COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization.

That was the disease. Disinformation about COVID-19 reached pandemic proportions on March 12, 2020, as assessed by yours truly.

The COVID-19 pandemic has entered a strange phase, in which the risk of contracting the virus, driven by ever more contagious variants, continues to oscillate in waves. At the same time the risk of hospitalization and mortality from the virus has plummeted, thanks to near-miraculous achievements on the part of the biomedical research community in the form of rapidly developed vaccinations and effective treatments.

The COVID-19 disinformation pandemic, in contrast, continues to induce inflammation. Its etiology: the production of “alternative facts” and spurious statistics designed to appeal to those who subscribe to a good-guys/bad-guys worldview.

Example: The perception that being vaccinated doesn’t reduce COVID risks continues to be popular among a certain class of opinionator, armed with persuasive-looking but flawed statistics and positioned for high visibility in the popular media.

Revealing the flaws in their statistical reasoning depends on opinionators whose highest-visibility platforms are publications such as Scientific American – not where most citizens flock to develop their opinions. See the graph that follows (spoiler alert):

Credit: Amanda Montañez; Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Nonetheless, for several reasons it’s time for organizations to revisit their COVID-19 policy. First and foremost, as of this writing and as noted above, the combination of currently available vaccines and clinically valid treatments – and yes, I mean Paxlovid, not quack therapeutics like Ivermectin – have made the consequences of an employee violating your COVID-19 policy less dire than they were in the early stages of the pandemic.

Second, as compared to 2020, the power dimension of the employer/employee relationship has shifted significantly in employees’ favor. As a practical matter, terminating an employee for violating policy probably harms the employer as much or more than the employee.

And third, the logic of targeting a policy to a single specific malady is increasingly tenuous.

The original purpose was to help create and maintain a safe work environment. But even before COVID-19, contagiously ill employees who came in to the office endangered their colleagues – not as severely as COVID in the pandemic’s early days, but of severe enough discomfort and debilitation to matter regardless of the specific malady.

Shortly before the first COVID-19 vaccines were released (late July, 2021) I suggested this COVID-19 policy:

All employees who:

  • Enter our facilities …
  • Enter a client’s facilities …
  • Perform any of their responsibilities face-to-face with colleagues regardless of location …
  • Enter our facilities …
  • Enter a client’s facilities …
  • Perform any of their responsibilities face-to-face with colleagues regardless of location …

… must be fully vaccinated. Refusal to comply with this policy can result in termination or reassignment to a position all of whose duties can be performed remotely. If the result is reassignment the company reserves the right to adjust compensation to make it commensurate with the new position’s pay structure.

This policy applies to all employees and contractors, other than those who can perform all work remotely.

What should change?

Mandating vaccination made sense when vaccines were effective against the most prevalent variants, and when the consequences of failing to comply concerned employees more. But that ship has sailed and there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

Also, as mentioned, broadening policy beyond COVID and only COVID would mean requiring employees to be fully vaccinated against everything that’s contagious and for which we have effective vaccines. This just won’t fly, regardless of the wisdom of being fully vaccinated.

Bob’s last word: Encouraging employees to be fully vaccinated is a matter of helping them stay healthy. Our arsenal of safe and effective vaccines is one of the blessings of modern medicine.

But mandating them? For better or worse the time for that has come and gone.

The alternative: Instead of mandating vaccination, requiring all contagiously ill employees to stay home makes all kinds of sense.

It makes all kinds of sense, that is, if their employer makes PTO policies more generous, so that ill employees no longer have an incentive to show up for work at the office, giving the gift that keeps on giving – a disease.

Bob’s sales pitch: Need help thinking through a situation you or your organization is facing? That’s what I do, and if you read KJR on a regular basis you should have a pretty good sense of the perspectives I bring to such things.

And you can get my help in increments as small as an hour.

Just let me know what you need.

Now showing on’s CIO Survival Guide:A CIO’s guide to guiding business change.” Because As CIOs re-think IT’s role in the enterprise, leading or facilitating business change is central to the conversation. Here’s one way IT can and should regain center stage.

Last week’s KJR introduced 20 ways of thinking something through, beginning with Outline Thinking and wrapping up with the satisfying but unilluminating Ridicule.

Honesty requires this disclaimer: While I’m quite sure none of these are original, I’m even more sure I didn’t plagiarize someone else’s list. The only credit I can claim is that of the numismatist: I don’t know who stamped these coins, and the only credit I can claim is that I’ve collected them.

Some of you asked for a deeper look at the 20 ways. And while I might stop at 19 – I doubt the world needs techniques for creating better ridicule – I figure starting with Outline Thinking – the first item on the list and arguably the most useful of the bunch – is a safe, if dull bet.

Outlining is top-down decomposition. It’s tempting to stop there, making this the shortest KJR ever posted. But that would be wrong.

Outlining is the tool of choice for documenting your understanding of a subject – of the details and how they fit together.

A successful outline begins with a good subject. It then breaks that subject down to between three and maybe nine topics that are of the same type, and which, taken together, fully encompass the top-level subject as viewed from that perspective.

For example, the subject of your outline might be a project you need to organize. You’ll have to address a number of different topics. For example you’ll have to think through the project team’s composition … that is, the roles you’ll need on the team to do the project’s work. Then there are the work products its team will have to produce to accomplish the project’s objective and goals.

And, not to be ignored, you really ought to figure out the tasks the team will have to execute to create those work products.

To figure out what these tasks are, the project manager will need to outline them. The project management buzzword is “work breakdown structure,” but don’t let that throw you – it’s an outline. So far so good.

You start the process of organizing project tasks by answering the question, “What are the tasks that make up the project?” That results in a top-level view of the project task outline, as shown in the box at the top left in the figure below, taken from the demonstration project used in Bare Bones Project Management – implementing a warehouse management system.

Figure: Outlining is progressive decomposition

Next, you ask the equivalent question about each project task that you asked about the project: “What are the sub-tasks that make up this task?” The figure’s middle box shows the result for the “Gather data” task, re-casting Gather data to Gather information requirements to help clarify what will be needed. In a real project you would ask the same question about every other top-level task, too.

The figure’s lower-right-hand box shows the result of taking the Conduct interviews sub-task to one more level.

Then you would continue until you run out of sub-sub-sub etcetera tasks. Or, if you’re smart (and lazy, but that’s just saying the same thing twice) you’d delegate the rest of the outlining to the experts on your project team best-suited to do so.

Bob’s last word: As you can see, outlining is an excellent tool for thinking a subject through to understand it better, whether the subject is project tasks, the components needed to assemble a piece of Ikea furniture (pro tip: yes, an Allen wrench is a necessary component, but no, it isn’t a sufficient one), or a meal.

What makes it such a useful tool is that it lets you understand the subject you’re figuring out at whatever level of depth you need, without having to keep all that depth in your head all at once.

Outlining, that is, is a terrific way to keep your head from exploding.

Bob’s sales pitch: Speaking of thinking, The Cognitive Enterprise, which I co-authored with my colleague Scott Lee, is, so far as I can tell, the only business book with “cognitive” in the title that isn’t about applying artificial intelligence to business situations. It asks what we think is a more profound question: What would an enterprise that acts purposefully look like – one that has more in common with predators than with ecosystems – and how would you build one.