Leadership in a time of crisis by Roy Lilley
Wednesday, 8 April 2020
An old friend rang me last week. Someone who, because they are super busy, usually only has time for a text, or an email.
They are well, family safe and sound. Their gran is ordering tins of Spam, on-line and showing their lock-down kids how her Mum, made Spam fritters during the war!
They love 'em. I don't think we need worry about her.
'Good to hear from you... to what do I owe this honour...' I said.
'Yup' was the reply, 'I don't want to put stuff into emails, they've already stated archiving everything. There's a public inquiry due and people will start poking about, looking for trouble.'
I let it go. Didn't make more of it. But, it made me think.
On Sunday I was sent a copy of Tim Shipman's leader in the Sunday Times. He's the political editor.
It's a long read and £walled, so I can't link to it. It's mischievous rubbish.
In the article Shipman is at pains to trash, pour scorn, criticise and have jibe at most of the people playing key roles in seeing us through the crisis.
It's the usual concoction of truths, facts, whispers, half truths, stuff he attributes to unidentified sources, conspiracy and from what I know, downright fantasy.
He reports abusive sobriquets for Ministers, throws the kitchen sink at Simon Stevens and tells us about squabbles in the Cabinet. Apparently, there is a stand-off between ministers and the Cabinet Office.
No18 comes in for Shipman's lash. As far as I can see, for coming back from sick leave and getting a grip on the tiresome, daily No10 briefings, that have been conducted by 'B' List ministers and a chippy Micheal Gove... who treats us all to his soulless lectures and plastic sympathies.
The bit that caught my attention; Shipman warns us, decisions are being hedged because of the risk of discovery at the inevitable public inquiry.
Shipman and my contact are probably right. People are already worrying about what happens when this is all over.
I'm not surprised. I was once on a Civil Defense course, at Easingwold. Now called resilience something or other. It was a real challenge.
So far, everything that has happened is in-line with what I was taught;
- How quickly pre-planning goes stale and the need to refresh it.
- Lack of essential logistics and supplies.
- Reluctance to accept what is happening, early enough, to get on the front foot.
- Public lock-downs, civil disobedience, rationing, shortages, arid briefings,
- Lack of public confidence...
... it's all there.
Somewhere, in the playbook, is a bit that says, as events roll-on, expect squabbling in government, factionalism, decision making frozen and dysfunctional, criticism from uninformed quarters and people who have made poor decisions trying to cover their tracks.
I could make a list of 20 things the government has done wrong. You could list twenty more. So what?
As the wisest man in the world once said; 'we are where we are'.
Nothing is perfect and the closer you get to the action, the further you get from The Plan.
If, Whitehall is already poleaxed by the though of a CV-19 Public Inquiry, if the NHS is frozen by the thought that the likes of the CQC will be raking through emails, looking for trouble, we will miss opportunities to be nimble, avoid the solutions that risk might reward us with.
Fear can make us put off or dodge some decisions. That usually means lost options and worse decisions.
Fear will make us cut the number of decisions we are prepared to make and our decision-making talents suffer.
Every decision is hard and often comes with failure, fear makes us less likely to
We already know there are some who won't cover themselves in glory, by the decisions they've already made, so what.
Whatever there is to be learned, we must learn.
We shouldn't be fearful of the future because of the decisions we are making, in good faith, today.
If, when this is all over, you can look your family, your colleagues, the public and your god, in the eye and say;
- I did what I did though honest endeavour
- I made all my decisions on the best information I could get
- I always tried to do the right thing...
Then, you'll have done all you can and that is all you can do.
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