New Challenges Before Getting Back to Normal
In May, as the country was coming out of total lockdown, we wrote about the beginning of The Great Wait phase and the challenges it would bring. The “wait” was for vaccines that would allow the world to return to operating in an unconstrained manner. The challenges were from the friction between trying to balance minimizing the health impacts of the pandemic vs. the economic, social, and mental impacts of social distancing.
While the end of the Great Wait seems to be on the horizon after the FDA’s December 11th announcement of approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine distribution period will be defined by a new set of challenges.
The source of these challenges over the next several months comes from one core issue: the population will be divided between those who have COVID-19 antibodies (from prior infections or vaccines) and those who do not, creating a “Hybrid World” until the country can hit a point of herd immunity. Therefore, friction will be caused by how society – from individuals to families, to businesses, to government entities – either treats immunized people differently than non-immunized people or treats them similarly.
Organizations that understand, prepare for, and monitor these frictions will weather the storm with greater stability, design better interactions with people, and be proactive, not reactive.
[See the sidebars on the definitions, milestones, and signals we’re using.]
As of now, the majority of the population is still vulnerable to COVID-19. Therefore, current policies and practices are generally designed to be consistently applied across society, with some exceptions. This is about to change with the introduction of the vaccine.
As individuals are vaccinated, they will become “free” and will expect to be excluded from protective constraints. At the same time, the non-immunized population will still, to some degree, need to operate within these constraints. This bifurcation, between the immunized and the non-immunized, promises new territory for friction and polarization within society.
In order to successfully navigate the period between the start of the vaccinations and the point of herd immunity, organizational leaders must proactively analyze the environments in which they operate (e.g., employees, customers, locations, stakeholders, supply chain, regulatory jurisdictions) and decide what they can and can’t control and how they will interact with immunized and non-immunized people.
As illustrated in the above graphic, two other factors are critical to policy-setting in this Hybrid World:
Knowing that the Hybrid World may last for several months and that it will bring a high degree of uncertainty, it’s important for organizations to prepare for multiple scenarios rather than try to predict a single outcome. To start, the following offer some considerations for how to prepare for this period.
Understand the people your organization interacts with. Vaccine distribution will not happen evenly across society; therefore, organizations should understand the segmentation of the population they interact with and consider the following questions:
This Pew Research Center survey provides an interesting demographic analysis of vaccine attitudes that can inform policy.
Develop and plan for various scenarios. Think through what a hybrid population of employees, customers, stakeholders, etc. would look like and what issues could arise. Develop plans for these scenarios. Friction points – where people disagree with policies or each other – should be identified and responses defined to minimize negative impacts.
Identify the milestones that are important. Every organization will have a different set of levers, drivers, and milestones that the people it interacts with will be influenced by (e.g., immunization ratio, speed of immunization, two-dose compliance rate, percent opting out). Monitoring mechanisms should be put in place to track those milestones – at segment and geography levels, if needed – to effectively implement and adjust policies and practices.
Take a broad societal, ecosystem perspective. As the pandemic has illustrated, we live in a truly global, interconnected society. The variation of local and national policies, societal behaviors, and immunization rates have to be considered in organizations’ policies.While every organization might not be directly impacted, there may be some indirect impact from international events and policies that should be considered.
As 2020 comes to a close, the creation of a vaccine for COVID-19 is a landmark of human ingenuity, despite the turbulence experienced this year. While we are all eager to “get back to normal,” until the herd immunity threshold is reached, organizational leaders will need to expect a period of instability and uncertainty created by a hybrid-immunized population.
Toffler Associates has been helping organizations analyze and prepare for uncertainty for nearly 25 years by using tools such as scenario planning. Approaches like this can help organizations mitigate friction within their hybridized workforce, customers, and operations and achieve success despite the upcoming challenges.
Please contact us if you would like to understand how foresight and scenario planning can help your organization navigate the Hybrid World and prepare for success.
Other COVID-19 resources:
Dan has been assisting organizations identify, plan for, and capitalize on growth opportunities for over 30 years. He has been fortunate to have had an insider's perspective of industry disruption while working in the travel, telecommunications, retail, and consumer products industries. That experience has provided him insights into threat recognition, strategic response patterns, and organizational behaviors that either help or hinder adaptation to and thriving in new environments. He spent the first dozen years of his career working in the airline and financial services industries where he focused on operational improvements and financial systems. In his 20-year management consulting career, Dan has concentrated on the customer-facing and growth side of organizations specializing in market and consumer analysis, strategic planning, product/service innovation, and operating model design. He now applies Toffler concepts and futures approaches to long-term strategy development.
Toffler Associates is a future-focused strategic advisory firm. Our Future Proof® business consulting approach helps global leaders understand how future shifts impact current decisions so they can take advantage of opportunity, manage risk, and create future value.
DUNS Number: 167019020
GSA PSS #GS-10F-0414N
Women Owned Small Business
We are ready to ask and address your toughest questions.+1 703-674-5480
Our perspective will challenge you to think differently.SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG