Given where we are with Covid-19, I thought I would share six short thoughts on the situation today, and some questions to ponder:
- What is it about Covid-19 that is fundamentally driving behaviours?
- The extent of adaptation and change we have seen has been remarkable
- The wider perspective: what are the bigger trends?
- The UK response: Some thoughts and what can we learn?
- Do people realise what ‘Level 3’ really means?
- What next? What are we missing?
Then three final questions to reflect on, covering leadership, change and how we manage. These are expanded below… (and I would be interested in your thoughts..)
1) What is driving behaviours around Covid-19?
It seems to boil down to two things:
1) Fear of the virus, itself.
2) Fear of the consequences of the virus (in many different forms, and at many different levels).
2) The extent to which organisations, people and government have adapted in 2020 has been remarkable
In February, looking at the China lockdown, I said it was difficult to imagine western governments and the European public doing the same. I was clearly very wrong.
The economic response by the UK (and other governments) has been astonishing. (Looking back, the UK’s response makes Corbyn’s ‘radical social’ manifesto look unambitious.)
Organisations have managed to change their processes and operate remotely, in ways, and at a speed, they would previously not have previously considered possible. Many of those changes will undoubtedly stick. Hopefully, the lessons about change will stick as well.
Individuals have been remarkedly adaptable. People, by nature are more adaptable, and resilient, than generally thought.
In this context, we must not forget the dreadful effect of lockdown and the virus on many individuals. Particularly, but not exclusively, the vulnerable and the elderly, and those in the NHS.
3) The wider perspective
Taking a wider perspective, we see:
Digitisation: Increased acceptance and adoption of digitisation and remote meeting, working and operation.
Debt: Greater debt in governments, many organisations and for people, (though some have certainly benefitted).
Contradictory connectivity messages: Greater awareness of global connectivity, and an urge to create less global dependence. Or rather local independence. (For me, there is deep irony in this).
A K-shaped recovery: Some sectors have changed substantially and some may be changed fundamentally. We seem to have a K shaped recovery, with different sectors heading off in very different directions, some downwards, others thriving.
4) The UK response to Covid-19 events
Economic response aside, the UK response provides some lessons:
- Communications: These have ranged from very clear, to decidedly ambiguous. Events have illustrated how easily it is to undermine clear messages and trust.
- Clarity over reporting numbers, consistently: This has been less than perfect: Setting ‘targets’ (which were really ‘ambitions’ in uncertain times) and then pretending to hit them, does little for confidence. Labelling solutions as “world class” even before created. Enough said.
- The value of data & science: What has shone through is the value of the science, the value of real numbers and information, and their thoughtful analysis.
- Preparedness and response: The NHS PPE situation and response has been close to dreadful. (One clinician I met suggested that the government’s a failure to provide adequate PPE for NHS staff, means they should be prosecuted for manslaughter.)
- Managing in a crisis is not easy: I have considerable sympathy for the government’s predicament. However, some of these problems have been of their own making.
5) We are in level 3 (epidemic in general circulation)
(Note: This article was written August 2020) We are in level 3 (epidemic in general circulation), yet looking around, many people seem to behave as if that means we are in level 2 or 1 (low transmission or no Covid-19 in the UK).
- Do people really know what today’s social distancing rules are? Or what the levels mean?
- Is this a lack of fear of the virus? Or are people thinking “We have had enough!”?
- Is this a lack of fear of the consequences? For themselves, or “It won’t affect me anyway”, or for others more vulnerable, or of a second wave (or local wave-lets)?
- Are we being lucky with the weather, or some other transmission factor changing?
- I am genuinely puzzled…. but maybe I am still more cautious that others…
6) What next?
I hear that the NHS is preparing for a second wave. Be that further increases in transmission and the R value. What first: Wave two, min- wavelets, or an effective vaccine?
In the need to protect individuals, the vulnerable, and (social impact) and our economies, have we lost sight of the need to continue to address environmental impact? Or have some events emphasised the impact? Only time will tell.
Economic wellbeing and recovery is starting to clash against potential health risks. A political expedient? Is this necessarily a trade off?
Remember Brexit? Does anyone know what is happening and its implications for trade?
We will continue to see the fear of the virus, and the fear of the various consequences of the virus, playing off against one another, in multiple ways.
Final thoughts & questions: What are you taking away from all this, about:
- Leadership? How you led, and how others have led through this crisis.
- About managing change? Nationally and closer to home.
- About how you manage your organisation and people? And how they manage themselves?
P.S. This is about as political as I get (I hope that is OK). I hope my European and US readers don’t mind the UK based commentary.