How things move faster in a crisis
(and why thats frustrating afterwards)
I’m thinking about our current global Covid crisis. I’m thinking about how much activity has been stimulated across multiple realms. It’s pretty well impossible to encompass all of the factors involved — sickness, mortality, broken healthcare systems, transport, airlines, bulk shopping, supply chains, isolation, Community and Gov efforts, paying for it — the list goes on.
Sometimes it is hard to differentiate rapid reactive activity or activity that might be negative, versus activity that might be stimulating — new social cohesion, Zoom! or the innovation of a service business to switch to digital management and online delivery mechanisms.
I’m trying to understand the depth and vector of change that happens in a crisis — how big things happen faster — why that is and why that doesn’t happen outside of crisis.
I can only approach this from observation — pop psychology is the closest I can academically comment through! In this, I accept the charge of everyone having opinions in this time of Covid is sometimes unhelpful — though that in fact is the starting point for understanding.
The crisis caused by Covid is of a scale and impact we have never seen before -
It impacts us socially, culturally, economically. All the same and at once — the speed of its onset and the feeling of potentially impending doom catalyses change.
The most stark example we could see is in the role and action of Government. In Ireland, in something like 8 weeks, we have initiated over 50k volunteers and re-hiring to the health service. Ordered over €200m of PPE (8x annual norm). Contracted hotels as step down facilities (Citywest). Adding 17% capacity by adopting the private healthcare system. This is impressive in dealing with the healthcare costs.
In requiring social isolation as a policy — the right decision to deal with a fatal, contagious pandemic with no vaccine, we have had economic decisions impacted upon us →300k unemployed within a month.
The Gov have stepped up with co-paying salaries to maintain jobs rather than support unemployment — this is expected to restart the trading economy far faster than layoff and rehire.
The unemployment schemes in particular resonate — a form designed in days, that is one page long and has processed over 50k people through the system within a week is stunning execution.
Rolling out pandemic plans, which have clearly been built by experts in the background, still learning and sharing with international colleagues shows a capacity for depth of planning.
The schemes won’t be perfect — but don’t let perfection get in the way of progress/traction/moving forward — is Covid19 the bridge we need to help Gov understand how change models are replicated in the enterprise world?
I’m aware too of the growing challenge of Gov needing much more of our personal freedom in order to close this pandemic down — it seems you cannot have low mortality, high personal freedoms and engage the economy — all at once
I’m struck by engagement from volunteers to support and help. No doubt some of this is to try and regain some of their loss of control that is natural to feel while some of it is the essence of entrepreneurialism — see a problem that needs to be fixed and go for it. In this instance, there is not a profit agenda — the scale of the crisis is too large, although there will be economic winners at the end of this Corvid era.
I see examples like Conall Laverys ventilator project — crowdsourcing the talent and materials to build low cost ventilators fast. This is just one of the crowdsourced ventilator projects — https://www.luminary-labs.com/insight/covid-19-open-innovation-index/
FeedTheHeros — If I said frontline healthcare staff, keeping restaurants alive and digital mgmt & delivery mechanism you could work out exactly what this project would entail.
What are the features that drives this crisis management for good?
● A Big Important common Goal (BIG)
● A populace or community that is bought into it (COMMUNITY)
● Strong leadership (LEAD)
● Ways to enable/engage — clear direction (ACTION)
It writes itself
I have to at this point consider Taoiseach Leo Varadkar St. Patricks Day Speech to the Nation — calm, in control, no sugar-coating — widely regarded as his greatest ever speech
It does beg questions about wartime CEO and peacetime Consigliere, a concept from The Godfather and to consider our current and next leadership
What does it show about management in non-crisis times?
● Lack of vision or what we used to call a burning platform for change — stumbling along.
● The right type of urgency is needed
● Process and being perfect, risk mitigation takes precedence over effecting positive change
What are the risks of bad management in a time of crisis?
● Leaders not listening to experts — Trump
● Leaders seeking blame — Gove
● Civil unrest — sign of uncertainty and fear — and I fear this will come to some nations this year
In this article, I have thought about examples of community efforts, of Governmental efforts, but I consider that we now live in a time that goes above or supra Governmental. Corvid (and data and transport and people and ideas and innovation) supersedes borders and nationality.
We need to empower a higher group who can tackle crisis on an international basis. We have the WHO (and UN and World Bank) — these need to be funded, empowered and removed of national bias (US, and potentially emerging stories of China)
My thoughts are not complete — they cant be — but you have to internalise to appreciate a kind of triumvirate along the lines of — speed is better than precision, strong benevolent leadership and the goodwill of your tribe, where working together yields greater than the sum of its parts.