The crisis is something the world is no stranger to. After a pandemic that swept almost the entire globe, companies learned to work in a new way. Two years later, what was once new to many has become the new standard, including remote work and innovative team management approaches. However, Ukraine had to face another learning curve after the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, changing every aspect of life in the country. The way Ukraine responded to an attack by a seemingly stronger adversary can serve as an example not only for other countries but also for businesses. Let's examine examples to analyze the action plan implemented at different levels of the country and learn seven lessons on navigating a crisis. 1. Clear Communication: Prioritize all forms of communication and build a trustworthy relationship with your team On the first day of the full-scale invasion, I was woken up at 5 am by explosions. Immediately, my instinct was to call my relatives living in different cities to check on their safety. The next step was to check the news. The information was readily available, updating every minute. TV channels launched a general round-the-clock broadcast, translating the news and warning of possible missile attacks. The greatest relief came when we saw a video of our leader, President Zelenskyy, addressing the people right from his office, reassuring people that he and his team were in Kyiv and had no plans of leaving. This gesture has become a tradition now. Every day, the country leader posts a video on his social media channel summarizing the news updates. This practice keeps the public informed and demonstrates his commitment to transparent communication. Here, I want to highlight a few crucial points that will make sense for businesses too: As I mentioned before, all information was available. The panic was reduced by the ability of people to communicate and fill the gaps with information. People received clear instructions on what to do in case of shelling. With a clear plan, people are more likely to think rationally and make informed decisions. The President was straightforward and honest, not mincing words. He called the situation what it was — war. Leaders need to name things on their terms. When people hear the truth from their leader, someone who is present and handling tough situations, they gain power. They feel empowered to devise their solutions based on reality. However, some people in business are afraid to share the numbers with their employees—how things are truly going, whether we are experiencing revenue growth or decline, or if a recession is affecting us. They fear creating panic among their teams. Key takeaway: Yet, openly sharing our goals and the actual situation fosters a culture of transparency. People become more engaged, and a strong bond of trust is built within the organization. 2. Volunteering phenomena: Share your vision and define clear goals to get support from the team As you may know, from the beginning of the full-scale war, the sense of unity was enormous. Everyone was helping everyone. This manifested itself in various ways: providing essential supplies, building temporary shelters, rescuing animals, etc. All this happened not only within the country but also abroad. People worldwide wanted to help the Ukrainians in any way they could. In response, the government established an official fundraising platform called United24, which is accessible to everyone globally. This is an example of how a good leader should respond to a request. In the context of business, let's imagine two front-end engineers who are passionate about improving the product. A good manager backs their initiative, suggesting they research the market and present options, with the company willing to reconsider the budget. This opens up possibilities for the team. Similarly, the government showed support for initiatives during the crisis. Also, a great example of the volunteering phenomenon is crowdfunding. A fantastic story happened when people came together to buy Turkish drones and ended up renting a satellite. This is a really good example of how people can self-organize themselves even in the most challenging situations, knowing their leaders will support them. They just need to accept reality, adapt, and go through challenges. Share your vision and define clear goals. When people understand threats, they will be more willing to volunteer, find resources, and become creative in devising solutions. Key takeaway: 3. Coordination: Make convenient tools for a fast feedback loop and encourage top-down and bottom-up collaboration Even before the full-scale invasion, Ukraine implemented the "State in a smartphone" initiative, a groundbreaking development featuring the world's first digital passports and the fastest business registration process—all within a single app. With the outbreak of a full-scale war, the app underwent significant upgrades to cater to the new needs of society. For instance, the app now includes TV and radio features to help people stay updated with the latest news. It allows users to apply for renovation requests if their homes were bombed and enable citizens to inform the government about the presence of Russian troops through the app. This multitool has become indispensable, serving multiple crucial functions for the people during the war. This is one of many apps that have adapted to the realities of war. For example, as a city, Kyiv has its own official application. It now includes a map of bomb shelters, and during blackouts, you can find heating points through the app. Additionally, it notifies you when a missile or drone approaches the city. This last feature is especially crucial, leading to the development of another app that reports possible threats for all regions of the country. Make the process convenient for a fast feedback loop and encourage top-down and bottom-up collaboration to engage people effectively. In my work, I collaborate with leaders who may find it tough to always listen to the engineers or those who execute tasks. However, I'm telling you, you don't have a choice. They bring the most innovative initiatives and take ownership of them. This is something they need, not just what you need. As a manager, you should be someone who opens up possibilities. Key takeaway: 4. Consistency and Strategy: Use your ethics, morale, and look for opportunities during a crisis instead of resorting to pure survival mode Ukrainian diplomats used the crisis as an opportunity to become an EU candidate and implement reforms aligned with the people's will, and it was a smart move. The Grain Initiative serves as an example of our society's decision to aid others in need and contribute positively to the world. If we have more than we need, why not share it? This way, we've announced that we are here to support, share, and uphold ethical and moral values. We help you, and you help us with what you can. So that is a good thing to build trust. Rather than solely focusing on self-preservation during the crisis, go beyond mere survival mode and look for opportunities. Use your culture and ethic to build a more resilient and connected global community. Key takeaway: 5. Adaptiveness: If you want to enhance your culture, start by working with values first Last winter, we had blackouts that could last for a few days, leaving us without water, heat, and electricity. I remember changing locations five times a day just to fulfill my commitments and attend meetings amidst the chaos. Many people demonstrated courage, commitment, and focus during those tough times by working together to find alternative energy solutions. Volunteer funds shifted from crowdfunding for medical aid to purchasing hospital power generators. I personally know engineers who bought generators for a hospital and then worked from there, sharing rooms with others. Usually, people finding themselves in a new crisis situation tend to panic. However, those who are brought up in a culture of courage, openness, and commitment will adapt quickly to new conditions. If you want to build such a culture in your company, start by working with Scrum values. Key takeaway: 6. Way of servant leadership: Instead of command and control, seek opportunities and encourage new leaders This paragraph brings us back to the President of Ukraine. It's no secret that he emphasizes dialogue among his officials to reach the right decisions. He is known for hiring the best people and trusting them, and he doesn't hesitate to remove those who cannot uphold declared values. Moreover, he is open to inviting various experts to participate in these discussions to ensure well-informed choices. We can see him as a manager who creates opportunities for his team and values collaboration. Instead of controlling every step or making decisions individually, trust your top managers. If you brought them into the team, then they deserve it. Trust them, and they will be able to offer new bold ideas. Key takeaway: 7. Continuous Improvement: Review the speed of learning and fix your feedback loop Our society is always looking for ways to improve itself. In times of war, this becomes a necessity for survival. Our defenders keep receiving more and more different types of equipment from all over the world, and they need to learn how to use it effectively. Meanwhile, from the very beginning of the full-scale invasion, civilians have established training centers to ensure that everyone can learn the necessary skills, such as first aid. People have learned to weave camouflage nets and make trench candles for the defenders. Thanks to these efforts, Ukraine has been successfully fighting against the enemy for over a year now. Society quickly responded to the need and organized free study opportunities. Rapidly learning new skills is critical for businesses because technology constantly evolves, and the world changes every minute. Enable your team to submit requests and provide broad opportunities for learning promptly. Key takeaway: Key Lesson Every crisis is unique, but Ukraine sets an example that lessons can be learned, even from the worst scenarios. These seven takeaways demonstrate that any situation can be managed if you have a strong leader, an action plan, and the ability to adapt quickly.