A Leader's Toolkit For Reopening
Twenty Strategies to Reopen and Reimagine
Scott E Page
A Time of Challenges and Opportunities
The coronavirus pandemic creates complex, unanticipated challenges for businesses and organizations. This site provides frameworks and strategies to help leaders at every level of an organization plan a safe reopening that maintains core functions, keeps employees, customers, and communities safe, and makes work meaningful despite proximity constraints.
The site positions these challenges less as opportunities as much or more than as obstacles. Adapting to the pandemic will require changes in our behaviors, relationships, and structures. These changes provide opportunites to learn what drives performance and what creates meaning. Those learnings will improve our organizations in the long run if we pay attention.
This site describes twenty strategies for reopening and reimagining your workplace. As will be clear, those strategies build on ideas from complex systems and network theory. Eliminating or diminishing the spread of the virus while maintaining organizational function and a sense of purpose and meaning among employees is possible.
The site is intended for both leaders throughout an organization from the CEO to a team leader on a shop floor. It can help CEOs and COOs who may be taking a more top-down approach to restructuring work flow to reduce physical contacts, as well as team leaders wanting to create work lives that maintain a shared sense of mission in spite of limitations or prohibitions on physical connections.
As you read through the guide, keep in mind that the reopening of the economy and society is occurring during a period of uncertainty. Information about how the virus spreads and who is most susceptible changes daily. For that reason, this site emphasizes general tools and strategies that can be adapted as our understanding of the virus improves.
A video overview of the toolkit given to the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce (link)
This site provides a collection of frameworks along with twenty strategies based on systems thinking and network science to help organizations accomplish three goals:
To maintain or even improve core functionalities
To reduce the spread of the virus
To help employees create meaningful work experiences
These three goals need not be in conflict, though at times they will seem to be. Effective strategic responses aim to be win-win-win - establishing functioning, safe organizations that create meaningful work - but may entail some tradeoffs.
The strategies developed will require changes in tasks, routines, facilities, and responsibilities. Customer experiences will also undergo possibly radical changes. Successful implementation will require the following
Creating a Reopening Team
Sequencing of Activities
Development of New Routines
Communication Protocols to Employees and Customers
A Process for Constant Revisioning (See White Water World Below)
See The Madrona Group's toolkit for more details on implementation.
Complex Systems & Network Theory
The strategies are derived using ideas from complex systems and network theory. A complex system consists of diverse, interdependent actors who operate within a network and adapt in response to the behaviors of others. An organization is a complex system, so is the economy writ large. Complex systems thinking highlights a central tension for organizations operating during a pandemic: robust, innovative organizations require connectivity, while reducing the spread of the virus requires limiting physical interactions.
As we have all learned during recent quarantine, virtual meetups do not replace physical interactions. Sustaining morale, sense of belonging, and commitment to mission prove much more difficult in virtual spaces. Solutions will therefore require deeper thinking. Here, we can leverage ideas from network theory - representing people and objects as nodes and connections as edges - to help organizations remain innovative yet reduce the potential for spreading the virus.
This site describes three frameworks (shown in the diagram below) for depicting the transmission networks within organizations: personal contact networks, person object networks, and floor plan mapping. The frameworks lead to nonintuitive strategic interventions because they highlight systems effects, such as whether your contact structures are connected, and second order effects, such as when a person spreads the virus to another person through either an object or a third person. It also presents twenty strategies built from those frameworks to help you meet the three criteria above: maintain or improve functionality, reduce the spread of the virus, and help create meaningful work experiences.
These strategic interventions focus on higher-level decisions - organizational structure, work flow, etc. They are not meant to be comprehensive. Instead, they are intended to supplement OSHA guidelines and best practices and COVID playbooks that emphasize social distancing, wiping surfaces, contact tracing, and other best practices.
The site shows how to apply these frameworks within your organization and describes how they can be used to develop intervention strategies. A complete list of strategies can be found at the bottom of the site.
Personal Contact Networks
A network characterizing which people physically interact with other people directly and indirectly.
Person Object Networks
A network showing which objects people touch, which then creates a person-object-person network.
Floor Plan Mapping
A drawing of a floor plan showing the locations that employees and customers visit.
