The spread of COVID-19 has emerged as a serious event
and if not yet officially a pandemic, it has governments worried and newspersons breathless. With new information coming out daily, it’s still unclear what is ahead. But the question organizations have to ask is how it could affect their business.
In descriptive reports, COVID-19 sounds like any other flu virus—particularly dangerous to the elderly, but for the rest perhaps just an uncomfortable illness. However, the virus spreads rapidly and has a high mortality rate (2%) compared to influenza (just 0.13%), though much lower than that of SARS (10%) or MERS (34%), according to the World Health Organization.
The stock market was sobering last week. Whatever this virus is, it’s already disruptive. Warnings began to sound in early February about supply chain disruption and by the last week of the month markets got the message. This week the Federal Reserve in a rare inter-meeting action has cut the benchmark rate by half a point.
The question is how big and prolonged a disruption this may be. Will it mean a two-month slowdown of the economy with a return to growth after? Or will it be much longer and more serious? That is unknown at this point.
Times like these prove the value of preparation. Should disruption continue for long, the economy will turn down and organizations—and individual departments—will face difficult decisions. Many remember the challenge of the financial crisis of 2008-09.
Fortune favors the prepared. But what does it mean to be prepared for something unexpected? After all, few include global pandemics into their annual planning. Those that are prepared to think and act quickly to adapt will improve their chances of managing through the challenge.
What do you have planned for 2020? How does that plan look in light of the new and developing situation? What parts can go forward and what might need to change? What contingencies do you now need to consider?
What decisions do you need to make now, this week, to keep your department on an even keel through choppy waters ahead?
How might COVID-19 affect your new initiatives? Some can and should go forward, perhaps even be accelerated, particularly any that can be implemented quickly and will relieve the demands on staff.
What particular set of circumstances does your organization face? What circumstances will your department or group face? Consider the probable scenarios, then work to develop options.
As you look ahead consider what developments will serve as warning flags that indicate the need for particular actions. By anticipating various scenarios and what they require, you can prepare to act according to how this goes. Establish set points at which actions need to be taken. Acting at the right time can keep you on a solid footing.
Time will tell the seriousness of this Coronavirus. But now is the time to analyze your risks and act to address them.
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