The world has changed
Obviously, things are going to be different from now on. Though civilization has borne witness to all manner of calamities throughout the ages, this latest health crisis has been a wake-up call of sort. No longer can we remain complacent. We must learn to adapt in order to survive.
Now, despite the ominous tone of the previous statement, I’m not a doomsday advocate. As I see it, we have two choices: we can retreat and declare defeat or we can rise above and innovate. Always having been a “glass is half full” kind of person, I opt for the latter. Moreover, being a professor of public administration at an institution that is charged with training students who aspire to lead public agencies, I view this time in history as an opportunity.
Without delving too much into politics (which is difficult, given this is an election year), criticism of the current federal administration’s response to the Coronavirus event is harsh and abundant. Moreover, it is not limited to the federal level of government: This pandemic has revealed many failings across all levels of government and across all sectors of society. Major sporting events have been cancelled at the last minute (e.g. UCF’s basketball team was a mere hour from tip-off when their game was cancelled.) Our local theme parks all closed for the remainder of the month…on a moment’s notice. So, throughout this chaos, there are going to be those who seek to assign blame – who didn’t prepare? what could we have done better? why can’t I find toilet paper??
What can we – as students and faculty of this course – do to better prepare for this and potential future events?
OK, here’s what I have in mind.
We have just completed all the subject matter modules that will be offered for this semester – there are no more that will follow. The seven modules you completed prior to the mid-term exam will provide you with the perspective by which I want you to view these next four “current event” modules. The final modules for this semester (which, by the way, excludes the major written assignment and the semester project) will function as scavenger hunts, combined with a show-n-tell, in order to learn about the problem itself, anticipate how this might impact public agencies, and discover innovative approaches that are being implemented to help facilitate continuity in the delivery of public services. Now, as silly and meaningless as these exercises may sound to some of you, I would argue this is exactly what we need to do. Allow me to share a story about working together that I utilize in another course I teach, in order to help illustrate my point.
Pacific, Power and Light (PP&L) is a utility that provides power to the west coast in the United states. A major part of their infrastructure consists of miles of high-voltage lines on towers that carry electricity over long distances through remote areas. In the winter, ice storms frequently coat the lines and too much ice will snap the lines and cut off power for many homes and businesses.
Their un-creative solution to the ice problem was to send line workers into the field to climb each tower and shake the lines with a hook. There were numerous problems with this approach. The work was dangerous, the line workers hated doing it and it was expensive. So PP&L management convened a cross-functional team (always a good start for eliciting creative ideas!) and hired a creativity consultant to guide the team.
For a while the team did not get anywhere. There were a lot of entrenched patterns in their thinking. During a break, the consultant heard two line workers discussing how one of them had run into a bear while working on lines out in the field. He used this story to help the team take a detour out of their patterned thinking. The team started thinking about ways they could get bears to clear the lines instead of having workers do it: Train the bears, hang honey pots on the towers so the bears will climb up, fly a helicopter to put the honeypots on the towers, etc. The team got some good laughs out of this conversation.
Then one of the team members mentioned the powerful downwash that comes from helicopter blades. What if they simply flew helicopters over the lines and used the downwash to clear the lines? Eureka! This was the breakthrough the team was after. It was such a breakthrough that, decades later, this approach is now standard practice for most utilities in the United States.
“So, working together – got it. What are you really asking us to do, professor?”
INSTRUCTIONS: This module – the Ripple Effects of the Coronavirus – requires each student to search the Internet for unique stories that will help us to better understand what we’re dealing with. I realize we’re all (presumably) fairly aware of what’s going on as it impacts us now (e.g. face-to-face classes cancelled, major events cancelled, more stringent sanitation requirements, etc.), so such basic stories aren’t what I’m looking for. I ask you to find a story that best illustrates the chaos or that exacerbates the problem and then pick a module theme from the first half of the semester (e.g. Accounting, Budgeting, Major Tax Structures, etc.) to use as your perspective. For instance, when the ACC cancelled their basketball tournament a mere 1-hour prior to tip-off, after many teams had already spent loads of money to travel, this might be viewed in terms of the financial implication to the participating institutions, as well as a public health risk.
Anyway, once you find a good source story, I want you to share it with your colleagues by posting it to this discussion forum. Your post can include video, still images, or mere text. As you can see by theI have allowed considerable leeway, so as not to overly stifle your creativity. One thing your post must include, however, is how it ties in with one or more of our previously-studies fiscal management subjects. As an added bonus (i.e. for Top Marks!) you can include some ideas about what to do as a remedy, etc. Lastly, as the rubric dictates, you need to respond to AT LEAST FIVE OTHER POSTS. This last part is where we all come together to learn from each others’ finds, right?
The world needs us, so let’s get to work.