Geoff FitzGibbon has10 years leadership at CNIB in consumer marketing and operations. Diverse business experience. From General Management to new business start-ups in Healthcare, Telecommunications and Digital Imaging. Geoff brings a direct, cordial and flexible approach to new challenges. Retail, Marketing, B2B and B2C sales, exporting and international sourcing.

Jeff became a Boardroom Metrics Accomplished Executive in September 2010.

Most of us believe the job of being a leader or manager is all about making order out of chaos, by making a plan and sticking with it. Clampit and DeKoch(“Embracing Uncertainty – The Essence of Leadership” 2001, published by E.M. Sharp) see it a little differently.

The title of their book says it all. Clampit and Dekoch suggest we stay agile and flexible by actively embracing uncertainty rather than in trying to prevent uncertainty – which they show is counter-productive. They use the elite US Air Para-Rescue Units (PJs) as an example.

The PJs are special forces personnel highly trained to extract wounded personnel from battlefields. They plan for everything. But their core strength lies in expecting and embracing the uncertain, knowing that their skills and mental flexibility will allow them to find creative and innovative solutions in each new situation.

Taking this into the business world does not mean giving up on the benefits of good planning and structures; but it does mean expecting and actively embracing deviations from the plan – so that we can deal with the unexpected more quickly and effectively.

How do we develop and keep our our mental muscles limber, so we stay creative and innovative? There are a number of ways, one of which I call Constructive Anarchy. Here are a few things to try:

1. Swap the heads of departments around into other departments for one month, then get them to suggest 3 significant improvements in their temporary areas and in their permanent assignments.
2. Send a survey to all staff stating something like, “Write out a new version of the organization. Re-invent anything you like: markets, products, methods, reward systems – anything”. Offer a $1,000 prize for the most creative and comprehensive proposal, then choose the best short term ideas and implement them ASAP.
3. Think of the 3 worst things that could happen to your organization. Maybe one might be a competitor making your #1 product obsolete overnight; perhaps your main customer goes bankrupt today; maybe your whole sales team defects tomorrow; or a new law is passed to prohibit a vital product ingredient or process – or stops you selling to your major export customer. What the scenarios are will differ for every organization, but pick the worst things, the ones that could be real company-killers for you. Then set up a weekend retreat with your senior managers and work out strategies to prevent or deal with each calamity. Next Monday, start implementing the lessons.
4. Offer “Sundown” prizes: get your staff to to tell you all the processes, reports, regular meetings and projects, etc, that they feel are out-dated, unnecessary, or cost more than they are worth. Then set a manager to work with all department heads to look at how to minimize these “overhead-hogs” by elimination, consolidation or modification . Pay a share of the estimated savings to the person making the suggestion. Make it an ongoing prize program; become a convert to being the “overhead-skinny” leader in your industry.

Expecting and actively embracing deviations from the plan – so that we can deal with the unexpected more quickly and effectively – IS good for business.