Why Strategy Still Matters, Especially in the Time of COVID

Why Strategy Still Matters, Especially in the Time of COVID

People are tired, there seems to be a new logistical hurdle pretty much every day, and I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that a lot of us are scared. I know my husband and I are. Our son is 14 months old as of the time that I’m writing this post, and the vaccine for under five year olds is still in the works. This is a hard place to be for all of us and the systems we support.

But, I also think it’s times like these that call us to think differently about how we do things. Sure, there’s the urgency we all feel to “just get things done” but when we cede too much ground to reactivity, when we’re repeatedly asked for more, without knowing what that more is doing, where it’s helping us go, or what it’s helping us address, it can feel like just another withdrawal on our already scant remaining reserves.

That doesn’t help us dig a little deeper. It doesn’t help us take a breath, get still inside, and think clearly about how to address a tough problem. It doesn’t make us feel connected to the work as a part of how we’re trying to do something larger than getting through the task. Ultimately, I think sustained periods of reactivity create and then press on a sore spot. Actually, it probably jabs at that sore spot.

It’s also risky from an operational standpoint, especially in terms of morale because it amplifies stress, diminishes coherence, and pushes us further towards burnout. It’s risky from a reputational standpoint, because it increases the likelihood of mistakes or lack of communication, which can erode trust in our work and our relationships with colleagues and stakeholders, both internal and external to our organization. It’s also risky from a legal standpoint, especially when working with sensitive data.

So, with the amount of uncertainty that we’re all living with day to day, I don’t think we can afford to let reactivity become the norm. I believe we can navigate through reactivity in a productive way if we don’t sideline our commitment to prudent, strategic thinking. I believe that if we hold the course in pursuing our strategic goals while folding the “just-get-it-done” work in with the longer term efforts, then we maintain our awareness of “where north is” and we build a sense of coherence.

If we hold space to think about the long run, to invest in how we measure and communicate about our progress towards our goals, and spend time making connections between the urgent “quick, we need this” types of work and the larger, longer term efforts as we execute them, there is room for us to find some calm. There’s a chance to practice using the systems and behaviors we’re trying to adopt so as to get us where we’re trying to go, and to feel not just a connectedness to our work, but to take heart in the progress we’re making towards the leaner, more efficient, robust systems we’re trying to achieve for our organizations and our stakeholders as we advance data science in the applied environment. So, in the midst of a context that’s continually asking us to react, let’s not abandon strategy. In fact, let’s double down on it and use it as a map to a better, more sustainable, and more data-informed place.