Three Types of Transmission
The coronavirus may spread in any of three mechanism: aerosals, droplets, or fomites (surfaces). Aerosal spreading happens when a person breathes in smaller molecules present in the air. We might think of the virus as lingering in the air. Spreading by droplots occurs through larger molecules and thus happens only through close contacts - hence the six foot rule. Fomite, or surface spreading, happens when a person picks up an object previously handled by someone with the virus.
At present, the relatively likelihood of spread through each of these mechanisms is not known. The CDC recently announced revised guidelines stating that the spread via surface transmission is not the main means of transmission in part because much of the virus remains on a surface and even less is transferred. Evidence from past diseases suggests that the following formula may be a good rule of thumb.
Probability of Infection = Exposure x Duration
That said, the probability of infection through these three mechanisms varies by viruses. Flus differ from noroviruses which differ from coronovirus in how they spread.
Person to Person (P2P): Droplet Transmission
Person to person spread of coronavirus among the employees of your organization.
Person to Object to Person (POP): Fomite and Droplet Transmission
Person to object to person spread of coronavirus within your organization. Infrequently touched objects are unlikely to be sources of spread. Frequently touched items could remain a source.
Employee to Customer Transmission (E2C): Aerosal and Droplet Transmission
Spread of coronavirus from your organization to customers and the local community and from customers to your employees.
In applying this toolkit, an important first question will be: which type of transmission to address is most critical for my organization? Answering that question depends on what your organization does. A web design firm with few walk-in customers should focus on reducing the transmissions among its employees: P2P and POP transmissions. A cafe with only a few employees may be more focused on organization to community transmission. The answer also depends on what we learn about the spread of the virus. Does the virus linger for a long time on surfaces in an office building, or is it more likely to spread from person to person? Do customers wearing masks prevent spread within the community? Does the virus spread as well in open air? As information accumulates, we will know more about the relative importance of reducing each type of transmission.
Every organization should be mindful of all three types of transmission. That said, some categories of organizations such as bars and nightclubs, museums, movie theaters, amusement parks, etc., should focus more on organization to community transmission. Other businesses such as construction companies, warehouses, and grocery stores should focus on person to object to person transmission. And finally universities and companies with larger workforces should be concerned with person to person transmission.
Tool #1: Personal Contact Networks - Droplet Transmission
An employee or personal contact network can be drawn as a drawing that represents people as nodes and their connections as edges. In the figure below, nodes are illustrated by circles and edges by lines. We draw an edge between two people if they will be in close physical contact with one another, enabling the spread of the virus. Two tree trimmers who ride together in a vehicle would be connected by an edge. So might a manager and an administrative assistant. The people connected to someone by an edge are called their direct contacts. The figure below shows an employee with five direct contacts. These are the people from whom a person can catch the coronavirus.
The personal contact network can also be used for contact tracing. If someone does catch the virus, their direct contacts should be quarantined and eventually tested.
A personal contact network can be constructed through two methods: contact surveys and contact recording.
Contact Survey: Each employee is given a list of potential direct contacts: a person with whom they will be in close proximity during a workday. These lists are then checked for consistency: if Barb lists Alejandro as a direct contact but Alejandro does not list Barb, then both should be contacted for clarification. The personal contact network is then drawn by representing each person as a node (a circle) and with edges drawn between the nodes representing the direct contacts of each person. Larger organizations can use spreadsheets and network software such as UCI-NET to draw their personal contact networks.
Contact Recording: Each employee keeps track of the people they interact with during the work day, creating a list of direct contacts.
Once all employees have identified their direct contacts, the information can be combined to create the personal contact network: a graph with each employee represented as a node and each direct contact relationship as an edge. The network below represents an organization with a CEO in the center and five members of upper management who each manage five lower-level managers (green nodes) who each manage five employees (yellow nodes). The numbers inside the circles represent the number of indirect connections that flow back to the CEO. Each manager has 25 direct and indirect connections, so the five managers in total create 125 indirect connections to the CEO.
Tool #2: Person Object Networks
A person object network maps each employee to a set of objects or locations within a workspace. The network is drawn by making a list of people in one column and a list of objects in another column and then drawing edges connecting people to the objects that they touch. As with the personal contact network, this network can be constructed from surveys or by having people record the objects that they touch or the locations that they visit. Recording can be done creatively. Each employee might be given a collection of poker chips of a distinct color. Each room or location in the workplace should contain a jar large enough to hold dozens of chips. When employees visit a location, say the copier, they drop a chip in the jar.
