As the shops reopen from today, some people could be lulled into thinking that we’ve arrived in the next normal – but we’ve not. Until social distancing is over, which many suggest will probably require a vaccine for Covid19 to have been developed, we’re in between the old normal and the next normal, what I’m calling “the awkward bit in the middle.” And it’s particularly awkward right now.
On the one hand, businesses are facing a set of challenges for the immediate term whilst at the same time trying to work out, plan and create new propositions for the next normal. This is testing to say the least.
I know many business owners who are wrestling with questions such as bringing people back from furlough now who won’t have a long term future with the business. Others are refitting their offices for social distancing whilst trying to work out if they will even need them in the future. Then there’s the dilemma of worrying about a second spike and holding back on major investment whilst not wanting to fall behind if the next normal is suddenly with us.
Understandably the dichotomies this period is throwing up often results in confused decision making and communications. Whilst no one has all the answers, I reminded myself of a process an old friend taught me many years ago that I’m finding useful right now and hope you might too.
I’d visited my friend at his sumptuously decorated office many times – it was an incredible suite of rooms that reflected the successes he had achieved and the wealth that came with them. But on one occasion, as I was meeting him to discuss a major problem, he said to me, “let’s have this meeting in my other office.” I wasn’t even aware of its existence as we walked down the corridor to a much smaller room, with plain, utilitarian decoration and furnishings. My friend turned to me and said, “the other desk is where I spend my money, this is where I make it.”
I appreciate that not everyone has the space available, (although with social distancing, expect more do now than is usually the case), to have two desks. One for dealing with the here and now and the other for reimagining the business and planning for the next normal. I find the physical change, moving from one place to another, resets the mind appropriately.
In addition, what you absolutely can do is make sure that meeting agendas are focussed on one time or the other – never both in the same meeting. Likewise, you can colour code meetings and appointments in the diary to reflect whether the focus is on this awkward period or the more exciting future.
Of course the immediate issues must be addressed but I fear that for some they’ve become all consuming. Ideally you should be investing half your time or at least a third on planning for the new normal – if not then you’re stacking up a whole lot of additional problems and issues to experience in the next normal.
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