Planning for 2021


FountainBlue’s December 15 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of 2020 and Its Impact on Planning for 2021’.  Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation and insights. 

  • Amber Barber, Lam Research
  • Roxanne dos Santos, Samsung Research America
  • Maranda Dziekonski, Swiftly
  • Ronald Goossens, ASML
  • Karthi Gopalan, Maxim Integrated
  • Thenu Kittappa, Nutanix 
  • Louise Lamb, Coupa Software
  • Debbie Shotwell
  • Amanda York, Lam Research

We launched the discussion by talking not just about the social, political, economic, and cultural impact of everything that has transpired, but also discussing how we as leaders and organizations have benefited.  

The events of 2020 helped us to see how fragile, how inter-connected we are to each other. Like a house of cards, systemic issues arose in America’s economic, political, social, operational systems as a direct and indirect result of the global pandemic. Everyone has been impacted directly and indirectly.

Yet we must also exclaim at how resourceful and resilient individuals, corporations, teams and technologies have been through these challenges.

  • Technology and innovation rose to the challenge, providing solutions which keep us connected and working securely and efficiently. Indeed the adoption of digital systems has surpassed expectations because of the necessity to do so around pandemic-related circumstances.
  • Technologies and companies have actually increased their revenues and projections as a direct result of the increased need for technology and innovation. This trend just keeps growing, as demand gets bigger and broader.

Key to the success of organizations and leaders is how we treat our people.

  • Thinking, speaking and acting like your people are your primary resource builds trust and credibility as well as productivity and sustainable earnings.
  • Involving our people in identifying and solving problems builds engagement and involvement as well as commitment.
  • Work with your people to help them be more resilient, more adaptive, more receptive, more collaborative.
  • Listen with empathy, with the sincere intent to be of service and provide support, tools and resources in a format which is digestible to the people served.
  • Solicit feedback and input. Genuinely talk to others and sincerely ask for feedback and input on a wide range of topics.
  • Arm your people with dialogues, resources, skills so that they can better understand the people they manage and lead.
  • Be more open-minded, more tolerant and expand your definition of what’s acceptable and professional as the line between personal and professional further blurs.
  • Be more agile in understanding and solving problems, more inclusive on who gets involved in the process.
  • Each resource may be double-edged swords, so customizing what people get and how they receive it would serve everyone well.
  • Teaching and supporting others on how to better lead and manage is a great investment.
  • Companies and managers who have not been good to their people will see massive turnover when the economy returns and jobs become more plentiful.

The problems we face in the next normal are not known or predictable, but the learnings from this year of great change will increase the likelihood that we would together rise to the challenge.

  • There may be a hybrid model for returning to work, so management and leaders need to figure out how to deliver everyone what they need to optimally perform.
  • The decision-making process will be much more nuanced as we factor in so many more things that are important. 
  • Be deliberate and intentional on all things that matter, particularly if it directly impacts the health, safety and happiness of your people.
  • Collaboration across organizations and countries is helping companies build a more versatile, flexible and robust supply chain and deliver a wider breadth of offerings and solutions. 
  • Productivity has not waned much, despite the disruption to on-site work. But the productivity gains are not sustainable, so we must make sure that we manage for empathy and balance, and provide resources to make working from home easy, and respectful balance to support separation of work and life.
  • Companies and teams that ‘follow the money’ will see where the business opportunities are, especially if they are nimble enough to not just see the new needs of their customers, but resourceful and committed enough to deliver same.
  • Through this year of chaos and disorder, we each have plenty of time to contemplate What’s important, Who’s Important, and What We’re Going to Do About This. 

We closed the discussion looking at the upsides of the challenges we faced this year, and reflected on how we each found opportunities to be more resilient, more creative, more resourceful, more human, and even more connected through these challenges. Indeed, in the face of potential Doom and Gloom, we found and created Black Swan effect.

Investopedia: Understanding a Black Swan –

A black swan is an extremely rare event with severe consequences. It cannot be predicted beforehand, though after the fact, many falsely claim it should have been predictable.

Black swan events can cause catastrophic damage to an economy by negatively impacting markets and investments, but even the use of robust modeling cannot prevent a black swan event.

Reliance on standard forecasting tools can both fail to predict and potentially increase vulnerability to black swans by propagating risk and offering false security. ..

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a finance professor, writer, and former Wall Street trader, used the 2008 financial crisis and the idea of black swan events to argue that if a broken system is allowed to fail, it actually strengthens it against the catastrophe of future black swan events. He also argued that conversely, a system that is propped up and insulated from risk ultimately becomes more vulnerable to catastrophic loss in the face of rare, unpredictable events.

Investopedia: Understanding a Black Swan –



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