A framework for asking the right questions while managing COVID-19

Apr 1, 2020
2 MIN. READ

We know the expected role of government and health officials, but what about brands?

It has been over 70 days since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in the United States. Since late-January, the definition of “normalcy” has changed daily. Depending on where you live, daily may really be more like hourly.

While our top medical experts—and leaders at all levels of the government—work to get a handle on this pandemic, the rest of society is forced to rapidly adjust to new living and working situations. This includes concerns over job security, back-and-forth mental gymnastics to understand our potential role in the solution, and ultimately, making tough decisions as we try to answer “how long will this last?” Unfortunately, as many of us found out these past few weeks, there is no playbook for what we are experiencing.

So, what does this mean for the brands and companies we lead, know, and trust? We are already seeing examples of generosity and humanity come through: Tesla repurposing factories to manufacture ventilators; Fanatics using cloth, otherwise intended to make sports jerseys, to produce personal protective equipment for first responders.

Conversely, we are also seeing ill-prepared companies taking substantial heat for their inability to act quickly or for not taking the situation and its possible longevity seriously enough: 150,000 Instacart workers threatening to strike demanding protection in unsafe work environments.

While there is no definitive playbook, there are key questions we must ask ourselves. These questions may not be obvious as we react and respond to unfolding events or when we sit around the (now remote) decision-making table.

People are watching and employees want to be taken care of. The decisions we make now can either pay major reputational dividends later—or hurt the fidelity of any mission, vision, or values we have posted in the lobby of our headquarters. 

As ICF Next works daily with our clients to navigate this virus-manufactured chaos, we have created a simple, one-page framework. We believe it offers a bit of clarity and helps all of us ask the meaningful—but not always easy to remember—questions. Addressing these questions could mean the difference between doing what is right for everyone versus what seems right for the bottom line (for now).

This framework segments questions that correspond to the arc of each phase we’ll experience during this pandemic: Panic & Disruption, Fear & Isolation, and Recovery & The New Normal. The questions attempt to capture key considerations from the three broad buckets of our key stakeholders: Colleagues, Customers and Communities.

We hope you find this helpful. Make sure to follow this page for future updates to this framework as we all learn something new every single day.

COVID-19 is here to stay, now what?

The critical success factors leaders need to consider as we guide our organizations through coping, mitigating and, ultimately, recovering from this pandemic.

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By Faryar Borhani and Grant Toups
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