The most common objects for transmission - bathroom doors, elevator buttons, the various doors into and out of the workplace and conference rooms, stair rails, and other microbial hot spots - must be cleaned as often as possible. Here, we focus on identifying unanticipated hot spots.
The left side of the figure below shows a person object network for a firm with seven employees (listed as A-G) and five objects. Both person A and person B visit the copier during the day, whereas only person B visits the supply closet. The person object network can be used to construct a person object person (POP) network - a network that connects two people if they touch a common object. In the figure below, each edge has been colored so as to identify which object the two people touch. The individuals identified as C, D, and E are connected by coffee-colored edges because they all visit the coffee machine.
The resulting person-object-person (POP) network, shown on the right side of the figure, includes an edge between two people if they touch a common object or visit a common location. In the figure below, each edge has been colored so as to identify which object the two people touch. The individuals identified as C, D, and E are connected by coffee-colored edges because they all visit the coffee machine. The POP network shows that everyone is connected to everyone else through objects. The strategies we describe can reduce the connectivity of the POP network and slow or stop the spread of the virus.
Tool #3 Floor Plan Mapping - Droplet, Aerosal, and Fomite Transmission
Floor plan mapping uses a physical map of the workplace and asks each person to identify the physical locations they visit during the day. While person object networks allows you to connect people to object, floor plan mapping allows you to identify hot spot locations within your workspace. These include places where customers and employees interact. Given a floor plan map, management can restrict access to those hot spots or assign people different routes. Floor plan mapping also allows for the creation of barriers that separate employees from the community. In addition, it provides a robustness check on the information used to produce the person object network.
The picture below shows a floor plan of an office. Each colored circle represents a different individual. Though each person's workplace maintains social distance from others, several employees use the same small conference room at different times of day, and all employees visit the area near the kitchen and bathrooms.
Toolkit-Based Strategic Interventions
We now turn to the twenty strategic interventionto make your workplace less likely to spread the virus while maintaining function and employee sense of purpose. These interventions focus on three broad categories of transmission: person to person (P2P), person to object to person (POP), and employee to customer (E2C).
Person to Person Transmission (P2P)
Person to person transmission occurs through direct and indirect contacts. Your indirect contacts are the direct contacts of your direct contacts. Indirect contacts play an enormous role in the spread of a virus. Abigail catches the virus from Luis who caught the virus from Carla, who is not a direct contact of Abigail.
When analyzing a personal contact network to construct strategic interventions, we distinguish between direct contacts and indirect contacts: the direct contacts of a person's direct contacts. A manager might be in direct contact with twenty people but if each of those twenty people has ten other direct contacts, the manager has indirect contacts with two hundred people. The goal is to reduce both types of contacts. With knowledge of the network, we can do that strategically.
Pruning an interaction network stifles the spread of the virus. It can also suck the life out of your organization. Herein lies the central tension in all of the strategies described. Let's call it The Connection Paradox: strategies that kill the virus also destroy functionality and meaning, while strategies that create meaning and build functionality rely on connections that allow the virus to spread.
The Connection Paradox: Limiting the spread of the virus requires breaking connections. Maintaining organizational function and creating meaningful work depend on making connections.
This paradox might seem to have no solution: organizations, people, and viruses all thrive on connections. However, if we take a systems approach we see that types of networks that enable the virus to spread quickly need not, and generally will not be the same as the connections neccsary for a functioning organization or for meaningful work.
Suppose that an organization has fifteen people and fifteen connections between them, creating the organizational chart shown in the figure below.
The Function Network
This structure includes people varying degrees of connections and some isolated people. For the purposes of this guide, we will assume that this structure maximizes the organizations functional efficiency. This network may not lead to meaningful work lives. People may perfer to have tigher clusters of co-workers with whom they interact more closely as shown in the next figure.
The Meaningful Work Network
Our next figure shows a network that will enable the virus to spread rapidly. There exists three people in the center, all of whom will be very likley to catch the virus, and then to spread it to the rest of the organization.
