Managing Uncertainty: strategies for surviving and thriving in turbulent times

Author Michael Syrett and Marion Devine
Book discussed 3 October 2017
Review by Mae Keary

In 2012, this book was written out of intellectual curiosity, but 5 years later, we are facing uncertainty of a magnitude not seen before. Thus, the strategies for surviving and thriving outlined are still relevant for learning how to manage in turbulent times.

It is based on a survey of senior executives from private and public-sector organizations worldwide, using a questionnaire, plus follow-up interviews with some respondents (see Appendix).  From the data, the authors identified critical areas where organisations can prepare for “strategic readiness”.  Called the six capabilities, which are used for chapter headings, the authors present their findings, with examples from case studies:

–           Strategic anticipation – increasing flexibility, responsiveness, scenarios in place of budgets, strengthening governance and empowering staff.

–           Navigational leadership–having confidence and optimism in the current state so as to move forward into an uncertain future.

–           Agility– responding quickly and flexibly to unexpected change and surprising events by shaping these to your advantage.

–           Resilience–adjusting to sudden disruptive change, and coping with sustained stress and pressure.

–           Open Collaboration– forging links through external partnerships, share ideas and information to gain a broader perspective and maximise innovation.

–           Predictive learning -probing and analysing previously hidden patterns and trends, so as to anticipate sudden or disruptive change.

Managing uncertainty is increasing rather than decreasing, and these case studies illustrate the organisational change in attitudes to management, with the constant need to rethink and shape their purpose.

The writing is clear and crisp, with real life examples that are linked to ideas.  It is a practical book that leaders and managers can apply in the current environment.

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