Quarantine the Past

Since the first state of emergency was declared in the country, the future, at least as we knew it in the substantive world before COVID-19 (BC19), now appears to be on hold.

For many businesses both big and small whose ambitions for the calendar year have been revised, key performance indicators reconsidered and long-term ambitions temporarily derailed, the path forward especially for companies that operate independently from government, must seem like a spacecraft trapped in orbit without permission to land.

On top of the epidemic that has upset economies, nation states and political applecarts, Toll Group, which operates as a multinational including Australia, has been forced to contend with at least two cyberattacks amid speculation of its liquidity and ownership.

Dealing effectively with outside threats given the immensity of the freight task at hand, which is unlike anything seen in two generations, might be akin to slaying a dragon with an arm tied behind your back.

By all reports the company is, despite the adversity, forging ahead effectively, by informing and servicing its customers with adroit precision.

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. It’s the motto of Clint Eastwood’s gunnery sergeant in Heartbreak Ridge and for many businesses inside and out of commercial road transport it remains no less true.

The first cyberattack on Toll did not go unnoticed by rival businesses, some of whom smartly intensified precautions to avoid a similar fate.

It aided Ron Finemore Transport, whose dress rehearsals for such a disruption, helped put it in a better position to deal with the coronavirus crisis as others in the industry were caught napping.

At Linfox, a few years back, the company opted for a flatter leadership approach to respond quicker so that expeditious decisions that warranted action weren’t lost in administrative red tape.

So fast-changing has been the freight environment that one CEO at a major carrier described it to me as a “series of ongoing one-offs.”

Many a failed professional football coach lived the lesson, no matter how successful they had been previously, of hewing to a rigid line of thinking and action.

Abraham Lincoln when asked what he would do if the facts he had on hand, suddenly changed, said, “Well, I change my response”.

Great leaders avoid becoming shrew captives of the present.

In periods of great upheaval where decision-making is subject to extreme external pressures lasting legacies often take shape. In combat it is said that mistakes are inevitable, victory is not.

It’s learning from these mistakes in less time than the other side where the inroads are made, lives are saved and defeat can be avoided.

Once the rapidly changing theatre of COVID-19 begins to level out many industry leaders, politicians, bosses, and managers will be remembered, on the other side, for how they carried themselves during this time.

Some of them will have done so with grace and dignity.

A few might have made a discovery or a breakthrough that they will come to refine, perhaps even perfect, once what formerly seemed like an out of reach future catches up to their mastery of the situation.

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