We’ve been in ‘soft lock-down’ for just over 2 weeks now. Soft, because it is lock-down in all but name. You can still be outside, but not anywhere with more than 2 at the same time at the suggested distance of at least 1.5 meters (except if you’re a family). In practice it means only going out for groceries once a week, and getting some fresh air every day while taking a wide berth around anyone you encounter outside.

Two weeks of working from home took some getting used to. Not so much the working from home itself, as I’ve been doing that for over 15 years. But now that everyone else does it too, it has a different feel to it. Increased numbers of conference calls, while before I worked from home regularly precisely to avoid ineffective meetings. The calls, especially the ones with a very distributed group, show you the oddity of our current pandemic status quo. I was in a session with people from multiple continents, and everyone was in the exact same situation, locked down at home. Such a shared context usually doesn’t happen. It’s a quantitative change having qualitative effects.
Some things do require us to find a new normal though. As Y is at home and not at daycare, one of us have to be with her for 95% of the day. She currently can’t go play with her friends so we’re their replacements. Trying to get work done, spending time with Y, and each of us finding the needed alone time, plus the additional house cleaning now that we’re here fulltime is a balancing and logistical challenge we haven’t fully mastered yet.

This last week, I tried to cut back on sychronous communication to avoid being stuck in calls full time, and I started working at 6am, so I could get a few hours of focused work in before anyone tries to call. After 4-5 hours of work, it means I can take most of the rest of the day for other things without leaving too many things unfinished.
E and I will sit down this weekend to plan next week, trying to converge on a more balanced next seven days. I suppose we’ll have plenty of time to get to that point of balance, as by the looks of it we might be here for 4 to 8 weeks yet. Current measures will be evaluated by April 6th, but looking at countries ahead of us on the pandemic timeline such as China and Italy, we will need to stay put possibly until June 1st.

Healthwise we seem to be ok. I’m tired and have been for three weeks, and I also have some minor throat irritation but as that is mostly at the end of the day it may as well come from talking too much. Also because it started that way, three weeks ago we had a meet-up of some old university friends and some very loud singing was involved leaving my voice less than optimal. The air is very dry outside, and we notice that too in our nose and throat, so our humidifiers throughout the house are working hard.

Economically we’re fine too. It is a source of worry of course, as an employer and chairing the board of an NGO that also employs seven people. Last week I spent time to make sure still open invoices were paid on time, to strengthen liquidity. This week I landed a new contract with a client, that for the coming months will ensure we’re fine, and with two others close to signing we’ll be ok this year I think. Having government clients in this situation is helpful as they’re not trying to slow down at their spending at this time, which most private sector companies are doing.

I’m grateful the past two weeks saw plenty sunshine, even if it was chilly. It allowed us to be outside in the garden, and walk/cycle in the neigbourhood.

Overall the past two weeks were very busy. I didn’t find time to blog much either. Certainly not any reflective stuff. I see others doing that, concerning the tools we now are using en masse all of a sudden, and their privacy implications. Things that have changed now and might stick even if the current urgency is gone. How this might have an impact on digital transformation. How internet retail has ballooned. Whether we will realise how much time is wasted in offices. Etc. etc. I have thoughts about all those things. I have stacks of books to read around those topics. But these past 2 weeks were about addressing immediate concerns and minimising predictable risks, ensuring continuity while much around us is stalling or at least slowing down for the foreseeable. Time ran away without much room to carve out personal time, let alone be reflective about anything.

Next week looks less hectic in comparison.

Frank Meeuwsen zegt stay the f*ck inside. Word.

Een vriendin met relevante achtergrond formuleerde het nog iets directer, n.a.v. de drukte aan het strand en in de buitengebieden dit weekend.
Tegen het volgend weekend zijn alle beademingsplekken die Nederland heeft bezet. Coronapatiënten liggen gemiddeld 3 weken op de beademing. Als je dit weekend het virus oploopt doordat je geen afstand van elkaar hebt gehouden, en je hebt beademing nodig, dan vis je ofwel achter het net, of je zult voor altijd moeten leven met de wetenschap dat ze iemand anders hebben moeten laten sterven om jou aan de beademing te leggen.

Het is eenvoudig. Blijf thuis. Bij ons, en bij mijn collega’s geldt:

Blijf gewoon thuis!

In tijden als deze, wordt er altijd opgeroepen in actie te komen, in beweging te komen en bij te dragen. Maar wat kun jij eigenlijk? Wat kan ik eigenlijk?

Met het thuiswerken de afgelopen week en de komende weken komen er denk ik hele horden mensen achter dat als er echt iets aan de hand is in Nederland, het eigen werk er toch niet zo enorm toe doet. Dat geldt ook voor mijn werk, consultancy. Zelf kan ik weinig. Zo dat is er uit. Ik weet van vrij veel dingen een beetje (precies genoeg om mijn eigen onkunde te herkennen en de kunde van anderen hoger in te schatten), maar heb weinig diepere praktische vaardigheden. Ben geen ingenieur die dingen kan bouwen, ben geen programmeur die nuttige apps uit de mouw schudt, werk niet in de zorg. Ik kan wel klooien met elektronica, en met technici praten, doe wat losse programmeerdingen voor de lol, en heb meningen over mogelijke systeemveranderingen bij de overheid, en bijvoorbeeld de zorg. Mijn diepere expertise ligt in het begeleiden van verandering, systeem- en netwerkdenken, het verbinden van strategie en praktijk in complexe omgevingen, en het zien van mogelijke verbindingen die anderen niet zien. Weinig op het vlak van snel praktische resultaten opleveren dus. Goed zijn in reflecteren helpt in tijden van crisis niet zo heel veel. Het zijn bovendien vaardigheden die in een transactie gerichte cultuur als de Nederlandse op een normale dag al lastig zijn om aan de man te brengen.

