Lessons from the front line

MANY BUSINESSES have faced their sternest test in the past few months, dealing with a pandemic that few will have anticipated. Managers have been forced to make crucial decisions under severe pressure. For a sense of how some of them fared, Arthur D. Little, a firm of management consultants, surveyed 25 chairmen and chief executives of telecoms, transport and utilities firms in Hong Kong, Singapore and Italy, three of the earliest places to be affected by the virus. They were asked to reflect on how the reality of this crisis differed from their expectations—and from their disaster-recovery plans. This was an extreme form of shock therapy.

Four surprises stood out. First, the difficulty of finding reliable information (as opposed to what one respondent dismissed, fairly or not, as “media representations”). The second was the speed at which the crisis unfolded. Third, firms did not foresee a disruption that would simultaneously hit their entire “ecosystem” of suppliers and business partners; unlike most natural disasters, which affect only small parts of the world, the pandemic is everywhere. The final shock was uncertainty about what comes next.

Karim Taga, one of the report’s authors, observes that Asian companies were generally better prepared, having experienced both the SARS epidemic of 2002-03 and, in some cases,...

via Business Feeds

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