the day-to-day in order to spot the emerging, sustainable business opportunities.

I'm no economist but, from what I've seen over the last forty years of being in business, this current Great Disruption has caused a very fundamental shift in how we will be doing business, and perhaps life, from here on in!

The rules of the game are changing, the players may -- or may not -- be notified. Penalties for breaking the rules will be immediate and severe. So we'd better stay awake!

This is good news for those who are resilient, innovative, agile, curious, smart and quick -- but not too quick -- to act. We will find a treasure chest of possibilities

Anyone who takes the ostrich, or, "this-too-shall-pass-we'll-soon be-back-to-normal" approach to this Great Disruption is, as Forest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid gets."

Here is modest proposal of how we might experience the 7 phases in this Great Disruption.

To quote Shakespeare, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players . . . "

So, I'm using the "The Freytag Diagram" as a model.

It was developed in the nineteenth-century by German performance theorist, Gustav Freytag, who wrote about, and diagrammed, the action of plays.

Even today, theatre performers learn the Freytag Diagram.

Since we are truly experiencing dramatic impacts, with all kinds of emotional, non-rational and unpredictable events, it seems appropriate to consider it.

Phase 1. Exposition: The Context of the Experience.

Introducing the audience to the "world" or situation in which the experience happens, as well as the actors who inhabit that world.

Bush, Obama, the hedge fund players, Bernie Madoff, the car companies, etc. all playing on the stage of the pre, and present, Great Disruption.

Phase 2. The Inciting Incidents:

Here, precipitating events cause the drama to take off. World economies fell like a deck of cards. Layoffs. Mortgage defaults. Swine flu, etc. light up the stage.

In these first two phases as fear, uncertainty and doubt spread, wise, experienced business leaders will keep their wits about them.

Tough decisions must be made.

  • Increasing employee engagement, alignment, competencies and commitment is paramount.
  • Getting close to your customers is vital.
  • Those who have lost touch with their customers when the good times were a rollin', will pay a heavy price.

Others, in panic, run around like "chickens with their heads cut off" losing focus, cheered on by CNN's replays of The Great Depression soup lines and other persistent fear-mongering -- both financial and pandemics.

For some companies, short-term survival is the goal. For others, opportunities will sprout and bear fruit out of the carnage.

In this storm of fear, uncertainty and doubt, no one can say how long the effects will last. What is certain is that in the foreseeable future, the "normal" of recent years is no longer.

The new "ab-normal," which over time will transform into the "new normal" (we humans tend to have short memories) will be shaped by the piling up of major corporate "blind spots" and CEO hubris that brought on the economic crisis.

Phase 3. Rising Action:

Complications arise as the actors attempt to resolve the issues provoked by the inciting incident; intensity increases as the characters pursue their central goals, formulating, implementing, and revising plans and meeting resistances and obstacles along the way.

Car executives fly into Washington on the private jets to ask for money - not wise. Governments print money.

Phase 4. Crisis:

While in the previous segment, the plot thickens (to use a theatre cliché), here the options steadily fall away as the actors overcome -- or don't -- the obstacles before them.

Intensity rises at an accelerated pace, yielding great suspense, excitement, drams and despair..

Money and financing, the drivers of business, tighten to kick the crap out of weak business models.

Increasingly vigilant financial due diligence slows the flow of money so the lax, the fraudulent and the fat go down. GM's, Chrysler's and Ford's executive "dinosaur-ish" strategies combined with unions' entitlement are exposed, then suck the oxygen -- cash flow - out of one of the pillars of the economy.

As always, in this phase there are yet unidentified lights at the end of the tunnel.

It is highly likely that right now there are little, growing sprigs of growth rising out of this conflagration.

Entrepreneurs have amazing capabilities -- like Rocky Balboa in "Rocky."

Just when you think we're down for the count, we "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again."

Phase 5. Climax: The Height of the Experience

I think we are still very much in Phase 4. There is more to come.

In a play this is when, in retrospect, among all the things that could have happened, it's only one goal that the actors either do -- or do not - achieve. The one that was forming in the gathering storm clouds of the inciting incident. The question is are they perceptive enough to see it?

Maybe, by 2020, we will be able to say that technological innovation rose like a phoenix out of the ashes.

Or perhaps, the spirit and value of human intellectual ingenuity was renewed and revitalized.

Maybe our hubris will be forged into a kinder, more considerate and rational approach to life. Time will tell

Phase 6. Falling Action - the Calm After the Storm:

The consequences of the climax play themselves out for the actors and their world.

In the 'real" world we will be dealing with the consequences -- both intended and unintended -- of decisions we personally made. Decisions that were made that we had no control over. Decisions that are about to made that we have no clue as to their about ramifications.

The only knowing is the surety of the unknown -- the future never arrives. Therein lie the fascinating, exciting, anxiety-producing facts of life.

Phase 7. Dénouement: The French Word for "Unraveling."

Here, in a play, the plot threads are resolved while the dramatic action exhausts itself, and the actors -- not to mention the audience or guests of the experiences, are returned to "normalcy". Hopefully, it is a new, better and quite different status quo than when the experience began.

A play has an ending. We leave the theater, have a drink, go home to bed to wake up the next morning to a fuzzy memory of the experience.

Fortunately in "real" life our unfolding does not end so abruptly.

We anxiously wake up, to either creatively and courageously, or boringly and cowardly, face our self-chosen, self-created realities.

Only time will tell.

Be Curious, or .. Be Over-Whelmed.

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Dr. Jim Sellner Ph.D. has 1 articles online

Dr. Jim Sellner, PhD., DipC.
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How to Keep Perspective to Lead Your Company Through the 7 Phases of This Great Disruption

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This article was published on 2010/04/03