“This is our third once-in-a-lifetime event this decade.” It’s a sentiment being echoed online and shared globally. War, pandemic, social unrest, technological innovation, and various events fit the bill of unprecedented, many were unpredictable, and all of them are disruptive.

The term “disruption” was first recorded in 1622, but at that time I doubt they could have imagined all that the word would encompass today. But that is the nature of the beast, isn’t it? Disruption is a radical change. The new reality was not predictable before the disruption occurred and the old systems that were in place before are not sufficient to handle the new problems with which we are confronted.

With so many of today’s systems of management built around prediction, how do you manage disruption? How do you manage when things don’t go according to plan?

While there are no secret formulas or magic bullets, there are a few guiding principles that can make managing through disruption a little less painful. One of the principles involves getting things done. It encompasses a saying my finance mentor, who was also a private pilot, says: “Get as much behind you as you can.”

Said another way: “Never put off until tomorrow that which you could do today.” But without enough time to even get done what you must do today how do you start working toward tomorrow?

Get done what you can, and be straight about what you don’t.

This second piece of communicating what you will not be getting done is key. It’s long been true that you will never get done everything there is to do. While our instinct may be to hide or work harder when we are confronted with something we will not get done on time, this creates an unknown.

As the writings of H. P. Lovecraft have shown us time and time again, the unknown is far worse than a known but unpleasant reality. Letting someone know that you won’t get done (or won’t get done on time) what you had promised them will keep them in the know and give you the opportunity to mitigate any impact before it becomes a problem.

While there is certainly much, much more that could be said about leading through and managing disruption, these little things can be used, simply, to equip your people for the disruption that is inevitably all around us. It will be these little adjustments that can build together to create big effects.

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