The Virus Spreading Network
By comparing these three networks, we can see that the connections that individuals to flourish and businesses to thrive are not generally the same as those that enable the virus to flourish
Systems Thinking Insight: The networks that enable the organization to function and individuals to flourish differ from networks that maximize the spread of the virus.
Our second key insight will be that we can distinguish between three type of connections: close and frequent, socially distanced, and virtual, which are completely save. Close physical connections allow the virus to spread. The figure below shows the office map of a call center in Korea. The desks colored blue represent people who came down with the virus.
These were all close physical connections in a poorly ventilated space. This allowed the virus to spread throughout the organization. The question we want to ask is: why were these people in close physical proximity. They could have been spatially separated without having much of an impact. They might have been spread out across different offices, or they might have worked virtually.
Using floor plan mapping, you can make sure that workers remain six feet apart. As seen in the figure below this may entail reducing the number of employees in the office.
The first strategic intervention involves re-evaluating every direct, that is close and frequent, contact in your organization and determing whether it should become socially distant or virtual. Some direct contacts may be necessary - one employee holding a ladder for safety reasons, for example. Others may be unavoidable - an executive and an assistant may find it impossible not to run into one another. But many direct contacts may have evolved or been codified that add little to organizational performance or employee sense of connectedness and purpose.
Strategy: Evaluate Each Contact: Close and Frequent, Socially Distant, or Virtual
Each contact has implications for the virus, functionality, and sense of meaning. Let's review
The Types of Contacts and Their Consequences
Close and Frequent Contacts: Great for the virus, so ask: how important for functionality and meaningful work?
Social Distancing: Bad for the virus, so ask: can functionality be maintained, can work be as meaningful at a distance?
Virtual: Stops the virus. Some functions become impossible and work can become isolating.
Let's work through an example. The network below shows a small organization consisting of an owner, five managers, and five teams with five employees each. This organizational chart might represent a company that writes software programs and has teams working on separate projects and subteams within those teams. The owner connects directly to the five managers. Each manager has close and frequent contact to five employees and the owner. The numbers inside the circles correspond to the number of each person's direct contacts (close and frequent): the owner has five direct contacts and each manager has six.
The owner's five direct contacts in the network above each have their own network of contacts from whom they could catch the virus and pass it back to the owner. We call the contacts of a person's direct contacts second degree contacts. The personal contact network above shows that the owner has twenty-five second degree contacts. This organizational chart makes the owner particularly vulnerable to catching the virus. We can expand the network once more to determine the owner's third degree contacts: the direct contacts of the direct contacts of the owner's direct contacts. As shown in the figure below, the owner has one hundred and twenty-five second and third degree contacts in addition to five direct contacts.
Removing the direct contacts that are not mission critical can maintains functionality and reduce the spread of the virus, but undermine the third objective: making work meaningful. Employees derive meaning and purpose at work through their social relationships. Working as an isolated drone diminishes an employee's sense of self worth, attachment to the organization, sense of community, and productivity. Socially distant connections create more meaningful connections and can prevent the virus from spreading: providing employees follow social distancing guideline.
Strategy: Create Socially Distant Contacts for Important but Infrequent Collaborations
The primary reason for not allowing people to freely interact in physical space is often less about the number of direct contacts than about the amplification that occurs through second and third degree contacts. If an employee meets ten people who each met ten people, then the employee indirectly interacts with one hundred people. Reducing the exponential growth in connections is key to stopping the spread. We next describe two strategies for reducing the number of second and third degree contacts. First, when possible create barriers between organizational layers.
Strategy: Create Virtual Barriers Between and Identity Within Organizational Layers
The figure below shows a dramatic reduction in connectedness by creating virtual connnections between levels in this organization. The red lightning bolts represent physical interactions that have been made virtual. By creating virtual interactions, the owner now has only five total connections (direct plus second and third degree).
The virtual barriers highlight The Connection Paradox. The employees have been walled off, killing the virus, but this also could undermine the organization's function. Organizations must therefore work to build a sense of purpose and identity within the groups that physically interact with one another.
The virtual barriers will only succeed in reducing spread if people follow the rules for virtual and direct contact. To ensure that this is the case, organizations can give employees direct contact lists: the allowable direct contacts for each person. To make this seem less draconian, it must be balanced with an impetus to create virtual interactions and safe interactons. A safe interaction might occur in an outdoor meeting space that allows for social distancing. Preserving these interactions may be crucial to the life of the organization and employees' sense of community.
