When the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty intoned that we face “a six-month problem that we have to deal with collectively” the chances of the eased restrictions remaining in place appears tenuous. For many industries they have only just started opening up again, and they are the sectors that are being hit as local lockdowns are put into place. It seems that 2020 isn’t content with cancelling our summer holiday but has it’s eyes on the Christmas festivities as well. What do you tell your kids when they ask about what’s going to happen at Christmas, when you don’t know what you don’t know.
Confronting the brutal facts
Jim Collins encourages organisations to embrace “The Stockdale Paradox”: maintaining unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. So the brutal facts are:
- Forget herd immunity – Less than 8% of the UK population has been infected with CoVid (although it might be as high as 17% in cities)
- Restrictions are coming – they might not call it a national lockdown but the alert level has been raised to level 4, so prepare for parts of the economy being affected
- The vaccine won’t come anytime soon – even if everything goes to plan, we are unlikely to be in a position to vaccinate enough of the population to “return to normal” until at the earliest the end of 2021
Plan for growth
The desire for things to return to “normal” is understandable, but unfortunately has to be challenged in the current environment. You’ve probably read about fixed and growth mindsets. In this situation every leader need to adopt a growth mindset for their organisation; one that thrives on challenge and seeks to strive to stretch our abilities. That means instead of focusing on what you can’t do, you need to start exploring what you can do. What happens next has to be up to you. Don’t wait for restrictions to shut you down again, instead plan for it.
For example, I work as a Chief Examiner for an awarding body. After the summer’s debacle with A-Levels, BTECs and GCSE’s you are probably thinking I’d be hiding that fact. But ABE Global didn’t wait and hope. In March 2020 they took the decision that the exams were unlikely to happen. Rather than bumbling around with “normal” they planned for it to not be normal. All the exam papers were replaced with open book exams (OBE’s) which could be managed online, lockdown or no lockdown the assessment session could go forward. The assessment period came and went. Students were marked based on their assessment. Our results were in line with normal expectations and the students got their results without drama. And guess what, we are planning for OBE’s to be used the December assessment period.
By the way, OfQual had to approve the change… it beggars belief that they are not planning for a disrupted exam season in 2021, given the brutal facts.
So what does this all mean?
4iforum has arisen because of CoVid. We exist as a direct response to the worse economy in history and the disruption to buisness as normal. No business is immune from not knowing, what they don’t know. One hundred years of business and management theory and practice has been thrown in the air. What got us here will not get us to the end.
This is more than a temporary pivot, this is a fundamental rethink about how we do business.
How can you provide “person to person contact” (Hospitality, hairdressing etc) if person to person contact is restricted? (If you think virtual hairdressing is impossible you missed out on lockdown haircut.)
How do you develop a long term business strategy for business operations that might be interrupted by the 5:30pm government briefing? Erm… integrate interruptions into your business planning
How do you deliver exceptional customer service whilst protecting your customers? Make customer care part of your pandemic response.
How do you utilise your business capabilities to continue operating and delivering continuity of service when restrictions might be in place for days, weeks or even months? Pivot your business model.
There are plenty of questions that we should be asking ourselves that we haven’t even thought of. But if you don’r know, that’s okay. Knowing that we don’t know is the beginning of being curious and curious drives a growth mindset. Knowing what we don’t know is the beginning of finding the answer.
But have faith – we will prevail.