This is Part five in our series about Adaptive Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty.

In our final post of a five-part series on Adaptive Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty, we take a closer look at being Rooted in the Vision. We share the ways in which our vision guides us, helps to create shared experiences, and determines the things we prioritize at Overlap.

This article was written collaboratively by Rachel Hofstetter, Overlap’s Vice-President and General Manager, and Nicole Francoeur, a Designer on Overlap’s Programs team.

Our Shared Vision

A shared vision is a picture that everyone carries in their heads and hearts. It creates a common destination and is a driver of sustained change.

At Overlap, our shared vision for the future is Better is absolutely possible. Over the past three months, being true to our vision has been more important than ever. It has helped to mobilize and create shared experiences with our team and has been a guiding light and filter for decision-making.

Creating Shared Experiences

Overlap came into 2020 in the final year of our current three-year strategic plan. Covid-19 hit—and like almost all organizations —we quickly realized it was not going to be business as usual. So we parked our plan. How would current conditions affect our strategy? What new tactics would we need? Our team had a divergent conversation about a wide range of possibilities. Guided by our vision that Better is absolutely possible, we started to select ideas that made sense in this new context we found ourselves living in. Our vision was our focus point. Even though many of our day-to-day activities had to radically change, the ultimate goal our team was working toward remained the same. This allowed individuals to move quickly, and have a degree of networked decision-making because ultimately we all knew where we were headed.

Supporting Decision-Making

The pandemic itself and the inequalities it has highlighted have presented us with a fork in the road: anticipate a future that takes us back to the pre-pandemic status quo or reimagine something even better where we can design a new path forward. True to our vision, we have decided to use this opportunity to create transformative changes that have lasting impacts on people’s lives.

Some initial next steps in service of actioning a future where Better is Possible are highlighted below:

Better is Possible Project Roundtable

In late May we hosted a virtual Better is Possible Project Roundtable gathering with people from around the world and from a wide variety of sectors. We had the opportunity to share our hopeful optimism through a dialogue about our common challenges and efforts to make the world a better place as we look to the future.

Human-Centred Design Standards for Safety

We have started to work on a human-centred design standard for safety that captures the best of this moment, and the hard parts too. This will be a resource we’ll make available for our clients and others who could benefit.

Moving Human-Centred Design Courses Online

Part of our hopeful vision of the future is to democratize design to create better products and services, organizations, and systems. The more that people have access to tools and processes, the more likely we can make sure that the future is better than what we have today. To make this happen, we have dedicated efforts to moving our human-centred design courses online.

And so, Let’s Act. 

Like so many of you, we are heartbroken by the events unfolding before our eyes and we stand in solidarity with Black communities and those who are demonstrating for Justice. And, we are finding our way to act.

As a human centred design firm, we approach our work with a viewpoint that is inclusive of all stakeholders, including BIPOC and marginalized communities. Our team is actively evaluating how well our tools and practices support anti-racism so that we can create deliberate changes to those tools or practices.

We are also aware that we need to take more time to reflect and prioritize Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Overlap. We recognize that these intentional conversations are long overdue and we have a lot of catching up to do. We will be embedding dedicated time and resources, while also investing in external expertise and guidance to ensure this happens.

As leaders, we are committed to applying our learnings operationally and structurally in our business as we move forward. We also want to engage with our Design community to explore what better looks like within our own sector. This is only the beginning.

In closing

This series of posts has highlighted some of the qualities of adaptive leadership that have been helpful for keeping us grounded at Overlap as we move through this time of uncertainty, including presence and availability, clarity and transparency, and our bias toward action. We have experienced many successes and failures as we navigate these times together, but most importantly, we have shown deep care and respect for our team by meeting each person where they are at. One thing is for certain—we are stronger and more prepared than ever to take on the challenges ahead.