Strategy: Assign Employees Direct Contacts and Encourage Safe Connections to Others
Deviations across barriers can lead to the virus spreading to everyone in the organization. Knowing the network and maintaining the network will also allow for contact tracing - identifying all of the direct contacts and second and third degree contacts of someone who catches the virus. This can be accomplished quickly if employees have direct contact lists.
Strategy: If Someone Tests Positive for The Virus, Quarantine Direct Contacts (Contact Tracing)
The contact network above assumes a regular structure with sets of five people connecting to sets of five people who connect to sets of five people. Actual contact structures will be less regular. However, we can apply the same insight of creating silos to any structure. The key is to think of the entire contact network as a structure that we want to separate into disconnected components. Consider the following network:
Notice that the entire network is connected. Yet by removing only three connections (indicated in red), we can break the network into three disconnected components.
Removing a few connections breaks up the network, which is great for stopping the spread of the virus, but which could also have dire consequences for the organization. Employees who connect diverse parts of the organization, who fill structural holes, can be among the greatest contributors to an organization's value and morale. Therefore, after we identify those four people (indicated by an * in the figure below), our goal is not to prevent them from sharing ideas and information across the organization but to limit who they meet physically. One possible strategy is to give people who fill structural holes a virtual platform to fulfill their important functions.
Strategy: Create Virtual or Socially Distant Links for People Who Fill Structural Holes
In practice, this means preventing physical connections across groups within an organization. That can lead to less innovation and can hinder coordination.
Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations and author of Joy Inc,: How We Built a Workplace People Love, begins his company's workday with a group meeting where people working on different projects all get together. In addition, each project involves pairs of programmers working together. Both practices are great for sharing ideas but also enable the virus to spread. Menlo Innovations continues to use both pair programming and morning group check-ins but now does so virtually. Brief high-energy virtual meetups - the kind of the practice Menlo preaches - keep morale and productivity high while maintaining physical distancing, a win-win-win strategy.
Strategy: Organize Virtual Meetings Across Disconnected Components
The next strategy distinguishes between critical tasks and other types of tasks. A restaurant cannot prepare meals without cooks, but that same restaurant could have its clean-up crew deliver meals or its delivery crew clean up. DTE, a regional power company in Michigan, has isolated personnel who control the regional gas and electric grids and power plant control rooms.
An organization might even go a step further and constitute redundant teams for critical tasks. In the figure below, the individual denoted by C manages a critical team, such as one running a power plant control room. The organizational structure applies the strategy of erecting barriers to isolate this critical task from the rest of the organization. This does not guarantee that someone on that team will not catch the virus in some other way. The figure shows the alternative team, with leader A, which can shadow the critical team and be ready to step in, either as a whole or in specific roles, in the case of an outbreak within the critical team.
Strategy: Create and Isolate Alternative Teams for Critical Tasks
Some organizations may decide to quarantine the alternative team. A small regional hospital with two open heart surgery teams might choose quarantining. Other organizations may have both teams working but keep them physically separate. Creating alternative teams has two unexpected upsides. First, each team can build an identity and, given the criticality of the mission, a strong sense of purpose for work. Second, the teams can experiment. Think of each isolated team as an innovation greenfield.
Strategy: Use Isolated Teams to Innovate and Build Sense of Purpose
Person to Object to Person Transmission (POP)
Person to object to person transmission of the coronavirus occurs when an individual with the virus touches an object, leaving a trace of the virus that another person then catches by touching the same object. Existing evidence shows that the virus can remain on objects for days and that ventilation also reduces the spread. To prevent POP transmission, organizations must make make decontaminating and ventilation part of their core culture. Organizations, such as ALCOA, who have successfully made safety a core cultural trait likely will find this easier than others.
Strategy: Create a Culture of Decontaminating
To develop systems-level strategies for reducing person to object to person transmission, we rely on the person object network (shown on the left below) and the corresponding person object person (POP) network. Recall that the POP network includes an edge between two people if they touch the same object. For example, the individuals identified as C, D, and E are connected by coffee-colored edges because they all visit the coffee machine.
