Predictive Systems need Resilient Systems

In his book Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal tells how the United States Military was getting beaten by Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks. He explains that although the U.S. Forces were better trained, better funded, and much larger than the Al Qaeda soldiers they faced, they were still somehow losing the war.

McChrystal goes on to describe how Al Qaeda was so fast and adaptable that the U.S. Forces could not predict what they would do next. In contrast to this environment, the U.S. Military was founded on ordered systems designed to create efficiency. Our forces wanted to anticipate what Al Qaeda would do next and create systems to prevent it. But this strategy wasn’t getting the job done in this case. Al Qaeda was moving too fast and proved unpredictable to strategically defeat them through traditional methods. The environment was so complex that virtually every situation had unknown variables that could not be predicted. As a result, McChrystal realized he didn’t need more efficiency to overcome this level of complexity, he needed to create systems that allowed our military to be more adaptable.

This illustrates a clear distinction of two different types of systems that leaders MUST be aware of today: Predictive Systems and Resilient Systems.

Predictive Systems

Predictive Systems allow us to create efficiency and pre-determine outcomes. This is how we think of modern-day management. We believe we need to create systems that give us consistent results. These systems are necessary to produce products or services repeatedly at scale.

But what happens when things don’t go as planned and a series of unforeseen variables enters the mix?

For example, those days that seem like pure chaos, and we are extremely busy all day, but at the end of it we feel like we’ve accomplished nothing. This happens because we are trying to combat a complex business environment using predictive systems of efficiency. We think we’ve anticipated everything, and then some other problem presents itself. This is a major flaw with predictive systems that can’t be fixed within itself.

Resilient Systems

Resilient Systems allow for our organizations to be fortified by fire. When a problem hits, it is quickly resolved and fused into future strategies through communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. In essence, we use the problem to make us stronger as an organization.

A notable example of a resilient system that we all know is our immune system. Most people don’t like being sick. And our immune system is what protects us from sickness. But ironically, it needs to be exposed to factors that make us sick IN ORDER TO BECOME STRONGER. Think about that for a minute… the very thing we are trying to avoid is what actually strengthens us.

This is what makes resilient systems so vital to survival in any area. They take the very thing that should destroy us and turn it into something that strengthens us.

In the business world, we all want to win. We set goals, create paths to those goals, and execute them. This is what predictive systems help us do. But winning is a finite game that doesn’t always sustain us long-term. We can be winning this year and go out of business next year simply because of one external factor that we didn’t see coming. Resilient systems allow for organizations to manage these gaps effectively and pivot when necessary. It is an infinite concept that prevents us from ever being eliminated from the proverbial game of business.

Create Strength

In a nutshell, good Predictive Systems may help you win but pair them with Resilient Systems and you will create an even stronger organization. Here are the top four things we recommend you do to build resilient systems:

  1. Accept. Accept that things do not go as planned – a lot of times – and current situations sometimes interfere with plans. Starting with acceptance helps to eliminate frustration so that you can think clearer and move to the next step of adapting.
  2. Adapt. Learn to adapt quickly to changes and find solutions. Think outside of your normal processes and be creative. Lean into your team(s) and do not be afraid of failure with the first (or second) solution…it could lead you to the solution.
  3. Ask. Look outside of your organization for solutions or advice. Sometimes an unbiased view can lead you to better results.
  4. Align. As you are adapting, ensure your changes are aligning with your strategies, goals, and/or tactics and adjust as necessary – on either side.

For more tips on being a resilient leader, check out this Forbes article. Kevin Waters is our CEO, Melissa Spangler is our VP of Client Success, and I am a Talent Strategist and Coach for CLG. We all have a plethora of experience in building Resilient Systems. Through coaching, we can help you win in an ever-changing environment. Contact us today!

-Keith Galloway

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