It’s Time To Start Rebuilding
Start planning for emerging from the lockdown now to avoid the same mistakes
No one was ready for the Coronoavirus — not the government, not the medical community, not the business community, not you, not me. No one.
We all got blindsided going in. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen on the way out.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about planning for the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. In it, I talked through how we need to start with today and think about the best case, a worse case, and the worst case. For each of those scenarios, we made plans to execute as conditions deteriorated. Now we need to do that again, but in reverse, in preparation for conditions to improve.
We need to be smart about this. We’re not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. We don’t know the extent of damage to our lives, our jobs, even our ability to go to a place that isn’t a few yards from our front door. But we do know there will be an end — there is flattening, there are results, there is hope.
So just as we pulled ripcords on emergency plans when we were given new recommendations that squeezed us further into boxes, we need to start defining action plans so we have levers to pull as all-clears start to sound.
If we don’t plan now, we risk acting with the same panic and taking the same ill-advised missteps we took on the way down. Things will happen slowly and guns will be jumped. There will be a second wave that we won’t see until it’s too late. People will continue to defy recommendations because we weren’t built to live this way for long.
Believe me, this will happen. Think about how poorly we listened to all the advice going in.
Let’s not do that coming out.
Start with the worst case and call a bottom
We’re going to start planning from where we are today. Maybe your world is still spiraling downwards and you haven’t hit your worst case yet. Maybe you’ve found an inflection point and are already starting to recover. Like I said, the bad times are still here, but now we can see when the battering will end, so it’s time to estimate the damage and react.
Once you assess where you are today, the question to ask is: “What’s the first, next positive move I can make?”
There will likely be a number of answers, some very small, others way too optimistic. That said, those answers will all probably revolve around signs that some services and means of transaction will have stabilized in a world where we can’t interact with one another in person. Call that the bottom, and figure out what can be done to build off of it.
The next likely all-clear is that the definition of “essential service” is going to broaden. We’re seeing signs of this already. We’re also seeing a loosening of restrictions on quarantines for workers who were in proximity of a positive test.
Once we start to balance caution and progress, we can move forward.
Climb up to the worse case and get prepared
Some things have changed forever and some things are never coming back. It sucks, but it’s an inescapable truth. The way I’ve been explaining it is in parallel to 9/11. Most of life returned to normal, but we still have to take our shoes off to get on an airplane.
Get past that. Instead of pining for what should be, we need to focus on making the best of how things are.
I can make guesses — like ultimately we won’t be wearing masks every time we leave the house, but every business in the country will have a hand-sanitizer dispenser at every entrance and exit.
The plans we put in place now are for what we expect to happen as we recover. The biggest, hairiest problem in the real world will start to resolve itself when we’re no longer overtaxing our healthcare system. The biggest, hairiest problem in the business world will start to unknot itself when, at some point, more of us physically go back to work. Now is the time to envision what that looks like — and to understand that it’s not going to happen overnight.
Millions of jobs have been lost. Zero contact will be with us for a long, long time. Masks will likely be a requirement in the workplace. Zoom or something like it will be standard operating procedure, not the exception to the rule.
We should start thinking about not just reacting, but restructuring our businesses, our jobs, even our lives around the fact that we shouldn’t — and don’t need to — be in the same room to get shit done. How can we reinvent ourselves and our jobs and our companies to find opportunity in the ashes?
Envision the best case but proceed with caution
Things are bad now, but they can get infinitely worse with a relapse. Small steps today, the equivalent of dipping our toes in the water, will keep us from making big mistakes down the road.
In my preparation post, when I talked about the worst case, I spoke to assessing what was in your control and making hard decisions. Now it’s time to revisit those decisions in reverse order from the easiest cuts to the deepest cuts, and start dipping our toes back in.
- In those places where we’ve reallocated resources, what can we do to start moving our focus from survival to growth?
- In those places where we’ve shifted from rigid to flexible, where can we replace some of the structure we’ve had to abandon? And where does it make sense to remain flexible?
- For those projects, initiatives, and payments we’ve deferred, which are the ones to resume first? And which are no longer a priority to resume at all?
- In those areas where we’ve made reductions, where does it make sense to replenish? And where does it make sense to make the current level the standard moving forward?
- As for what we’ve had to cut entirely, how quickly can we bring those things back?
As you move down that list, the view becomes murkier and the answers become harder to nail down, but I suggest you make plans for all of them. If you have to change your plan down the road, so be it.
Life is still in flux, and it’ll be in flux for a while. The best way to react to a perpetually changing environment is to get your bearings. In a lot of ways, we may be able to come out of this better, stronger, and wiser than before.
The sooner we start figuring out how to do that, the better chance we’ll have of making it happen.
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