The POP network above shows that everyone is connected to everyone else through objects. A good strategy is to remove non-critical objects to break the POP network into components.
Strategy: Remove Objects to Disconnect the POP Network
The whiteboard (denoted by the green lines) connects three employees. More importantly, if the whiteboard is removed, the POP network will break into three disconnected networks as shown below.
Looking at the remaining POP network, we see that if the coffee machine is also removed, then the POP network consists of five disconnected networks, three of which contain only one person.
The whiteboard and the coffee machine were there for a reason. People like coffee and people can better think through ideas on whiteboards. One solution is to create private objects: buy personal whiteboards and coffee makers.
Strategy: Replace Public Objects with Private Objects
Replacing public objects with private objects may have unintended consequences. The whiteboard may have been a place where people posted ideas or questions. The coffee machine may have been a place where people shared information or coordinated ideas. Some of those functionalities can be maintained through virtual replacements: a shared electronic whiteboard, a ZOOM coffee break.
Strategy: Create Virtual Analogs to Make Up for Object Functions
While virtual meetups - hanging out at the ZOOM coffee break or sharing information through SLACK - differ from in-person meetups, they need not lower productivity. They actually have advantages: an entire SLACK conversation can be recorded, while the whiteboard gets erased.
The next strategy uses task re-assignments and demonstrates how grouping people by objects rather than tasks can reduce POP connections. Consider a small landscaping company with six trucks. Each morning when the landscapers arrive, the trucks have been stocked with plants (P), filled with gas (G), and given an order book (O) of instructions. Assume the landscaping company has three employees who arrive early. One employee loads plants, one fills the vehicles with gas, and one places the order books in the vehicles. The figure below shows the resulting person object network. Each line connects all three workers to each truck.
The three people who load plants, fill vehicles with gas, and put the order books in the vehicles all come into contact with every vehicle and therefore contact all the employees who travel in the trucks. Suppose that instead, each of the three people who specialized in plants, gas, and orders became generalists and each handled all three tasks for two vehicles. The resulting POP network looks as follows:
Strategy: Reassign Tasks to Disconnect the POP Network
The personal contact network and the POP network are constructed through different processes yet both describe pathways for contagion. A critical strategy for organizations with both person to person contact and person to object to person contact is to combine the two networks. This creates the combined transmission network.
Even if you have created a virtual barrier between two groups to prevent person to person transmission, that barrier will not be effective if person object person transmissions can cross it.
Strategy: Ensure the Personal Contact and POP Networks Create Similar Clusters
The figure below shows an example of how a disconnected P2P network combined with a disconnected POP network can produce a connected combined transmission network. In organizations in which both person to person transmission and person to object to person transmission are concerns, making sure the two networks align is crucial. Otherwise, two successful sets of strategies can combine to create an unsuccessful strategy.
Employee to Customer Transmission (E2C)
In addition to wanting to reduce the spread of the virus among its employees, an organization also wants to reduce the spread of the virus to the broader community and from the community to its employees. Here we describe four strategies for reducing E2C transmission. These strategies rely on floor plan mapping. Our first strategy identifies each location on your floor plan as either employee only (E), customer only (C), or both (B). Another straightforward strategy advocated by OSHA and others is to create barriers between customers and employees.
Strategy: Reduce Physical Spaces in Which Community and Employees Interact
Relatedly, you want to reduce the number of people who interact with the community, and you want to prevent spread when physical contact does occur. As shown in the figure below this can be done by taking an office floor plan and mapping out the high risk areas and intersections.
Strategy: Designate Employees to Interact with the Community and Isolate Them from Other Employees
By isolating the employees who share physical space with customers, you reduce the likelihood that someone in your organization spreads the virus to the community as well as the likelihood of spread from the community to your organization. You want to take every precaution to minimize the spread of the disease for those employees who interact with customers. Once again, organizations should consult OSHA guidelines and best practices and COVID playbooks for how to create the safest possible workplace.
The data so far reveal enormous differences in the severity of the virus's effect based on a person's age and general health. When possible, organizations should segment customers based on risk factors and then apply the principles of user-centered design to create risk category-specific policies. Straightforward examples include special hours for older customers. Deeper dives into customer needs will yield business- and product-specific ideas.
