What a crazy, befuddling, anxiety-ridden year this has been with only a minuscule percentage of the world’s population not being dreadfully impacted by this horrific virus (COVID-19).

While speculation remains as to exactly how this virus came to be, I have been most fascinated and perplexed by our (humans) response.  What has struck me most is how folks have responded to the risk and the different ways in which people have chosen to manage it.  How has my professional life informed my thinking on this?

Since joining netlogx in 2011, I have become much more informed about our Risk Management as a practice, as well as the whole notion of risk. Before becoming a netlogx team member, I generally knew what risk was and would try to avoid unnecessary risks when I could.  However, I did not have a formalized approach, which is one of the key services that netlogx offers its clients.

How does that apply to my response to the insidious virus?  We should ask ourselves, what level of risk is acceptable to me?  The spectrum can be quite wide from person to person and those extremes are played out daily. We are seeing the spectrum firsthand through the words and actions we see on the news and social media or those we encounter in daily life.

On one extreme, we see those who remind me of John Travolta in “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” clearly focused on doing everything they can to mitigate the possibility of contracting the virus. On the flip side, we see folks who appear completely oblivious that a pandemic has reportedly taken the lives of approximately 168K from our great nation as of the day this was written.

Meanwhile, our political, civic, and health leaders strive to find the right approach, although I might be overly generous in that depiction.  Nonetheless, I believe most Americans see the “right approach” as balancing our constitutional liberties with the safety of our citizens, as I suspect that most Americans value both liberty and safety.  If that were true, then the resulting Risk Management Plan would take those key two factors into account.

But, what else is missing?  For me, this is where it gets tricky and controversial.  In order to devise a plan for these circumstances, we would want to define (at a minimum) what are the “acceptable” levels of the results of our strategy.  For instance:

  • What percentage or number of people who have contracted the virus would be acceptable?
  • What percentage or number of people who have contracted the virus and were hospitalized because of complications from the virus would be acceptable?
  • What percentage or number of people who have contracted the virus, were hospitalized because of complications from the virus and later died from the disease would be acceptable?
  • At what levels for the questions above would we (communities) be able to manage and care for those individuals?
  • For any action policy that restricted the behavior of the people, what would be the acceptable consequences (potential impact might include employment losses, business failures, physical and emotional health degradation) as well as the downstream effect of those?

None of these are easy questions to answer! We are making value judgments on the lives of fellow human beings. Yet, we intuitively know that it is impossible to completely mitigate the risks.  Whatever risk posture we take, there will be consequences that we would generally believe are unacceptable.

Our world has had to come face-to-face with this horrific virus. As we continue to wrestle this challenge to the ground, it is my hope that our leaders will delve deeply into the discipline of Risk Management to drive our pathway forward.