Patience, Please

Posted by bob on March 30, 2020

Okay friends, this coronavirus spread is deadly serious. It is not a hoax. It is not a conspiracy theorist’s fever dream. Please make use of the best, most authoritative sources you can find online to educate yourself about how to stay safe, and more importantly, how to help keep everybody else safe. Social isolation (distancing) works—if you actually do it.  So please, do it.

If you are a student, you are probably trying to overcome a lot of painful start-up problems to get into the swing of remote lectures, remote study guides, and zero opportunity to go into school for personal help or any laboratory classes. These start-up problems should pass very quickly as your professors and teachers adjust. Give them some consideration and acceptance. They are trying to undo years of learning and practice at one method of teaching; and suddenly switch to entirely new methods. They will get there, but please be patient and give them the benefit of the doubt. If you see opportunity for improvement, you can share constructive suggestions.

When this crisis is over, we might discover that the new normal can be better than the old ways—at least for some of the teaching. We also might find that new lab classes might look more like isolation cubicles, where each student works by themselves on a single lab bench with equipment that is wiped down every hour. Sharing of equipment might be reduced.

If you are an equipment manufacturer, this crisis might give your development teams some new constraints to consider. Can we make our gear easier to wipe-down (or spray-down) or otherwise cleaner to use? Can access to the equipment controls be virtualized to each user’s personal computing device? Are the materials we use able to withstand strong cleaning solvents?

Recent or soon-to-be graduates are no doubt worrying about where they might find a job. Yes, the global and local economy will be severely depressed whenever we finally find some control over infection by this virus. (That date might be surprisingly and disappointingly further in the future.)

Consider that the problems which people need solved will still be there tomorrow, next month, and next year. Organizations that solve those problems will still be needed. In fact, some businesses will find their products and services are suddenly facing nearly endless demand.

I recently read such an article about mask manufacturing in China. Previously, each mask might represent a profit of less than a penny. Now, each mask might bring a few pennies of profit. But that might be more than 10 times increase in profitability. The article says that owning a mask-making machine was like printing money. The companies making mask-making machines are also seeing great increases in demand.

The ability to solve new problems is a skill that never goes out of demand. Staying calm and thinking clearly in a crisis is the only way to get through such new problems. Sadly, these seem to be rare skills.

There will also be many new problems to solve. Any business manager worth his or her paycheck is holding virtual meetings and asking (not telling) his employees and customers: What should our business model and method look like next month, next year, and beyond? How do we protect our customers, our employees, and our vendors? No kidding: our views of business need to get more global and more self-aware. It will do no good if your plans destroy your supply chain.


The Four Constraints of Any Project

All of this thinking and planning will take time. Your organization’s short term and long term responses will take people, some money, and time to get the results you want. Don’t get short-sighted and start demanding that everybody meet pre-coronavirus schedules in the post-coronavirus age. Instead, please ask them to detail the barriers, limitations, and costs. Incorporate this new information into your plans.

Conversely, this advice should not be misinterpreted to say that nobody in the world needs urgency. If you are on the front lines of medical care or if your company is manufacturing respirators, those needs are truly urgent. Perhaps your organization’s management can look at the four constraints to see if there is a way to apply some extra money and/or people to shrink the time.

The western calendar is divided into two eras: BC (Before Christ) and AD (anno Domini, aka year-of-our-Lord). Perhaps we will now divide our calendar again; BC and AD are both PC (Pre-Covid-19) and from now on will be AC: After Covid-19.

Welcome to 0001 AC.

As much as I hate to say this, we are going to find out that some of the things we thought were nice-to-have or greatly convenient will not be needed or will get greatly diminished priority in the AC world.

Patience is one way we avoid becoming patients.

Let’s all resolve to show each other and ourselves a lot of patience. Please. And thank you.