Strategy: Create Special Policies or Hours for Higher-Risk Customers
Policies created for specific customer groups have short term costs but may pay longer-term dividends by identifying ways to lower costs or better serve that customer segment, by increasing customer loyalty, and by building a sense of purpose and social responsibility within your organization.
The site concludes with two general strategies. The first strategy is based on ideas from Ann M. Pendleton-Jullian and John Seely Brown. Organizations are now operating in a whitewater world: rapidly changing, hyperconnected, and radically contingent. All of the strategies described require human implementation. That implementation will not be a set of marching orders that everyone follows. Implementation will be contingent and adaptive. Best practices will be elusive and changing as the environment changes. When tests become available at low cost, a whole new set of strategies becomes possible.
Strategy: Remember You Are Operating in a Whitewater World
In a whitewater world you must keep in mind two attributes of people: First, people make errors. We walk into the wrong room. Events do not always unfold as expected. Second, people are endless sources of creative ideas and solutions. In developing strategies and best practices for your organization, keep in mind that mistakes will be made and that the same people who make those errors will also be able to craft beautiful solutions. For learning to occur, employees need information; they must feel the currents. If employees become disconnected from the flow of information they cannot learn. One solution is to create an "all employee message" for everyone at work. In the event of human error - a customer using an employee-only bathroom, a child running into a store room - a message can be sent. For extreme errors, that might be a red alert that everything should shut down. Other messages might be ideas or thoughts or senses of trends or possibilities.
The employees of an organization likely have many ideas for how to improve functionality, create meaningful work, and prevent the spread of the virus. Creating spaces for people to share ideas and develop their own strategies may be the best strategy of all. No one knows how policies are working better than employees. Teaching employees the frameworks on this site - personal contact networks, person object person networks, and floor plan mapping - is one of many ways to help structure conversations and ideas.
Strategy: Tap into the Collective Intelligence of Your Employees
Tapping into the collective intelligence of your employees encourages innovative, creative thinking and is essential to building morale and making work fun. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If you sell smoked fish you might have customers 'reel in' their orders from 20 feet away. If you sell organic vegetables, hire students to deliver by bicycle. If you deliver rocks, put your invoices in disinfected fake rocks.
Strategy: Encourage Creative Thinking That Improves Efficiency and Builds Morale
In conclusion, in every complex challenge lies an opportunity. The breadth and depth of learning that will occur during this pandemic will improve our society in the long run. It will also be a central reason why organizational practices will never be the same. Organizations that learn to adapt will better fulfill their mission, create meaningful work lives for their employees, and prevent the spread of this virus.
Full List of Strategies
Evaluate Each Contact: Close and Frequent, Socially Distant, or Virtual
Create Socially Distant Contacts for Important but Infrequent Collaborations
Create Barriers Between and Identity Within Organizational Layers
Assign Employees Direct Contacts and Encourage Safe Connections to Others
If Someone Tests Positive Quarantine Direct Contacts (Contact Tracing)
Erect Virtual Barriers to Create Disconnected Components
Create Virtual or Socially Distant Links for People Who Fill Structural Holes
Create and Isolate Alternative Teams for Critical Tasks
Use Isolated Teams to Innovate and Build Sense of Purpose
Create a Culture of Decontaminating
Remove Objects to Disconnect the POP Network
Replace Public Objects with Private Objects
Create Virtual Analogs to Make Up for Object Functions
Reassign Tasks to Disconnect the POP Network
Ensure the Personal Contact and POP Networks Create Similar Clusters
Reduce Physical Spaces in Which Community and Employees Interact
Designate Employees to Interact with the Community and Isolate Them from Other Employees
Create Special Policies or Hours for Higher-Risk Customers
Remember You Are Operating in a Whitewater World
Tap into the Collective Intelligence of Your Employees
Site constructed by Scott E Page, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and an external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute and author of The Model Thinker. My friend and mentor Keith Yamashita offered his wisdom in helping me reframe the entire project. Kimberly Mass improved an earlier version of this site. PJ Lamberson, Elizabeth Popp Berman, Paul Valenstein, David Canter, Jerry Davis, Jeff DeGraff, Gerry Anderson, Ned Staebler, Richard Sheridan, Jeff Page, Eric Ball, Steve Page, and Jenna Bednar contributed ideas, support, and corrections.