Planning for recovery: When the virus abates, how will you rebuild?

Author:Kenny, Jack

Uncertainty is the mildest term to describe the state of every business and society, family and individual today around the world. Perhaps some people exist in splendid isolation from the rest of us; may they be spared this plague and its attendant uncertainty.

In this space I'm not going to focus on the coronavirus or the disease. I can't pretend to know how long it will last. Some say a long time. Nobody says a short time. By the time this edition of L&NW reaches you, the change could be significant.

A survey of chief financial officers showed that 40% of large global companies with supply chain issues are expecting a return to normal--a subjective term--between three and six months. But 25% were certain that it would be six months. The survey was made in mid-March by the CNBC Global CFO Council. One-third of respondents said they thought it was too soon to know if they'll have supply reductions. Nobody knows, they say.

Since nobody knows, let's take a look ahead to recovery. Small and large manufacturing businesses are at work today to stave off calamity as best they can, and they wonder if they are achieving anything at all in the jaws of an unknown enemy. Is there time in the endless day to think about recovery and make a plan for it?

Recovery means restoration or return to health, to a normal condition. Back to the good old days. After this virus wanes, however, that old wish might not apply. Many observers envision a changed world, not the good old days. We're learning how to deal with hardship in new ways. We're getting used to isolation at home, maybe. We're watching and participating in different ways to conduct business, to handle employee and management challenges, customer needs and vendor conflicts. At some point, we're going to assess this whole thing and make changes. Some of us.

Young people might not. But that's a story for the psychology magazines.

Non-essential businesses have been closed by order of states, and in some nations far more business segments are shuttered. Restaurants seem to attract most of the attention, but we read and see reports daily about a multitude of companies of all sizes cocooned until further notice. Some have the capability to continue financial and health support to employees, but many simply cannot. These businesses have only one place to look: forward.

In a current crisis management report published by Harvard Business Review, three partners from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recommend that...

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