WHAT WENT WRONG, was not wrong, just an acceleration of inevitable change
Sunday, June 14, 2020
Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t easy.
Nobody knows what went wrong.
Everyone is guessing.
Did anyone promise it would be easy – or is that just our 21st-century expectation, something we’ve taken for granted, blindly believing the powers that be (governments, NGOs, science, the internet of ‘tings) would preserve and protect our ubiquitous desire for sustained safe cohabitation of this earth?
What went wrong?
Supply of everything from car parts to PPE to food supplies is, much like toilet paper shortages, disrupted from time to time, and then returned to normal. Not so with ‘non-essentials,’ especially if they have to cross our Canada-US border. That border re-opening June 21st seems doubtful as many states are experiencing spikes in hospitalizations and confirmed cases as their re-start stumbles and lack of coordination manifest.
I’m reminded of a comment from the late Peter Drucker; he explained that one of the great things about Canadians was that we watch our American neighbours do all kinds of crazy things, and then we copy only the smart ones.
Every marketplace commodity experiences periods of oversupply, periods of shortage. We’ve witnessed rapid actions, reactions, and return to stabilization in so many – toilet paper supplies on shelves are ample, and public confidence in supply is back in balance.
Crude oil was so abundant recently with COVID-19 shutdowns of the economy sunk demand faster than the industry could shut off their taps. That marketplace is returning to stability, in some new form, as producers produce less while consumers and companies carefully ratchet up their appetite for energy.
So what does all this mean for us?
For many, it’s awaiting a call back to work. As the economy re-opens, or rather ‘as governments relinquish their economic equivalent of Marshall Law’ – work won’t look the same or take place in the same space. That is – if those employers are still in business and still need their employees.
It occurs to me that HR folks, managers, and owners will be allowed to skirt conventional practice – they’ll avoid claims for constructive dismissal by simply calling back their top producers and most cooperative loyal employees, and the rest will be gone without the stress of conventional process for weeding the garden – but I digress …
Back to my point:
For many businesses, there is a question – without waiting for demand to return, whether their business can survive hanging on by its fingernails, and in many cases where their entire business category is in jeopardy (dine-in restaurants, movie theatres, office-sharing services, conference centers, hotels, and sports stadia).
When experts talk, they sound much like politicians – defending their interests, pleading their case for how things will return to usual, but with safety/use/protection changes. I roll my eyes wondering what school of un-reality those talking-heads attended.
Everyone is guessing.
We are all living through our first pandemic and experiencing our first pandemic-induced recession.
Most of them don’t impact me, but the other day an early morning panel on CNN caught my attention; the head of research for CBRE, a Manhattan office leasing broker, and a pro-office workplace consultant were on that panel – each explaining their take.
Notwithstanding large organizations announcing plans to cut back, to have more functions working from home all the time, or on a flex-basis but using less space overall – these knuckleheads were arguing that office tenants will need more space and that existing office buildings would meet their needs again/still with the changes being operational and HR ones rather than a physical reinvention of existing buildings.
Their collective predictions of demand and supply being back in balance in 12-18 months is safe public guesswork for now – but in the long run, it makes no sense beyond the protection of status-quo rather than the protection of people. It seems they’ll leave that thinking to the employers – without regard for the employers who fail to survive.
They forget so quickly how scared everyone has been.
Just the other day, I learned that some companies in my office-intense marketplace are telling employees who want to continue to work from home, they will be released or have their pay cut. That’s a compelling tactic for avoiding ‘constructive dismissal’ issues – but it’s going to bite them, one way or another.
It is not going to be a return to business as usual for anyone with their eyes open.
Work will not be the same for employee or employer – consumerism will not be the same, commerce and banking will not be the same, going out for dinner will not be the same.
And, as I learned recently, under new rules – hair benders cannot trim beards because you can’t wear a mask and get your beard trimmed at the same time. I’ve solved that issue. My beard is gone, but I’ve refreshed my look – no more buzz cut, I’m long and flowing. OK, ‘longer’ and blowing in the breeze is a better description. It’s inconvenient to carry a comb again.
The point, my point, is that we’ve been going through a period of shock, adjustment, learning new vocabulary, and coming to grips to the magnitude of the COVID-19 impact.
Everything is changing.
And everything is changing, all at the same time, with no timetable or reliable predictability – and add to that a U.S. election, racial tensions, a summer of protest marches and continued unemployment, and meanwhile stock markets surge and airliners sit idle. We can lead, follow, get out of the way, or imitate lemmings – just follow them to a cliff near you …
Here’s a question to ponder: if there was no COVID-19, and if there wasn’t police brutality that inspired anti-racism protests and calls to action, what would we be doing this summer?
I know, we’d all be doing the self-indulgent pleasure-seeking activities we know and love.
But would we be changing anything?
We’d be waiting for the next 5G enabled gadget to buy or the next fantastically hyped APP to load on our phones while streaming and binge-watching whatever Hollywood was shoveling our way.
Instead, we are thinking.
Sure, we binge-watch and binge-eat, we work out, we vegetate on couches, we hold our hands out for help – or to help others, we roll our eyes so often at stupidity flowing out the mouths of influential, powerful, and supposedly wise folks, that our eyes ought to be spinning!
While we face humungous changes for the masses, the largest and most important of all reside inside us. We are questioning everything we’ve ever done – wondering how unprepared we all feel for what is happening now. Yes, that’s a choice to feel that way and question ourselves that way.
On the other hand, we have time to reinvent how we use our time, we have an opportunity to start or finish anything we choose.
We can’t waste the do-over of times past.
Life isn’t in jeopardy.
As global change goes, it really quick – from December 2019 to June 2020.