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Case 1: The Coming Epidemic
A Health Department report at a large US city has the mayor and her staff worried. One homeless person has contracted plague!
Staff employees who work at the mayor’s office building have noticed that the mayor and her senior associates are worried. There have been late meetings and the level of activity has increased. She has cancelled several scheduled events. No direct indication of a problem has been shared with the press. There are rumors that members of the press are calling “friends” in city government to find out what is happening.
You have just come from a meeting of your department, The City Department of Strategic Planning. Your job is to develop a comprehensive plan to handle a plague epidemic. So far only one person has contracted the deadly ailment. So, technically, no crisis has actually occurred yet. Here is a summary of what was discussed at the meeting:
- The homeless person who has plague has been in the city for about two weeks. He was living in the desert in New Mexico before he jumped on a freight train and wound up in your city.
- He was living in Skid Row with about fifty other people in a “flop house.”
- The flop house has been in legal trouble.This includes no exit lights, fire alarms not maintained, no sprinklers installed, complaints about mice, loud music, fights and garbage laying around the sidewalk. A recent police raid resulted in three arrests of residents for various crimes including outstanding warrants.
- No local hospitals have a record of treating a case of the plague.
- A small quantity of serum is stocked in a city storage facility,but it may have expired. Nobody in city government has ever seen the plague.
- The city hospitals owe a large sum to several pharmaceutical companies that manufacture plague medication.
- No one in city government has ever dealt with a major epidemic of any kind.
- This deals with the plague, not the coronavirus.
Your boss – the head of this department – says he wants a complete plan that spells out:
- Specific steps to handle a possible epidemic
- Timeline to include deadlines
- Manpower Needs: This should spell outnumber of people and types of skills
- A high quality plan that the city can be proud of
The plan must also identify where help may be available from. The meeting discussed,
- Local hospitals, city and private
- Pharmaceutical companies
- International doctors who have dealt with this disease
- Facilities for treating those who contract the plague
- Gloves and other protective equipment
- A plan for controlling information.“Avoiding panic” was mentioned.
- Your boss stressed that the solution must be internal, not simply from Washington.
You were selected for this job because you have an MBA. MBAs are supposed to know how to devise a plan. Even though you have an MBA, you have never held a position of management responsibility in which success or failure depend on you. Your boss added these instructions:
- Focus on solving the problem not describing it.
- We must look competent, able to handle a difficult, unexpected crisis.
- Do not cede control to federal authorities. Even if that happens, they will be using local hospitals, doctors and other resources.
- Don’t forget obvious issues, for example,
preventing current medical personnel from getting the plague;
avoiding strong police action, which might cause people who had contact with the plague sufferer to leave town.
causing panic by posting notices and discussing plague openly in the news or elsewhere.
- Focus on creating a good plan. Do not define the history of plague!
- A specific plan does not describe the city’s strengths and weaknesses. It does not dump SWOT analysis on a medical crisis. It uses their strengths and weaknesses to build a plan for the future.
- Once you get a clear sense of what has to be done, give specific actions they should take to prevent or lessen the crisis.
- Note that preventing a crisis calls for one type of action. Lessening the severity of the crisis calls for a different type of actions.
- Make sure the plan is actionable. That means it is laid out over a period of time with clear direction. For example,month 1, do such and such. Month two, follow with these specific actions.
- Apply concepts from the course and feedback from assignments.
- Do not give superficial advice they could find on an Internet blog such as “acquire serum.” This is too general to be helpful.Avoid soppy advice such as“work with the government.”
- Do not bore city management with plague history or Wikipedia drivel. You will lose credibility.
- Read the case five times to understand your job.