Another view of Covid-19 – what are its characteristics and what are the benefits for whom

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I write down my personal opinion.

Crises are characterized by surprise, insufficient information, stress, threats and a limited response time. Similarly with the waves of Covid-19. Although it was a Gray Rhino , the world was taken by surprise. Statistically, it is almost a certainty that something like this will happen every now and then. After all, I read somewhere that around 1,200 diseases do not evolve in a pandemic every year. A pandemic every 30 to 50 years is therefore not surprising. But human life is short, and in 50 years the focus on a potential threat to the masses easily weakens.

Such situations require immediate decision making, problem solving and communication. But a government needs time to switch, and switching multiple governments while the world is not yet properly connected in terms of public health is difficult. Moreover, these situations normally have a high degree of uncertainty as to the cause, the guilt, the reaction, the public perception, the solution. The cause must be known for a good solution. The question of guilt is not a topic for the crisis teams, lawyers can always argue about it later in courtrooms. But an sich does this question not contribute to the approach. The response must be the right one, as there is little time to learn from the mistakes. The public perception must be formed with the solutions that are found and the accompanying convincing communication. With Covid 19, there are two major classes of solutions: on the one hand, the six golden rules, which slow down the progression of the disease, which gives a chance for better results from the second type of solution: the vaccines.

Theoretically important here is the aspect of wrong decisions: they can happen in two ways:

  • Due to disagreements and conflicts in the team.
  • Groupthink: lack of independent thinkers.

But a crisis also has potential benefits: ( after Meyers, GC When it hits the fan: Managing the nine crises of business, 1986)

  • Attention is focused on a specific topic. Here that is the pandemic. This can also become problematic if other crises arise on the sidelines that escape attention.
  • It calls for cooperation. Broadly speaking , this seems to be successful: the crisis centers work together in the sense that information about the pandemic is even exchanged across countries.
  • The organization can show and prove its commitment to the disadvantaged and to society. To this end, in many countries the governments are digging deep into their pockets to try to suppress an economic disaster. Obviously, this cannot be done sufficiently, which means that solutions must also come from society itself.
  • The teams can show their problem solving skills. The term “teams” is broadly defined here. You have the originality of the private businesses that are forced to create alternative ways of working, people who started to manufacture face masks themselves during the shortages, but also large companies that work on vaccines, hospitals that had to redefine their operation and their cooperation, …
  • Heroes are born , and everyone knows the most important group of heroes of the pandemic: people in care professions, hospitals and nursing homes, but also volunteers at call centers and helplines such as suicide prevention and such.
  • Opportunities are being exploited more quickly , such as more home working in professions that can do this, and the installation of technologies that facilitate this.
  • Latent underlying problems arise , such as inadequate ICT support, but, and unfortunately, also the loneliness of many who have only contact with colleagues, marriages that have actually stopped functioning, that way forcing people to learn to choose for themselves where necessary, for each other where possible.
  • Changes can be made , such as the systematization of teleworking after the crisis, when “the office” can rather become a meeting place for many when physical meetings will be necessary for e.g. good contacts with colleagues.
  • New strategies arise , or old strategies are rediscovered. For example, the six golden rules to delay the pandemic.
  • There can be early warning systems designed. For example, measurements and statistics on them are used to predict a third wave, but also to be able to intervene quickly in this situation.
  • New competitive opportunities, products, new markets arise. Restaurants that deliver at home, cafes that ship rare beers in packages to order. Online sales that are booming.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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