Decision Making in Times of Crisis

In just a matter of days our lives have been up ended and our livelihoods threatened. We can’t do what we want to do and, in some cases, that which we need to do. If we’re fortunate, we find ourselves cooped up at home seeking information so we can make good decisions regarding our jobs and family.  The stress is palpable. Leaders, managers and front-line workers everywhere are asking themselves:  How do I function in this crisis?  What should I do? How do I make decisions?

Below are observations and recommendations from our team here at LBL Strategies for your consideration as we confront the unfolding crisis.

  • Recognize emotional stress is the “X Factor” to overcome and strategic agility the competency required to achieve outcomes in challenging times.
  • Revisit the foundational values that shape your organization’s culture and find a way to embrace those values in a meaningful way.
  • Remember people need to be productive and make a difference especially during a prolonged crisis. For some this may mean harnessing their teams’ energies and resources to respond to a market needs triggered by the crisis, e.g. the need for additional personal protective equipment. For others it can be investing in one’s own personal and professional growth.
  • Allow yourself and coworkers to process and move through the crisis in their own way.  We are individuals and we react to crisis differently. For leaders this is the time for grace and patience. Be flexible, accommodating and, first and foremost, understanding as the ways we navigate the vastly changed landscape of work and life.
  • Counter the present “uncertainty of everything” by focusing efforts on what you and your team can control and do now. Timely positioning (or repositioning) individually and collectively, as an organization, will move you forward once the immediate crisis passes.
  • Once focused on what you can do now… do it!!  Setting shorter term priorities to deliver wins now will help everyone regain confidence.
  • As you are doing it, remember to consider other underlying trends that will shape the future beyond the current pandemic.


A key skill set required for all leaders, managers and front line workers is the ability to search out and identify important trends and assumptions about the future and then think through how you and your team must transform to adapt and overcome the challenges ahead.  Those leaders and organizations skilled at envisioning alternative futures will explore their implications and create a flexible path to long term sustainability to move beyond the COVID-19 crisis successfully.

Below are major trends organizations should explore and understand moving forward:

  • Climate change: Climate science research indicates our warming planet creates conditions conducive to increasing the frequency and severity of disease outbreaks. While COVID 19 presents as a singular disease outbreak, systemically, nothing on the planet happens in a vacuum. The Center for Disease Control “health chapter” in the Third National Climate Assessment stated the following: “In the U.S., public health can be affected by disruptions of physical, biological, and ecological systems, including disturbances originating here and elsewhere. The health effects of these disruptions include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.”
  • Changing demographics: Over the past five years there have been significant changes in demographics that will change who and how we serve communities in the future.  With middle class growth in India, China and Central America we are seeing (prior to COVID-19) a significant increase in immigration from these areas with both skilled and non-skilled workers coming to the United States.  Additionally, the increase in the United States Hispanic population has exploded and is projected to continue to increase in a significant way. This will affect the labor supply, but also affect the make-up of the communities that we serve.
  • Shrinking labor supply: This is a phenomenon that has actually been going on for quite some time as the baby boom population exits the workforce in large numbers while subsequent generations (Gen-X, Millennials, Centennials) are much smaller and unable to fill the void.

 Changing organizational capacity: When we talk about organizational capacity, we are referring to the workforce of the future and the information technology footprint within the organization.  As mentioned earlier, the shrinking labor supply could reduce the availability of full-time available staff and there must be a strategy in place to ensure that the work gets done in the future.  This will mean that public organizations will (and are) adopt practices being employed in the private sector, from developing creative work environments to using new technologies such as Bots, AI, predictive analytics, machine learning, etc. to reduce/eliminate manual activities so available staff can focus on more mission-centered activities.  These technologies will be adopted to better connect and interact with the growing increasingly diverse communities they serve.


  • Change in funding and performance requirements: For the public and nonprofit sectors, pressure has been increasing over the last five years for leaders to demonstrate the impact that they are making for the community. The notion of strategic performance in government goes by many names, e.g. Managing for Results… Performance Budgeting… Evidence-based Management.  Regardless of what you call it “Gauging degrees of success and failure in government work, and then making decisions based on that understanding” is the way Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene describe strategic performance in their new book, The Promises and Pitfalls of Performance-Informed Management, aimed at leaders and managers in state and local government.  While the scope and complexity are significantly greater in federal government, the same principles are highly relevant.


In conclusion, while mankind is experiencing an existential crisis capable of changing life as we know it, each of us can do our best to stay calm, be patient with one another, and focus on what we can control now to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead.  Careful thought should be given to the many external trends and internal capabilities that will shape the future once we emerge from this crisis.  If we focus, make good decisions and seek growth there is no reason to panic.


During Times of Crisis, Control What You Can:

Your Professional Development

Right now, we are living through a time where many things are outside of our control.

If you’re interested in using this time productively, there is something you can control: your professional development and credentialing!

With LBL Strategies, you can gain university certification through an online, self-paced course – Mastering Strategy: Strategic Management Performance System, offered through George Washington University – CEPL.

CLICK HERE for course information

CLICK HERE to view the course overview module


The Mastering Strategy: Strategic Management Performance System Certification Program, offered in conjunction with The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership (GW-CEPL) is an intensive, hands-on Continuing Professional Education program designed for professionals who are looking to build their skill sets in the management of strategy formulation, implementation and evaluation.


This program equips you with the skills you need to help your organization and you succeed by:

  • Imparting the full strategy management process into your everyday decisions
  • Learning effective strategic planning, implementation and evaluation practices
  • Learning how to lead strategic planning efforts
  • Bridging the gap between planning and execution
  • Preparing you for the International Association for Strategy Professionals (IASP) certification (if applicable)
  • Maintaining your Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification (if applicable)
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Randall Rollinson (LBL Strategies) & Tim Johnson (JSS Consulting)