A Consultant’s Perspective on the Corona Virus

by Joe

I may have the title “Doctor” prefixed to my name, but I am not a medical doctor and have no more experience with germs, viruses and biological ailments than the average “Joe”. 

With that out of the way, allow me to comment on some aspects of this most recent outbreak in China. I have been a China watcher for over 22 years. In that span of time, I have logged over 120 visits to China and Hong Kong. I’m borrowing from an insurance company slogan to summarize why I feel I can comment on this event; “We know a few things because we’ve seen a few things.”  

I did travel in China during the height of SARS. I was not worried then for personal safety and I am not worried now. When looking at the latest reported statistics, I suggest you do a little personal research to draw comparisons. For instance:

Q. How many people are estimated to die each year in China due to air pollution? 

Q. How many people will die in the USA from influenza this winter season? How many will be hospitalized? 

Q. How many deaths are caused by traffic accidents in China?  USA?

All of us should work to gain a balanced perspective about this latest challenge because FEAR is IRRATIONAL.

You get the idea. Do you own homework and draw your own conclusions.  For me, as soon as planes begin to fly again, I will be back over to visit our friends in China. 

When the virus was first reported, I was on a ship in South America. One of the hospitality staff members was from Wuhan. So naturally we discussed the topic. My first, early prediction was that the government would work to downplay the topic in order to prevent panic. In the event that downplay was not working, their next step would be to jump to stop the spread by reverting to draconian measures at a level the world may not experienced before.

In the end, this is pretty much the path they have chosen.

A number of people question whether the numbers being reported are factual and accurate. Any veteran China watcher will pretty much yawn at such an accusation.  In China, there is one news source for every event and used at all times. For the people of China and friends of China such as ourselves, we accept this.  Are the reported numbers accurate?  Who can argue?  The fact is the Party wishes to eradicate this virus as much or more than any other entity.  I, for one believe they’ll be effective if for no other reason than saving face. Be patient and life will go back to normal. 

There are a few strands of good news we can be thankful for. One, the USA has offered to send assistance. The tariffs are coming down. When the USA issued a “do not travel to China” recommendation, the Chinese officials were quick to comment that this was “unkind.”  I guess that means China wants their Western friends to come back soon!  Also, I know many people around the world are missing their opportunities to travel to China. I see both as healthy.

Let’s open the bridge as soon as possible and get back to normal. 

I did travel during SARS. Frankly, it was one of my most pleasant trips ever. Everyone wore masks to protect me. Hotels and planes were almost empty. Polite people followed me into the elevator wiping down the buttons. 

I remember traveling by van along some rural roads during that trip. Suddenly, there was a cluster of people, all wearing white uniforms and face masks. I remember how they looked like they were preparing to board a space craft. They had us roll down the window and handed us thermometers, apparently for an oral temperatures check. As the lead delegate, I did what I was told. Everyone with me followed suit. Minutes later, the official who had handed them out to us returned and with alarm began to shout “No!  No!…under your arm!”   I wondered why they had a salty taste!

I never did have a problem with SARS, although I did have to complete a thorough mouth cleansing.  My advice for when you eventually return to China is to be sure and get clear instructions when you are stopped, like we were, at any check points.

My team and I are all eager to return to China. In the meantime, we are praying for the good health of everyone there, as well as throughout the We are on this globe together and together we can make it a safer place.

2020: Are You Prepared for the Year Ahead?

by Joe

Welcome to another year and a new decade!  If you’re like me, you probably have spent the first day or two of the new work year looking ahead, anticipating what’s to come.  I always find it a great time for reflection on the goals I have for myself, and for my business.  What new skills can I personally acquire this year?  In what ways will I stretch to help my clients achieve the challenges they’ve planned for themselves?

As related to strategic planning, I’ve seen at least two common approaches among our clients.  One approach tends to be more ‘passive’; react as best one can to new challenges that surface.  The other approach is proactive and includes evaluating both the organization and the environment and then setting a course that will hopefully deliver continued success.

This second approach is more difficult, but usually more rewarding.  

With a plan in place, our clients are in a position to evaluate each opportunity as it comes their way.  Which of them are red herrings?  Which of them provide a waited for opportunity that will finally allow an organization to develop in a way they’ve been wanting to?   Since every organization operates with limited resources – time, money, reputations – we all must choose carefully.

The importance of planning is laid out for us in the Gospels, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?”  Luke 14:28-30

Yes.  Having a deliberate, intentional planning process yields great benefits.  

At Word4Asia, having a formal planning process has enabled us to identify our core strengths as well as to address areas that needed strengthening.  Over time, this has enabled us to adapt to changes in the markets we serve.

Having clear goals has deepened the personal commitment our staff, partners and program participants have towards our shared work.  On this point, I’ve also found that including our stakeholders in the planning process has been critical to the success of our planning and has improved team member engagement.

Our decision making about approaching new opportunities and challenges is really assisted.  Our plans are a ‘map’ we navigate by.  If certain opportunities are not on-route, we either ‘pass’ or having very strong reasons why we should detour into ‘shiny object syndrome’.  

Approaching our business this way has also freed us from a lot of the ‘management by in-box’ method that I know we’d fall prey to if we didn’t recommit frequently to ‘management by calendar’ instead.

I hope you do take the time to clarify the road ahead before the year gets too hectic.  Make the most of these first few weeks of 2020 to think about that ‘white canvas’ and how you might fill it to have an extraordinary year.  Of course, if your vision includes work in China, Word4Asia would like to talk to you.  Our highly developed network across mainland China, and our over twenty years in that fascinating, ever-changing environment may provide you just the expertise and resources your project needs to flourish.  You can reach me any time at gene@word4asia.com

Happy New Year!


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