Be Prepared

“It wasn’t raining,
when Noah built the Ark!”

In 1907, Robert Baden-Powell, an English soldier, penned the Scout motto: “Be Prepared”.  In Scouting for Boys, published  a year later, Baden-Powell wrote that to Be Prepared means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”  Two years later, in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was founded; their motto – Be Prepared!   Many years later, so the story goes, a young boy turned to Baden-Powel after hearing the scouting motto and asked, “Prepared for what?”   The old English soldier smiled, looked the young man in the eye and said, “Why, for any old thing.”

Are your thoughts similar to mine?   When the Pandemic hit, we weren’t prepared; we reacted!  While a Pandemic Response Plan was developed in 2005 by the Bush administration, it was shelved and never really rehearsed.  Failure to have an updated plan resulted in a delayed response, unnecessary deaths, and economic upheaval.  To its credit the federal government, working in collaboration with the private sector, quickly developed and approved a vaccine that is able to effectively control the virus.  One would have hoped that somewhere within the vast layers of government bureaucracy a simple directive could have been issued….”A vaccine will be available in ten months.  Develop a plan that addresses the logistics necessary to expedite the distribution and administration of the vaccine to every American – BE PREPARED!”  I guess that directive is still in a draft format, as at present it seems the plan is still, “a work in progress”.  Hopefully it will come together in the next few weeks, and maybe by fall (per Dr. Fauci) we will begin to see herd immunity.  

What have we learned?  Most organizations were unable to prepare for the impact of the pandemic, instead they reacted with flexibility to the new needs and behaviors of both their customers and employees.  They found that trust, the ability to pivot, and a positive mindset created the stage for success.  The question now becomes two-fold; how will your organization prepare for the post-Covid world and will the approach you pursue enable you to BE PREPARED?

This question is addressed in a January HBR post entitled, Creating a Post-Covid Business Plan.  The authors propose that when the pandemic is over, many companies will find their business model disrupted in fundamental ways, and conventional strategic thinking will not be applicable to the “new normal.” Ultimately, planning for a post-pandemic world means consideration of three questions:

  1. How will the business really be making money in a post-Covid world?  Has Covid changed the manner in which money, goods, and information flow from their suppliers to their consumers?  

  2. Who were the most important stakeholders that drove the business?  Have you defined them, are they still present, and how did Covid impact their needs?

  3. What will your stakeholders’ behaviors look like after the pandemic?  This may be the most difficult to answer, as at the end of this crisis, some behaviors will return to the way they were (sustained), some behaviors will look very different (transformed), and some behaviors will disappear (collapsed). 

It is this third question that must be given critical consideration.  How can we predict behavior change?

The authors identify four factors and related questions to help identify and evaluate how behaviors might change for your stakeholders:

  • Mechanics. Is the behavior a habit or has it been somehow disrupted?  If the behavior is part of a routine it increases the likelihood that it will continue. 

  • Motivators. Does continuing this behavior provide significant psychological or financial benefit? 

  • Pressures. Human beings are herd animals, and we like to do what everyone else in the herd is doing.  Are there pressures to sustain or transform the behavior?  If so, what are they and how will your organization adjust?

  • Alternatives to the behavior. People will abandon a behavior if there’s a better way to do it, but shifting to the new behavior needs to be relatively painless.  Have technologies been developed that enable your stakeholders to easily shift their behavior?

Sometimes it can seem like it’s impossible to plan for the future, but moving into the future without a plan is even more dangerous.  To assure success,