As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in this most difficult year, it is undeniably human to focus on all that is lost. The toll of this pandemic is enormous even for those not directly affected by COVID. But light can often be found in the darkest of places. This year, we’ve been reminded of a few truths that give us hope for a brighter future for ourselves, our team, and our community.
People Are Adaptable
Without warning, life in America changed virtually overnight. One day, people were attending basketball games, making plans for Easter, working in offices, going to school, shopping, and thinking little of close contact with others. The next, all of our assumptions about what is and isn’t safe came into question.
But somehow, people have adjusted to the new reality. Certainly not without resistance, but thousands of workers figured out how to work from home. Teachers developed practices and standards for online learning. Supply chain operators took a hit but eventually adapted to new consumer patterns. The NBA played in a bubble! The transition hasn’t been perfect and was in many ways painful, but the resilience of people and organizations is remarkable.
It’s OK to Change Your Mind
Every decision you make is only as good as the information that drives it. New information justifies new thinking. For example, in the early days of the pandemic, public guidance was that only healthcare workers need to wear masks. Over time, public health officials learned that masks have significant benefits for both the wearer and those in close proximity, and the guidance was changed. That’s exactly how all organizations should operate. There is no benefit to sticking with a decision just for the sake of striking with it when new data is available.
Seek Input from Every Quarter
If you’d asked a year ago what expertise is needed to respond to a pandemic, most people might have focused on medical professionals and experts in epidemiology. Of course, they are essential, but this response has required action by people involved in transportation, manufacturing, education, finance, technology, and government. It reminds us that when we face challenges in business, the people to turn to for useful ideas might not be immediately apparent. To tackle the toughest problems, a broad collision is needed.
Technology is a Game Changer
The sudden switch to remote work, the availability of grocery delivery services, the opportunities for remote learning are all possible due to the pre-existing technology infrastructure. There are still wide gaps, and effort must be made to expand access, but if this had happened 20 or even 15 years ago, the challenge would have been much more difficult. So while we’re all sick of Zoom meetings, the ability to connect online has been essential. Our customers have found creative ways to not only function during the pandemic but to keep their culture thriving with a virtual approach to improvement.
Small Steps and Big Breakthroughs Both Matter
It is interesting that perhaps two of the most important developments that will help end the pandemic are so different. The first is wearing masks when in public. It is a simple incremental change that isn’t expensive, and everyone can do it. In our world, this is like a daily incremental improvement. While it is a small step, the impact is enormous.
The other thing that will change the course of the pandemic is the vaccine. At this point, the two candidates most likely to make it to the market first are mRNA vaccines. This is an entirely new approach to vaccine manufacturing that allows for faster vaccine development. While researchers have been working on it for decades, the COVID-19 vaccine will likely be the first approved use of mRNA type vaccines.
Together, the small step of mask wearing and the big breakthrough of mRNA vaccines will help life return to something resembling “normal.”
In addition to being thankful for these leadership lesson reminders, we are also grateful to everyone on our team, our customers, essential workers, public health officials, scientists, caregivers, and everyone else who’s helped through these trying times. The biggest lesson of all is that no matter how physically distant we stay, we are all connected and in this together.