« Project: Resilient Leadership | Learning from Crisis

Resilient Leadership: Emerging Insights

The Resilient Leadership project ran from 6 April to 24 July 2020 during what now appears to be the first act of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the course of these 16 weeks, we carried out a total of 75 hours of weekly interviews with twelve senior decision-makers in city government and global corporations who were closely involved in steering their organisations’ pandemic response .

Our twelve participants were a combination of managers, entrepreneurs and change agents – often all three rolled into one persona.  What they clearly all shared is a substantial sense of responsibility for making life better for those over whom they have influence. Observing them responding to the existential threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic was a study in practical, heart-felt intelligence.

Over the course of the project, a pattern began to emerge from these weekly conversations: some insights reflected on the state of participants’ organisations or cities prior to the pandemic, most touched on attitudes adopted and actions taken during the heat of the response to rapidly-changing circumstances once the pandemic hit, while a few looked to the horizon for clues as to how they and their organisations will emerge from this upheaval and how they might influence that emergence for the better.

Keeping with this organic pattern, a selection of reflections and observations distilled from these weekly interviews has been curated as the following Emerging Insights. These insights are grouped under six themes, roughly aligned to the Resilience Cycle – beginning with Preparedness, moving through Response to the crisis, and looking ahead to Recovery and Transformation.

Preparedness

Underlying Conditions

Response

As the Wave Starts to Break

Leadership and the Personal Perspective

The Turbulence of the Breaking Wave

Recovery

Recovering
Better

Transformation

Towards a Resilient Future

Underlying Conditions

We should perhaps not be surprised to discover that the way an organisation or city copes when a pandemic arrives is mirrored in the way the individual human body copes when a novel virus arrives and infects it. Simply put, the body’s chances of seeing off the virus with limited symptoms are enhanced if the body is in overall good health to start with. We’ve heard much about underlying conditions and co-morbidities as indicators of vulnerability to the coronavirus – it is clearly the same for companies and cities.

Leveraging strengths and addressing weaknesses

A major crisis will inevitably shine a sharp spotlight on their pre-existing culture, internal and external relationships and financial health. None of these can be fixed in short order when the crisis is on the doorstep, so the clear lesson from our participants is “Get your house in order! The next crisis will, just like this one, expose and exploit your systemic weaknesses.” By the very same token the pandemic has revealed some real strengths, which have been cause for relief and even celebration by our participants. Patient building of healthy relationships and systems during ‘peacetime’ has been witnessed paying rich dividends under pressure.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 11 May

The Italian government’s rules about who you can lock down with and who you can’t, and who can visit you in hospital and who can’t, reveal long-embedded official views about the nature of the family unit and people’s sexuality that are surely no longer relevant, especially for a modern, global city like Milan. They have been the cause of much unnecessary suffering during lockdown. It's clear there is a need for new rights and the recognition of additional types of relationships. This is obvious to us at the city level, maybe less obvious at the national.

Ann Rosenberg

Week of 11 May

Why has Denmark done so well? First of all, Denmark has a healthcare system which is for free for everybody. And that make you feel safe. Because I normally live in US I can just see the huge difference. I‘ve felt so safe being in Denmark during the pandemic. It also has a very strong social system. From very early on the government began to email Danes around the world daily saying, "You should come home, and if not, you need to let us know why." That was as an eye-opener. I felt, “This country takes care of their citizens!” Denmark is also a country where, compared to US, it's very fact-based. When you get information, there's absolutely no drama. It's fact-based, so it’s trustworthy.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 15 June

I think this disease has disclosed our vulnerability as a society. We are now required to wear masks to protect ourselves and others, but at the same time, this disease is forcing the invisible masks that as a society we have been wearing for centuries to fall away. We are able to see lots of things that we weren’t seeing, or pretending not to see. Our vulnerabilities were hidden somehow. You are now able to see them. It's particularly true when we talk about the ‘invisible people’. Domestic violence is becoming so obvious now, too, it's something that people have been ashamed to talk about. There is a campaign that says, if you hear someone screaming, don't be afraid to invade privacy, because it might be saving someone. A major retail magazine for lower income women consumers has put a button on its site, so you can pretend that you are buying something, and then you click there, ask for help and the police will contact you.

