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Rethinking, reorganizing, relearning: Performance Under Pandemic


The world is confronting a global crisis unfolding as we speak.


Human and Economic functions are put to test and the real challenge is to understand that they are not a “zero-sum game”.


There can’t be health or human support without products, services and jobs. Dead or sick people can’t work.


We cannot get ventilators or hospital supplies, or food without trade. We cannot get trade, supplies, food or energy without health and human networks.

  1. Networks to fight networks:

Governments and companies are what historian/economist Niall Ferguson calls “towers” – hierarchical, slow-moving, top-down decision-making types or organization. They are ill-suited to fight invisible enemies like viruses and pandemics. Viruses work as networks and attack networks -bodies and organizations-.

We could learn from Nature how to fight viruses and pandemics: using networks instead of just walls.


2.  Go Virtual




WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Webex and other virtual networking and communication tools are essential to two key functions:

  1. Keep human connection – help people support each other - - Keep families, friends connected. Physical isolation doesn’t mean “social” isolation. The first saves lives. The second destroys them, taking away indispensable human support and help. PESCAR Foundation in Argentina is a good example of this. For 14 years they have been helping young unemployed keep their jobs and finish their education just by calling them on their smart phones, listening and coaching with WhatsApp. Each PESCAR online helper -a volunteer- supports anywhere from 15 to 100 people. This can be a good idea for those now hunkering at home. Family and friends first, of course, but then, perhaps neighbors? Students? Employees? Customers?

  2. Keep business alive: Elsa in Barrio 31, Buenos Aires -a 50,000 people informal settlement trying to emerge from slum into a neighborhood- has formed a “nano-economic” network with three 258-members strong WhatsApp groups of partners, vendors and clients all over the city. They make and deliver cakes and sell and pay using online tools like Mercado Libre -the Amazon of Argentina- and Pago Facil -its PayPal-. How about your business?


3. Go Viral


Virtual social networks are not just a complement but vital to stay in touch with friends, families and neighbors. Like antibodies, they can help fight pandemics by helping us stay connected and teach out to others. How about the elders? Those living alone? Virtual networks are a vital line of first responders.



4. Rethink value chains from the outside-in


Supermarkets replaced delivery and small “over the counter” grocery stores. Now Whole Foods and Wall Mart turn their stores into distribution centers for online shoppers. The entire value chain has to be re-thought and reengineered.


Uber drivers can replace passengers with deliveries and keep working, helping and making an income.


Cars may replace for a while buses and trains and mass-transportation. And even if we go nowhere, car rides can gives us a safe way to get some outdoors in big cities.




5. Repurpose:




Empty hotels and motels can provide beds and assistance for the sick or the high-risk groups with health or age conditions.NH Hotels in Spain are already reorganizing as shelters, primary care centers and even hospitals. How about re-training their workforces to work as healthcare support?


B-PAP and C-PAP can work as first-response ventilators. Dyson is using its vacuum and design expertise to build cheaper, faster-to-build, handier ventilators. So is GM, repurposing their manufacturing might.


How about planes that have cabin pressurizers and masks grounded everywhere? How about re purposing them and the crews furloughed?That might be another way to get some impact from unemployment insurance and emergency financial assistance as well.


Engineers have already told me this last one might not work. I try to think of them as those of Apollo 13 in Houston, scrambling to keep the spaceship’s air.


6. Retrain


That’s in first order of demand: using e-performance, virtual tools, operating as online doctors, coaches, managers, parents. For as long as we return to “normal” -if ever-.

Here are some ideas from the top of my head. We are organizing for more through the Performance Improvement Global Network (bilingual – se habla castellano tambien-) and we are testing it at the Sonora – Arizona (ARISON) mega region organizing virtual teams and value chains.






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