Don’t play the blame game

One of the definitions of failure is the omission of an expected or required action that generates a lack of success.

The need for rapid change caused by the coronavirus pandemic arrived so quickly there was little time to make critical decisions.

Many previously reliable and trusted sources provided misinformation that may have caused confusion and slowed the ability to pivot quickly.

This misinformation, combined with an overabundance of news, lead to wasted time trying to understand the validity and relevance of all the data.

In larger organisations, leaders formed committees to ponder the right plan for reopening facilities and businesses.

Once a reopening plan was agreed upon, committee members sent out mass communications to all levels.

Implementation of the reopening plan often required holding firm on agreed solutions and came under enormous pressure from stakeholders to change the plan to suit departmental or individual needs.

Some organisations did well with reopening; others saw their plans crumble when people involved in the reopening tested positive for COVID-19.

In some cases, key decision-makers agreed the risk of reopening wasn’t worth the reward and chose to open virtually.

Some organisations and businesses did not reopen at all. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, this information is for you.

Examine reasons for reopening struggles

Over the last six months, we have collected feedback from organisations that have struggled to reopen or operate virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The feedback below was submitted by many industry segments including K-12 schools, higher education facilities, restaurants, manufacturers, retail businesses, hospitality facilities, and people in positions from the custodian to the vice president:

  • We just were not ready, and we did not move fast enough. Analysis paralysis caused decisions to be made too late or not at all. When we finally were given the green light, there was very little time to implement solutions.
  • There were too many competing priorities. Stakeholders had their own ideas of what comes first and what is the most important.
  • We experienced an overall lack of understanding and limited training on pandemic response.
  • People had conflicting beliefs and attitudes. For example, the belief that masks are necessary varied at all levels throughout the planning.
  • With so many people involved it was hard to get the message out. In some cases, there were too many people who did not belong involved in the communication, which slowed the process.
  • We experienced fear and pushback from stakeholders who did not understand the reopening plan and its components. At the leadership level, there was limited education and understanding on the cleaning and disinfection needed.
  • We had limited supplies and resources from personal protective equipment (PPE) to disinfectant.

Avoid finger-pointing

The most prevalent advice was not to get caught up in the “the blame game.” Instead of trying to figure out who is at fault for the situation – such as management, administrators, or the government, it’s more productive to determine what may have gone wrong and how to fix it.

Leadership is critical from the top to the bottom. In difficult times leaders can rise to the challenge, pull away from the problem, and sometimes even burn out.

There is much you might not be able to control, and even less you can predict, but you still get to decide on your values as a person, as a manager, and as a team player.

The decisions you make during challenging times reveal your character, and the way your team responds reveals whether the culture you’ve built can withstand the pressures of a world that sometimes seems like it’s falling apart around you.

When faced with hard choices, good leaders hunker down and try to figure out the best path forward that includes taking care of their people and their organisation.

If you failed the first time to reopen, return to work, go live, go virtual, or whatever solution you chose, learn from those that achieved success by:

  • Asking others that got it right and benchmarking your plan against their criteria
  • Acquiring the supplies you need for an appropriate time
  • Communicating the plan with your team
  • Setting up the training your team needs to be ready
  • Not being afraid to say, “That’s not the plan we agreed to”
  • Holding firm in your values and beliefs
  • Not playing the blame game

These difficult times will not be over anytime soon. If you know someone in the facilities world who has successfully tackled the challenges of creating safe and healthy buildings, reach out today and say, “Thank you!”

Tim Poskin is founder and systems integrator of ISSA’s Cleaning Change Solutions Consulting and serves as the executive director of the ISSA Workloading and Benchmarking Committee.

This article first appeared in INCLEAN magazine 

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