Heard in the supermarket

26 March 2020 Posted by: Patrick Woods Posted In: Crisis management

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One of the more lighter-hearted moments I have experienced during the current crisis was on a visit
to my local supermarket when I overheard a teenager comment to a group of her school friends,
“Did people not actually wash their hands until now?”

It set me thinking to what extent the COVID-19 crisis might result in some of the “temporary
behavioural changes we have seen become permanent.

- The assumption that political consensus should be the norm.
- The need for fiscal policy stimulus and in particular the merits of wage support measures.
- The EU backing away from free movement of people, unless it were to introduce a single
market in healthcare.
- Significantly less air travel.
- Working from home as a default for those who can.
- One hour per day devoted to the elderly at supermarkets.
- Genuine appreciation of the role health professionals play in society.
- The mass purchasing of toilet rolls!

There are plenty of additional examples of course. Perhaps the most valuable lesson we could all
learn is that crises themselves are always with us. They are a permanent feature impacting on our
lives and businesses. Recounting some relatively recent ones, such as flooding across the UK, foot-and-mouth, Ebola, the bursting of the dotcom bubble and of course the global financial crisis, gives a
sense of how regular these events actually are. Unfortunately, we can be certain there will be more,
with a climate crisis a particularly obviously candidate.

We could all do with considering whether we could have been better prepared. We are all currently
learning how well, or otherwise, our organisations can cope when large numbers of our people work
remotely. Many of us will discover that our client relationships are not as robust as we had assumed.
A considerable number of organisations will realise they are not as well prepared to manage their
way through a crisis as they thought they were.

So, when the time comes to evaluate key lessons, consider whether your organisation could learn
behaviours that, during the next crisis, would help your people better maintain the trust you have
worked so hard to build up with customers.

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