Prepare to be forever changed.

The emotionally and spiritually sane response [to Covid-19] is to prepare to be forever changed. ~Aisha S. Ahmad

Photo by Laib Khaled on Unsplash

Two writers have been helpful to me in the last couple of weeks as I think about my own work and how I can best help my clients. What’s become clear to me is that while we may be consumed with the immediate response to the new normal created by Covid-19, we must simultaneously be preparing long-term. Assuming that we can wait it out and then return to business as usual, is likely not a prudent strategy. We need to be bold and respond to the present and plan for a new future.

Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard of Praxis, suggest we consider three horizons, simultaneously.

Three Horizons

(1) The blizzard – the immediate scramble to prepare for the coming weeks. (2) The long winter – once we’ve positioned ourselves to survive the immediate situation, how do we sustain ourselves for the coming months. (3) A little ice age – this may not end in months; it may stretch out in some form for 18 months to two years. How can we endure the ice age that may be upon us?

The Praxis trio suggests this advice. “…consider how to allocate leadership attention to these three horizons. Our counsel is to immediately direct a substantial percentage of our attention to reinvention for the little ice age, even as we will feel most drawn to operate in blizzard and winter mode. We must ensure our people are safely deployed and cared for in the blizzard, while we build scenarios and take decisive action relating to cash flows, supply chains, customer disruptions, and team capacity. Yet we urge every leader to realize that their organization’s survival in weeks and months, let alone years, depends far more on radical innovation than on tactical cutbacks. This will mean iterating and experimenting very quickly in the coming weeks.”

Prepare to be Forever Changed

The second response I have found helpful comes from Aisha S. Ahmad who wrote the following in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Global catastrophes change the world, and this pandemic is very much akin to a major war. Even if we contain the Covid-19 crisis within a few months, the legacy of this pandemic will live with us for years, perhaps decades to come. It will change the way we move, build, learn, and connect. There is simply no way that our lives will resume as if this had never happened. And so, while it may feel good in the moment, it is foolish to dive into a frenzy of activity or obsess about your productivity right now. That is denial and delusion. The emotionally and spiritually sane response is to prepare to be forever changed.”

It’s bold to prepare to be forever changed. It is bold to consider not only the immediate need, but to look at all three horizons simultaneously. In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, leaders need to be bold.

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