This started as a quick little Friday Instagram post. Fridays for me on IG are just about small thoughts and wishing my followers a happy day and weekend usually. But as we all know, this time is not a ‘usual’ time. It’s rough and it’s likely going to get more rough before it gets better.
I decided to get REAL and instead of me filling people’s IG feed with yet another “get to know me, lots of new faces to intro myself to” posts or worse, be totally tone deaf and end my week on a Happy Friyay note, I want to open up about disappointment and bouncing back. I wanted to talk about a business concept that we should all be using RIGHT NOW.
So why the heck is the lead photo of my 6 year old? Well, Reina’s darling little circus themed dress symbolizes to me a deep-to-the-bone sadness and dispair. That’s a lot in one little dress right? Before I explain why and how I took a situation from bleak to postive, I want to explore two business terms that you may or may not have heard of:
NIMBLE and AGILE: being nimble and agile are frequently touted best business practices. In my past work life as a business consultant, I’d talk about them often with company leaders.
Businesses that survive and thrive need to be nimble and agile in order to adapt, change and their clients needs effectively. And they must do these things in an uncertain, sometimes volatile world.
I didn’t ever think about being nimble and agile in terms of home life though – unless about a year ago that is – long before COVID-19.~Elizabeth Curtiss, No Qualms Mom Founder
Sure, on some level everyone has to be flexible and adapt at home and with your relationships. Yet the concepts of nimble and agile (to me) take that home life ‘willing to compromise, and adjust’ to a whole different level and I had not considered them important outside of work.
What does being Nimble and Agile mean? And why does it matter to me?
Nimble and agile mean the same thing for the most part: ability to have speedy action that’s “light” and easy. In business they’re connected to movement in response to a need that not necessarily the one immediately in front of you. Agile is about all about about being speedy and effective addressing the need that’s way off in the distance – the one that you really can’t see clearly. Easy change and adjustments that are reactive and strategic because the change aligns with your long term strategy and goals.k in other words quick evolution to meet people’s needs. These are not easy things to do even for the best, most funded companies in the world.
These days it’s a constant flow of hearts broken by loss of life, jobs lost, and graduations, weddings, funerals cancelled. Rough, sad and depressing times for sure. The point of this article is not to gloss over the tough stuff that is everywhere right now.
The point is that after reading this, you can be better prepared and open to doing the (likely) hard things that you’re going to need to do in the coming days, months and maybe even years.
Business leaders usually consider four type of agilities –– analytical, operational, communicative and inventive. This is a fancy way of saying:
- think through your situation in a smart way that considers your goals
- create concreate things to do and steps to get in order to fix things
- talk to your family and get everyone on board, then communicate to extended family and friends
- then invent ways to help
In his book, business expert and author of the bestseller “Nimble: Make Yourself and Your Company Resilient in the Age of Constant Change”, Baba Prasad introduced a 5th kind of agility: visionary.
Visionary agility recognizes the long-term impact of what you’re doing now. It thinks about the ethical implications. It goes beyond the here and now and extends into thinking beyond bottom line, beyond selfishness.~ B. Prasad
Is this author the end all be all of business advice? Maybe…but more likely he’s one of many, many experts out there on this subject. I’m writing about him because the way he looks at Agility is one that lends itself to home life and I loved an analogy he makes that we’ll talk through later.
My hope that that you’ll finish this post knowing what it means to be nimble and to understand clearly that you need to be agile and embrace it – whether you like it or not! And you need to embrace them NOW. It’s crucial for your state of mind and health.
Strategic agility makes one say, “I’ll be prepared to handle a future which unfolds.” But then, we don’t know how it will unfold.
So, the concept of strategy now changes from being plans of actions for the future to developing capabilities that can allow us to handle different situations that may evolve. If you don’t have an agile approach, you die; many companies have folded when they didn’t have agility.~ B. Prasad
Now to be clear, I’m not saying you’ll die like some of the companies Prasad talks about in his book, but what I am saying is that if you think about your home as an important business and use these concepts it will help you survive and eventually thrive.
A quick study of business giants that went from superstar to minor player, or worse closing, gives clear evidence and history about those who aren’t nimble enough to adjust to future needs. And many of today’s giants are struggling a lot with this even as a type. So if I say that successful major companies like Apple, Microsoft or Walmart struggle to do it, how you can you possible learn how?
Take a Lesson from a Friend about Being Nimble and Agile
The circus dress in the photo is my reminder, and probably a forever symbol, of this mom’s heartbreak and the crucial need to be nimble and agile. By now I think you can guess that the circus dress was for an event that is not going to happen. Sidenote: I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have at least 1 major example of that right now so I’m not wanting you to have a pity party for us for sure.
Let me take you through my long, shaggy dog story as quickly as I can…As you know, I’m a planner. One of the things I plan, often for years as dorky as that may sound, is Reina’s birthday parties. At this point, I don’t think I need to say much more beyond the years in the planning Circus themed party that this dress was bought for, will be postponed for sure and likely will never happen. AND. THAT’S. OK.
You heard me right. It’s OK! Maybe it’s my optimistic nature? Or maybe it’s because my life since about a year ago has been in a state up intense change?
Her epic end of 1st Grade Circus Party was frankly doomed last spring before she even finished Kindergarten so it’s not because of COVID-19. It started at a 2019 mid-March Kindergarten teacher conference that echoed concerns we were having at home. About a month later we confirmed with a pediatric doctor (specializing in cognitive assessments) that she has learning differences and because of this, our dream of her attending our wonderful small town elementary school was dead. It just wasn’t the best option for her (for at least the next 1-3 years). What was? The answer came weeks later: Homeschooling.
