This time around, we look at a series of articles from McKinsey, all discussing the implications of the pandemic for the global and national economies, as well as how to react to it. These articles were published within the last couple of weeks (see buttons for downloading all articles).
We look at and summarize the following:
1. COVID-19-Briefing note-March-30-2020
Given the enormous energy invested in suppressing the coronavirus, we need to find ways to “timebox” this event, we must think about how to suppress the virus and shorten the duration of the economic shock to avoid permanent damage to our livelihoods.
There are “5 swing factors“, which all must be understood and addressed for an economically and socially viable path to the next normal:
• Growth of new transmission on the basis seasonality (i.e. effects of heat and humidity on the virus): Still unknown.
• Impact of physical-distancing measures: has an effect, but implemented in various ways – so which ones prove to be the most efficient remains to be seen.
• Efficacy of health-system surge: rightly focused on adding acute-care capacity and stock-building of medical supplies. Validated treatments still don’t exist, though.
• Readiness of the health system to navigate recurrence: real-time surveillance, rigorous contact tracing, and rapid, targeted quarantine… all require efficient/sustainable technical and legal solutions not yet given in most countries.
• Emergence of herd immunity: more than two-thirds of the population would need to be immune to create herd immunity. Nothing is known about duration of human immunity, nor resistance to mutations.
On individual/business-level, the path to recovery follow the stages of the “5 R’s”:
• Resolve: damage & challenge control to workforce, customers, partners, technology.
• Resilience: manage cash and effect of shut-down on economy.
• Return: detailed planning on how to return business to scale, once effects are clearer.
• Re-imagination: see yourself operate after the shift, i.e. in the “next normal”.
• Reform: readjust your strategy to new regulative and competitive environment.
… Gain awareness of where you and your company are standing.
Advanced industries can apply the following strategy to navigate the crisis. Such companies are particularly exposed, given the extent of their global footprints and the complexity of their supply chains, which makes it difficult to develop a coordinated response.
• Establishing a nerve center as the central crisis steering organization: a dedicated team in a central location to coordinate their response. Staffed with a cross-functional team that has decision-making power about important issues. It encourages transparency, providing employees, suppliers, customers, and shareholders with frequent updates.
This nerve center coordinates also the other activities below:
• Protecting employees: develop contingency plans that describe actions to take in different scenarios, update operational procedures, enable home-office, etc.
• Screening and safeguarding the supply chain: work closely with their direct suppliers to gain greater insights about their production capacity and possible issues.
• Adapting marketing and sales to suit new consumer behaviours: find substitutes for transactions that required in-person contact… e.g. simulators, online demos, VR.
• Maintaining financial health during disruption: companies will likely improve liquidity whenever possible and cost control will be particularly important… set new spending priorities, considering different time horizons (this month, next 2-3 months, rest of the year).
It is critical for banks and other service providers to prioritize the welfare of their customers. For those in debt or facing delinquency on their borrowing, it is the lender’s responsibility to provide short-term relief from debt payments for those in need while making payments as simple and friction-less as possible for the others. Lenders must rapidly activate and improve digital channels for communication, self-service, and payment. Above all, lenders must prioritize outreach and communication with concerned customers. Offering empathy and genuine caring not only strengthens the customer relationship but also demonstrates a commitment to customers’ long-term well-being.
• Actively over-communicate… frequently, clearly, set expectations.
• Provide immediate debt relief… activate socially responsible collections programs.
How deep and how long will this instant economic crisis go? Equity markets plunged in March: most exchanges lost around one-third of their values…
The last of the 4 articles summarizes the scope of public aid packages and stimuli already released.
• The logarithmic progressions of new COVID-19 cases indicate that the curves in the East (China and South Korea) are now essentially flat. The curves are flattening in Iran, reaching an apex in Western Europe, and yet climbing in the United States.
• While the West is crisis mode, data from China suggest that the outbreak has been largely contained there. The government is cautiously starting economic activity but is wary of new cases… Employees are temperature-tested when they come to work and must show a national QR health code designation (red-yellow-green), individually calculated, based on history of social contacts and movements.
• Economic recovery can only follow the recovery of public health. The EU created a strategic stockpile of medical equipment, including respirators and medical masks, and launched a joint public-procurement program to alleviate the shortage of medical supplies within the EU.
McKinsey is markedly more doubtful about the economic swing back than Harvard Business Review (see previous blog). It keeps referring to the “next normal”. Even so, most economists expect that the COVID-19 spread is eventually controlled, and catastrophic structural economic damage is avoided (in a global average). All scenarios lead to V- or U-shaped recoveries – though no one can exclude the possibility of a “black swan of black swans” – i.e.structural damage cause by a prolonged spread, combined with the lack of policy response to prevent wide scale bankruptcies, unemployment, and a financial crisis.
Quote: “The pendulum might not swing back fully once the outbreak has relented. Having experienced a new way of living, consumers are re-calibrating their spending, increasing the likelihood that spending may permanently shift between categories and that online services could get adopted far faster.”
My take is:
• There is still a lot of uncertainty about the dynamics of the pandemic, and we are a far from reaching herd immunity unless there is vaccination on a grand scale. As a result, there is likely to be recurrences and therefore uncertainty for a long time to go. People will have to start learning to live with the risk, as the cost of the lock-down will become unbearable (economically as well as socially/psychologically).
• Generally, we are at stage “Return” on the “5 Re” scale… some even have moved on beyond. It is time to reassess prioritize IT Investment and revisit cost structures.
• The experience in China offers lessons for its rapid, forceful containment of the outbreak and its careful reopening of social economic life. Citizens will need to give up some of their privacy in order to protect themselves and others, and allow digital tracking. The reward for that is a return to some sort of public life as well as more permissive, tailored policies.
The Million Dollar question is: how resilient are we, and how much do we long back to the “good old days”? That will determine to what extent the “next normal” resembles the old, or breaks with it and thereby entrenches the chain of disruption.
Our next blog will address another series of articles about leadership in times of corona.