Er zijn wel dingen die ik nu kan doen, in het kader van zorgen voor jezelf en de mensen om je heen natuurlijk. Met collega’s hebben we een bedrijf en een NGO overeind te houden, om de werkgelegenheid van ruim een dozijn mensen te beschermen. Daar helpt reflectie wel weer, omdat het naast een rijtje concrete acties, om vooruitzichten gaat voor het komende jaar, en wat je nu al kunt doen. Hetzelfde geldt voor sommige klanten, want deze crisis doet waarschijnlijk veel voor het versnellen van de digitale transformatie van organisaties. Juist omdat het over een paar weken niet over zal zijn, en er dus geen ‘we gaan over tot de orde van de dag’ te verwachten is op korte termijn.
Thuis en rondom huis is het ook eenvoudig te bedenken wat je kunt doen. Zorgen voor en houden van je gezin. Bij de buren checken hoe het gaat, of je boodschappen voor ze kunt doen etc. Vriendelijk zijn naar je omgeving. Afstand houden als je mensen tegen komt maar ze altijd groeten. Je vrienden en bekenden online bijpraten.

Maar verder? Ik zit in verschillende online groepen die heel actief zijn om hun krachten te mobiliseren om bij te dragen aan het bestrijden van de pandemie. Maar omdat ik in de meeste van die groepen de boundary spanner ben, degene die verbindingen legt naar en van buiten, niet de diepere praktische kennis van de rest van de groep heb, voelt het als alleen kunnen roepen van de zijlijn. Als dat roepen gaat om te wijzen op scheve aannames onder het werk van anderen, of aandragen of tweaken van een aanpak, draagt het op zich nog wel bij, maar daar waar ik denk dat de aangewende energie van sommigen uiteindelijk ook maar is om afleiding van de eigen zorgen te vinden niet natuurlijk.

Kortom, ik worstel met waar ik mijn kennis in kan zetten op een manier die er duidelijk toe doet. Waar mijn handelingsvermogen op dit moment ligt. Anders dan voor de eigen privé en zakelijke omgeving zorgen.

En hoe zit dat bij jou? Wat kun jij eigenlijk?

In exponential circumstances for a while seemingly nothing much happens until everything happens. I’m glad we took precautions the day before the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the Netherlands, having seen the empty supermarket shelves after Milano took the first more stringent measures. In the mad rush after the measures of the last 48 hours, we’re seeing empty shelves here too. Pasta, potatoes, bread, pre baked oven ready bread, toilet paper, and paracetamol, all have vanished. Of course there’s plenty still around, production and transport haven’t faltered, and distribution centers are full, but you can’t restock stores fast enough in a stampede. We didn’t want to get caught in one, so we stocked up much earlier, when the exponential curve hadn’t yet started here but was visibly nearing our borders, and kept re-adding our daily used items since.

20200313_144303In a run, potatoes, pasta, bread, went first. Toilet paper and paracetamol the day after.

Meanwhile various EU countries are in differing varieties of lock down. Here it’s still fairly limited to seeing all events cancelled and larger venues closed down to prevent groups of over 100 people forming, and to the advice to work from home. But that was Thursday evening. By tomorrow or at most in a few days I think we’ll hear that daycare and all schools will close too. Likely to be followed by all restaurants, bars and non-food retail as is the case in Belgium already my sister told me on the phone. The case numbers in the Netherlands fell slightly today, and were lower than yesterday. However it’s not due to reaching the inflection point in the exponential curve, but due too a more limited testing scope (with community transmission a given now, so testing is reflecting that by no longer being done to track and isolate).

Just before the government decision to let the entire country work from home late Thursday, I had a re-usable coffee cup delivered after discussions with my colleague S on avoiding using paper cups at client offices. For the next two to three weeks at least, I won’t be visiting client offices, so yesterday I posted the pic below. In the coming days we’ll adjust to working from home. Myself I’ve been working remotely and in distributed teams for over 15 years, so no big changes there. But for some of my colleagues, and definitely for most of our clients it will be a new experience to move every interaction online. I’m thinking of things, little routines and little tweaks that may make it easier and more fun to work remotely for our people. I also intend to show our clients that it can be very productive to do so.

20200313_113519The office cup became a home cup

Thursday evening as the first lock down measures were announced by the government I wrote to our colleagues “Working from home for the foreseeable future also is an opportunity. To learn to work together remotely well, also with our clients. To be able to focus on deliverables and documents, without being distracted being pulled into a myriad of meetings. It’s also an excellent opportunity to do our first internal knowledge sharing webinar we had suggested last all hands meeting. We’ll come up with how to do next Wednesday’s monthly all hands meeting online, and how to have fun working remotely together. We’ll do a daily online check-in and out for all of us, to start and end the working day together.

Today in the park, playing with Y, it seemed that those who were out and about were more friendly than usual. And kicking a football around between people is a perfect way to chat and have fun, while keeping the suggested social physical distance.

20200313_163241Playing with Y in the park in the rain yesterday. Wearing my gloves as she had cold hands…Daddy, I’m a monster!

20200213_180253

Daughter got a new inflatable beach ball. The previous didn’t survive a game of ‘tennis’ that involved a stick as racket. This one is also a globe. When I came home she ran to me showing it and out of the blue said “it shows the entire world, it even has Great Britain.” Don’t know where she got it from or why it was important to her, but she very clearly articulated Groot Brittanië, which sounds like Great Brittaniá in Dutch.