Whenever I read a survey, forecast, or study about Covid-19 and its impacts, there is hedging. It’s understandable. No one can predict what the next three or six months might bring, much less the next year.
Here’s what we do know. This is a hot mess. I’m not dissing on the 100-degree days typical of July in Denver. I’m speaking about the realities of navigating a pandemic in 21st century America.
It’s time to get comfortable with ambiguity, look volatility square in the eye, and set your strategy for 2022. “Wait and see” is running out of runway. The post-PPP world is upon us. I’m calling it. Your strategic direction will be shaped and driven by:
- Ready. Fire. Aim. The U.S. response to the pandemic crisis will continue to be episodic, fragmented, and uncoordinated. This is what it looks like when 331 million people attempt to navigate the unknown on their own terms. We don’t have the patience or civic will to commit to planning, double-checking, and learning from experience. Many of us prefer to “do” without any planning at all. What’s to blame, at least in part? Our hyper-short attention spans, self-centeredness, and hodgepodge of local, state, and national political responses.
- I’m calling it. We’ll be living with this teeter-totter approach until enough of us have been vaccinated to get back to “normal” without masks, social distancing, and life by appointment. That means a vaccine has been tested, manufactured, implemented, and it works for enough of us to go about our lives 100 percent. Let’s hope that happens in 2022. Even better if it happens earlier. In the meantime, you aren’t traveling to Europe or New Mexico. Both have shut their borders.
- Distorted Dreams. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecasts that U.S. unemployment won’t reach pre-pandemic levels by 2030. They forecast 4.8 percent unemployment compared to the historic low experienced in March 2020. Additionally, the CBO estimates that the U.S. economy will shrink by $8 trillion over the next decade. In other words, the economy will grow by $7.9 trillion less than they forecast in January 2020. Massive job losses, depressed consumer spending, and closed businesses are major drivers. Millions of renters and homeowners face evictions and foreclosures as federal aid expires. That’s a lot of financial distress, foregone dreams, deferred, plans, and plain old pain. As we learned from 2009, it’ll take years to unwind this level of financial hardship.
- I’m calling it. We haven’t begun to feel the true financial pain of Covid-19 and our ready-fire-aim approach to managing it. Your families, friends, and communities will be dealing with the aftermath of shuttered businesses, closed arts venues, furloughs turned to layoffs, and foreclosed homes through at least 2022. And the fallout on your city and state budget are just beginning to manifest. Yes, there will be bright spots of growth and innovation, and opportunities for retooling. Let’s expand those as much as possible to lift everyone in need.
- Woke. Covid-19 laid bare the full cost of racial and economic disparities across the U.S. We’ve hit the tipping point as evidenced by calls to redefine the role of police in our communities and (it might finally happen) rename the Washington Redskins. The Federal Reserve speaks about its role in shaping monetary policy to benefit all Americans. As leaders and professionals, we have a profound opportunity to step into this moment and embrace the charge we’ve been given.
- I’m calling it. If you’ve been treating equity, diversity, and inclusion as an add-on rather than a driver of mission impact, then it’s time to catch up to the realities of 2020. Customer mindset invites you to consider what matters most to your customers, those you’ve served well historically and those you have not.
Goal One of your Bounce-Back Plan creates the resilient strategy you need, one that is buoyant, flexible, and strong. Your task is to distill the information at hand and take a stand on your organization’s behalf. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. You’ve got your board, your team, and me.
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