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THE NEW NORMAL – HOW DO YOU FIT IN?

Robert Redfield, US CDC Director, recently stated grimly, “The Covid-19 virus has brought this nation to its knees.”  As a member clearly of the at risk population, I respectfully and strongly object to what the Center for Disease Control director says.

Corona Virus neither has not or will not bring us to our knees.  Our reaction to the Corona Virus is the only thing that can bring us to our knees.

I’m hugely inspired by the resilience of people around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic who are adapting to the New Normal in extraordinary new ways. .

I was so inspired today.  Like many of you, my daily routine has been shattered by the Corona Virus, but I try to restore it it in the small ways.  So I went to my used-to-be-usual Starbucks this morning.   When I walked in, the chairs were roped off so no one could congregate. 

So what was inside?  Crew members darkly shrouded in masks– totally inspiring me.  They created a strong energy in that room with joy and laughter, creating such a great environment for themselves in the midst of difficult circumstances.  I told one of the baristas, “You guys really inspire me!”  His answer was, “We are so lucky to be here.”  I thought I was lucky to be there too!

Tough Covid Numbers–Really Optimistic People

There is optimism in the face of some really tough numbers.  From the perspective of the US, the cases of Covid-19 have risen sharply in the last few weeks as many states are opening up. 

“The Covid-19 virus has brought this nation to its knees”  stated Robert Redfield, director of the Center for Disease Control, who testified before the US Congress last week.  

Personally, myself as a member of the high risk population, I take sharp objection to the gentleman director of CDC. 

The only thing that can bring us to our knees is us and our reaction to the virus.  Covid 19 will not bring us to our knees–it will take us to our best.   

Corona Virus–the 9/11 of Business

We’ve been down dark tunnels before in our history and we’ve always finally seen the light.

One of the darkest moments in US history was 9/11/2001.  The Twin Towers came down, but we went on and recovered.

As for these times now, March 15, 2020  will live in many of our minds and will be called the “9/11 of Business.”   March 15 will  be remembered as the day the world shut down their businesses and economies in reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The first 9/11/2001 was totally unexpected.  Our administrative assistant walked into the offices of Delta Associates and said, “Turn on the TV!”  When we did, as many of you remember, we saw the flames shooting from the top floors of Twin Towers in New York City. 

What happened was totally unanticipated.  They said it was a plane, but what plane?  We did not understand what was happening, but we soon knew that in a brief, brutal, and decisive action, the world had forever changed.

The pandemic was also totally unexpected…at least by most people.  For most entrepreneurs 2020 was shaping up to be the best financial year ever.

Although 9/11/2001 had a huge impact on the US, March 15/2020–the beginning of business 9/11–comes closer than any other event in history to directly impact virtually every human being on the planet. 

Not only has there been a huge loss of life that has not ended, 3/15/2020 changed almost every aspect of human life in a matter of four short months–how we interact with each other, where we work, how we’re educated, where we go, and what we are allowed to do.

Defining Your Place in the New Normal

A new normal is emerging, we don’t know what it yet is, and we don’t know how we will fit into it even when we find out. But we are now able to answer a few questions.

How Do I Know How Long this Pandemic Will Last?

I think we’re talking about 3 to 5 years minimum to arrive at some semblance of the New Normal. 

Here is my reasoning. 

Experts in epidemiology are cautiously optimistic that there will be an effective vaccine in a year.   Even though it’s rumored that some versions of vaccines are being manufactured now, I think it will take at least a year from official approval to manufacturing unprecedented quantities, pulling out all the stops. 

Then there’s distribution and administration.  Distributing an effective vaccine to 8 billion people throughout the world will be as monumental a task as the world has ever faced.  That the vaccine can be distributed and administered in two years will be a huge success.

In the meantime, how business plays out is an enormous question.  How effective long term will businesses be producing and selling online?  Can frontline businesses like restaurants and retail survive with mandated limited capcities? 

Will teams be productive and innovative?  With spikes in the disease happening as municipalities and states open up, will business be faced with rolling shutdowns?  What happens to cities, counties, states and the federal government with crashing tax revenue and exploding debt?

What Will My Professional Life Be Like for Me?–Who Will Be the Winners and the Losers? 

The Dramatic Changes in Work Would Have Happened Anyway.  Here’s an amazing fact.  All of the obvious changes such as working from home, working online, and social distancing would have happened anyway, even if there had never been a pandemic.  You will hear us say this over and over again.  It would have taken a decade or maybe even two–the pandemic made the changes of a decade happen in 3 amazingly short months.

Working from Home is Here to Stay into the Distant Future.  The new ongoing normal will look a look like the beginning of the lockdown.  It will be done online from home in the environment of home offices, and in many cases the central office will be an auxiliary to the real work you do in your home office  Everything is reversed.  We used to work at home occasionally.  Now we’ll work from home as the norm, and go to the office from time to time for specific reasons.

Working from Home Requires Using Old Skillsets in New Ways.  Working from home online will require many of the basic skillsets used in the environment of the “new normal,” but in new ways.  Establishing relationships with team members will be more critical than ever, but you won’t be going out to lunch or dropping by their office. 

You’ll need to establish a direct working relationship with key people.  You’ll work with them on specific parts of the sprint.  It will be really important to get their opinion by way of project platforms, email and Zoom.  It will be even more important to connect with them personally.

Creating the Room Where it Happens.  In a virtual world, how can we find the room where the big things are happening?  When no one is in the office, where are important meetings held and big decisions made?  You may be in tune with the direction of your team, but be totally unaware of where the greater organization is happening. 

Allies and alliances, so important in organizations, are difficult to find and make–unless you make it happen.  You still must connect with people in cross-functional relationships and with people higher in the organization.  You must find out the priorities of the organization, find out what they need from you, and make things happen on the greater scale.  When that special meeting is called, you need to be part of it. More important than ever before, you need to be taken into account as a player.

Fitting into the new normal seems easy.  You do your work and become a functioning part of the team.  But in order to fit into the new normal, you have to understand its dynamics and understand how to be a vital player in a virtual organization.  And that patient work is just beginning.

Austin, Texas

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