Improving access to ICT infrastructure

Nobody could have foreseen the way a tiny virus would drive us all back into our homes, making us and our organisations profoundly dependent upon the internet and a handful of key communication technologies. But several participants have reflected on how, in the years preceding the pandemic, and often in the teeth of institutional indifference and a reluctance to spend, their organisations had secured new levels of IT infrastructure, either for their own internal use or for solving client problems.

The lesson here is so obvious as to appear banal: since in a crisis communication is the most important leadership tool and often where things break down fastest, make sure your ability to keep talking with your staff and key stakeholders is up to the task. Of course, the question ‘What happens when the internet goes down or is hacked?’ should from now on be getting the serious attention it deserves.

Elaine Roberts

Week of 18 May

Over the past five years we've made a lot of investments in various IT systems, despite some of those being tough investment choices. This included investing in some digital products and services, which lead to remote solutions for clients, and upgrading our whole IT stack and everybody's laptops. On the digital remote services what we've found is that some clients are saying, "Yeah, I'm ready for this," even though one of our colleagues was saying "I thought it might take three years to persuade them this was a good way of working!" Meanwhile with all our back-office processes now cloud-based, we’ve been able to work from home, supporting clients and staff. So overall, although we'd never really tested it, and culturally we may not have thought we were ready for it, our business resilience and remote working has been excellent. And we're recognizing that everything doesn't need to go back to how it was. We've identified a target that says that at least 30% of our future operations will run remotely.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 27 April

We learned that everyone in the community needs a basic level of internet access, and the internet cannot be a purely privately run commodity. And then there's hardware - what about families of four locked down with only one laptop?

Utilizing data to understand ourselves better

One might be tempted to think that, in a crisis, what matters is how leaders and their people function at a psychological and emotional level. But running a city or a corporation implies responsibility for complex systems of infrastructure, assets and flows of energy, resources and money. The ability to know where these are and how they are moving has proven once again to be invaluable to some of our participants, in particular those whose organisations had invested in smart data systems and the skills to manage them. Simply the act of collecting data may reveal previously hidden facets of your city or organisation.

Tom Lewis

Week of 18 May

In any emergency, but especially if you've got COVID on top of a hurricane, you've got so many moving parts. You can't manage if you don't know where they all are: equipment, supplies, your workers and also evacuees, etc. You need a tracking and asset management system. Florida apparently has an antiquated one that’s not being used because it's not helpful. We've developed a system for our own use in emergencies. For example, when we deploy hundreds of generators and people to service those generators, parts and fuel trucks, we barcode everything and you can scan it with your smartphone and then once you do that it geo references and you can see where everything is on a map in real time. All this at your fingertips. So when you're doing briefings as a government official, or you just want to have meetings with your team and figure out what to do next, you have all this real time information. It's a real communication tool to reassure people that you're on top of this and say, "Here's what we're offering to you as citizens. Here’s where you need to go and here's where other people are.” And you can show it all on maps.

Week of 27 April

One of the biggest missions that we had over the past five weeks was setting up a data led approach to this. It now has an automated component which allows us to work with new data as it comes in, to automatically update our models of city systems and finances, SCM, HR – e.g. 'Where are the service overlays compared to outbreaks of the disease?' It's actually incredible. And that doesn't just emerge. It's on the back of two and a half years of dedicated investment in data science. A corporate data strategy for the City that everyone thought was completely boring at the time has now had to be activated. All of that infrastructure is in place and we are reaping the benefits of it in ways that are just amazing.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 18 May

Normally Brazil is very bureaucratic and to access official systems you have to be registered to vote, etc. But in order to deliver its emergency cash benefits to the poor, the federal government decided to create a digital ID, which would be given to anyone with a cell phone. The big surprise has been the amount of people that actually emerged to claim this digital ID, people who have been living in informality all this time. There was a layer of invisible citizens who were not in any kind of statistics. They didn't have any social security Last week people started to say the country needs to have a plan for these people, needs to be accountable for these people.

