Covid Randori


  1. Randori is a martial arts exercise where multiple attackers engage you at once, and you do not know which one will attack next or from what direction or what technique they will use. It is a supremely present moment experience. You cannot win. That is not the point. The point is to prepare for what may come, that which we do not know exactly.

2. Situations experienced in Randori strengthen you in ways that nothing else can. The attackers continue until you are exhausted, unable to respond further. It shows you both that you can do far more than you could have predicted, and, that you are finite, can’t possibly do it all. You become more aware of your personal weak spots and your preferred approaches to threats. The learning is massive. You thank your attackers for helping you.

3. We do not know all of the ways that Covid 19 will ‘attack’ our business. Covid 19 may bring the worst combination of challenges, some we cannot anticipate. Covid 19 could bring you/us the Randori from hell. The ideas here are for any business situation. Covid is the current example.

4. What to do?

5. What might be the benefits to you, to your team members, even to your suppliers, buyers and your families if you engaged in Randori? You and your colleagues are the teams of attackers and solution finders. If there are only two of you, do it. If you are totally solo, invite a colleague or even another company.

6. Your company is the combatant under Randori. Have your attack team throw their worst at it. Attack from the angle that you think would do the most damage the fastest. Find the weakest Achilles heel and hit it hard. Don’t hold back. Covid 19 won’t. The solution team pulls out all the stops to save the company.

7. Capture the names and descriptions of those bombs you launch at the company. Take turns as a member of the attackers and then the defenders. Let everyone feel the urgency and be a part of the possible solutions. Start the response to every idea with the word ‘yes’. That encourages people to speak and to equalize the members of the group.  Get animated, get scared, get solutions documented before the real bomb comes through the window.

8. And what the heck, have some fun too. Yes this is serious stuff. A bit of levity sprinkled among the serious keeps people engaged and enjoying the experience. Team names work great too. (Virus Slayers, Four Platoon, Sesame Street Fighters,  The Boxer Shorts, etc)  It is designed to uplift the whole team in the face of  potentially the worst attack your company will ever experience. 30 to 40 minutes each time is about right to keep it intense and useful. Want some help with how to talk with each other even though you are at times an attacker etc? Get my free ebook here.    Scroll ahead to the section that explains 10 elements to use for conversations using improv techniques. Powerfully helpful.

9. I recommend a note taker to capture an appropriate level of detail in describing the threats and the candidates for solutions. Post those on the wall later. Depending on the make-up of the group, one person acting as a combination of a kind of Referee and a Provocateur to keep it going can be really helpful. Celebrate contributions. Encourage, play, win some psychological ground back from Covid 19. Uplift your team. Borrowing Greg Brenneman’s model for business turn around suggests we address this pandemic through four lenses:

  • Our market, what to do more of and less of, take care of it, even grow it
  • Our product, what to change, what to start, what to abandon for now
  • Our financial strength and strategy, what will bring fast cash, what can be deferred, what must be
  • Our people, the engine, what do we need to feel safe and to stay at peak performance

10. Conduct the Randori every week or as new information shows up that could be a new attacker. Too often? Use the idea as a framework for team meetings and use the language in staff newsletters/memos and so on. It can also be done virtually if people are self isolating at home. Learn about some of the weak-spots and possible improvements. Be more ready. Feel a little bit safer.

11. The effect on the company, of conducting Randori, is as it is for the martial arts fighter. It prepares for the worst attack imaginable, increases confidence all round and makes our present world just a little bit less scary. It certainly brings every person to the front line seeking solutions possibly needed to get through this Covid 19 thing. A little bit of ‘reality check’ scary is highly appropriate.  It reminds people that this is very real and, importantly, with that, we are NOT totally helpless against this threat. What might that be like?

12. Prepare for Randori. We are under attack.

Joseph Seiler MCC