Now there’s something I NEVER thought I’d say and do. Not because it’s not a good thing, but because it doesn’t suit my child’s intensely extrovert personality and it’s not in my nature. Patient, child focused teacher? Me? Not so much. In fact when it was suggested to me by Reina’s Occupational Therapist I was like HELL NO! No way! Impossible! It’s not me, I just started this media business, Reina would hate it, I can’t, etc. etc. etc. But in the end ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
In a matter of weeks, I brainstormed, researched, gathered help from anyone I could. My husband and I analysized options, discussed and discussed quickly. We did not have the luxury of time thanks to school enrollment deadlines, tutors and specialists to book. It was an intensely dizzying month.
Fast forward to a year later, and in spite of pretty severe learning differences and the many current COVID-19 adjustments, she’s thriving. She can write easily with an efficient “correct” grip, she can read, and she’s close to finishing up 1st grade math curriculum even though her history and test scores made it all seem impossible. How?
WE WERE NIMBLE and AGILE which let us take the right actions. Did we want to be? No. Were we super depressed at times? Yes!
So the silly party became our symbol for this time. It’s cancelled because Reina wouldn’t have that big group of school buddies to come to her big bash and we frankly didn’t have the energy or money to throw the party. All of our hopes for the small town, connected school experience seemed dashed. Our sunshine little girl was deeply sad not to be moving on to school with her pre-school friends.
It broke our hearts. The specialists strained our budget (badly) and still do. It blew up our schedules. But Steven & I put on our big kid undies and figured it out. Most importantly, we shifted our mindset to can do and positivity with a healthy dose of gratitude. Is it perfect? Far from it, yet overall it’s great.
Point being, we can all weather this terrible, up-ending, storm. Realistically it’s going to last a long, long time and it seems it will morph into another recession or worse, it could create another great depression.
We can survive in misery or we can do it by being nimble and agile. We can be cloaked in depression and resentment operating out of fear, or we can be optimistic, forward thinking and take actions that get us towards our goals.
For your family’s sake and for your own well being, be agile, be optimistic and take action in a way that aligns with your goals and values!
How to be Nimble, Agile and Effective During a Crisis
Here’s a very quick step-by -step guide. The first few steps are important because they set the foundation and allow you to make sound, strategic decisions. Please do not skip them.
- Be calm and be smart. Easier said than done I know, yet you MUST find a way to do this – one that works for you (not your best friend or parents). Try to have it not include crutches or numbing yourself but if a glass of wine and a small amount of retail therapy helps then so be it.
- Consider Your Basic Long Term Goal and Wishes. If you don’t have goals done for your family already, google best practices for SMART goal setting and do this quickly. Be sure to stretch and think big even though all you can consider right now is survival. Normally, goal setting can take many days so just agree on, so for now get a few basics with your spouse and move on. I’m talking about broad stroke, basic things like: Happy and healthy family members; Strong finances (retirement fund, emergency fund, education fund for your kids); Owning a home that makes you happy; Having fun and adventure together monthly/yearly/etc. You can revisit these later on once the storm has at least settled a little.
- Consider Long Term Strategy to Get to Your LT Goals. For example, creating a lifestyle that builds on good health practices (check ups, eating well, exercise, knowing how to best meet your needs, etc.).
- Set Short Term Goals with Your Long Term Goals in Mind. This becomes your near term strategy. To have a retirement fund you need to start small but start now with saving even if it’s $20/week.
- Make Day to Day Decisions and Monthly Plans Based on the Above Long and Short Term Goals and Strategies. This may sound complicated but don’t be put off by it. Set new routines to help you and have family meetings to help others do this. See our post AM and PM Routines for Max Productivity for ideas. Pause before you do things and think “does this align with our goals and what I REALLY want and need? Simple, silly example: yesterday an email saying my fave designer’s sunglasses were on sale at Nordstrom Rack. Boom! I need sunglasses desperately so off I went. I spent around 15 minutes looking, ended up with 3 pairs I liked in the cart, started to analyze which is best and it occured to me…sunglasses, even those at 70% off, do not align with our strategy. Delete.
- Make Decisions and Plans with Accurate Information from Credible Information Sources In Mind. So need health information? The CDC, major medical institution’s websites, etc. Finance information? Try the Wall Street Journal or Forbes. Also, try to limit the time your consulting news sources to once a day, for a small period of time like 30-60 minutes or less. Definately avoid click bait inflamatory sources like facebook ads and folks flaming the fire of fear.
- Shift Your Mindset, Adjust the Culture of Your Family. You cannot possibly be forward thinking and make your best strategic decisions if you’re mired in negativity and stuck in stress or depression. Study after study has proven that stress impedes people’s abilities to function at a high level. Negative thoughts affect actions. Work together with your family to lean into gratitude and postive thought as much as possible. Sure you can react in an emergency and take action that is helpful, yet you cannot keep this up for long and remain healthy. Small steps here make a big difference.
Remember the Analogy of Walking on Thin Ice and Be Kind to Yourself (and Others). You cannot run out on to a newly frozen lake and expect to survive. You take small baby steps, while listening to the ice crack, sometimes changing direction along with way to get to the other side. This concept stuck me as a fantastic visual after reading the book I’ve quoted a few times here.
Life is scary right now. We are all quite literally on thin ice when it comes to health and security. So remember the advice of my father (and his father before him): do the best you can with the tools you’ve got. I’d add to that and say expand the tools you’ve got with the ideas in this article, and then do the best you can with them.
Be well and stay positive! My thoughts are with you all, Elizabeth
- Whorton School of Business article “Five Ways Companies Can Be More Nimble”
- Interview/Podcast of Baba Prasad
Photographs by Marla Smith Photography.