The Role of Standards in Reactivating the Economy


Before the pandemic, the world intuitively understood linear growth but had difficulty understanding exponential growth. Society has also evolved in terms of public health, increasing awareness of the importance of hygiene, especially with respect to hand washing. The actions that have had the greatest impact on the management of the Covid-19 pandemic are related to the power of standards and their compliance by the general public.

By analysing cross-country contamination trends, it is possible to identify where standards have existed and where they have or have not been followed. China’s neighbours, such as Japan (birthplace of KAIZEN™), Singapore or even Macao, were able to minimise the impact of Covid-19 outbreak because they had robust standards for pandemic situations. This knowledge was acquired from the SARS outbreak in 2002, and enabled a rapid and effective response to this second pandemic. Since 2005 in Russia, contingency plans on how to proceed in the event of chemical war, nuclear attack or even an invasion by the Americans could be found on display in some factories. All employees were coached on these standards and were therefore prepared for any situation.

Compliance with standards guarantees consistent results with no variability. In the case of non-compliance or inexistence of procedures, the results may be random and lead to undesired scenarios. This is true both for day-to-day behaviours, such as compliance with social distancing or containment, and for procedures to be followed for a successful recovery. A problem cannot be expected to be solved by maintaining the behaviours that previously created it, so a change to a new normal is imperative.

During the recovery, the different sectors of the economy will face challenges with different magnitudes. However, everyone will have to acquire the necessary competence and discipline to change behaviours and meet standards. A standard, in KAIZEN™ terms, represents the best way to accomplish a given task, the easiest, simplest, fastest and safest way known so far. Standards must be simple, objective and unique, i.e. a single standard in place at any given time for a given task. In this context, each sector of the economy will start by defining the procedures that ensure compliance with the legislation currently in place, not neglecting the attention to efficiency and quality of service. Not only will public service activities be responsible for this adaptation, but companies as a whole will have to transform themselves, from operations to support activities.

This pandemic has created an emerging movement for a worldwide behavioural change. This will present different cultures with an unprecedented challenge of adaptation, which will be all the more difficult if the culture of continuous improvement is less present. The daily reinforcement of these behaviours within companies should be coordinated by leaders, leading by example and helping to shape the behaviours of their people, not only as staff but also as citizens.

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