Take care of critical supply chains in advance

Any competent corporate or city executive knows the importance of properly functioning supply chains that allow one’s core functions to continue smoothly year-round. But one has to be familiar with the dynamics of disaster to understand the critical role that certain key supplies suddenly take on. In the case of this pandemic, every health ministry in the world suddenly needed large stocks of PPE, then ventilators, testing equipment, and so on. While no government or supporting company can be expected to have every possible emergency fully catered for in its stores, we have learned the value of being quick out of the blocks – and that does require preparation.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 27 April

In Italy before the pandemic nobody was producing masks. Now we produce millions, but it took weeks to convert production. If we were planning resiliently, we would make agreements with a few producers that, in time of need, they would switch production very quickly.

Elaine Roberts

Week of 4 May

I think there will be a fresh focus on supply chains. People will ask, ‘Where does that product or service actually come from? How much do I trust it? How secure is that supply chain? What happens if it's cut off?’ Our work is about keeping critical infrastructure and global supply chains working. We recognize that if we can't work then that means our customers can't work. With Covid-19, we're working across the business to look at how we can accelerate what are very early days in product life cycle services to clients to test and improve them and then how we can continue to grow that. We see that being not just a one-off for this situation, but actually becoming part of our portfolio and way of working.

Tom Lewis

Week of 27 April

The thing we now realise we need to have, which we didn't before, is someone to keep a sharp eye on our large networks of suppliers, keep them updated and appropriate for likely emergencies. We used to think that if we handled one disaster, the companies we turned to then would stay on our books and we'd use them in a similar situation. But this crisis has stressed that system and we could do with managing the networks more proactively. 'Just in time' isn't enough anymore.

There is a larger question about who takes responsibility for making sure the most vital supplies and their supply chains are in an adequate state of readiness. In a market-driven economy they can quickly become prey to short-term competitive behaviour – we saw this in contractors to US States having to fight one another for PPE.

Hany Fam

Week of 18 May

Worldwide, supply chains have been so severely disrupted, I think there is going to be a global re-think about what constitutes supply chain resilience and how much it matters going forward. Fundamental to that will be the distinction between supply chains that enable critical national infrastructure and those that enable normal commerce. How do cities and national governments ensure that they have the supplies they absolutely need to manage crises? Local manufacture and local supply chains may well emerge as critical once again.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 4 May

In response to the 'Milan 2020 - Adaptation Plan' that we launched two weeks back, we got over 1,000 emails with suggestions and requests from the public. Many are asking how they can get more goods, services and municipal service and permits more locally in future, having to travel less from their homes. It's clear that, as global supply chains are impacted, there will be pressure to make food supply chains more local.

Learning from the last crisis

Of course, if your city has recently endured and survived a major crisis – the case with Cape Town and its 2016-18 drought – you will find that there is some very helpful ‘muscle memory’ within the organisation, and less likelihood of natural anxiety leading to paralysis. Although one wouldn’t wish a succession of crises upon any city or company simply because they train one’s people to be good crisis managers, the background realization is that crises are coming thicker and faster than before, so it makes sense to build these strengths consciously. It is essential that systems enable people to process crises in a constructive and positive manner - the last crisis may inspire you to do better the next time around, but it might also leave you with lingering trauma as the next one hits.

Craig Kesson

Week of 11 May

Having so recently come through the drought crisis, we are now constructing our learning and self-reflection, so that we’re documenting how we learn as we go through this crisis, and what we learned from the last one.

Mahesh Harhare

Week of 11 May

In the swine flu outbreak around 2009-10 Pune had a comparatively large number of patients and casualties. In fact, it has not completely gone down, so there are few cases every year. The city government got a lot of criticism then because it was responsive rather than proactive. The government has since been rigorous, providing medicine and vaccines, especially in slum areas, to keep the numbers contained. So they learned from that. Now, with Covid, the city administration started using technology early on, using mobile vans, testing and mapping all the patients and disseminating that information. That’s been highly appreciated by both citizens and the Government of India, who sent a delegation from to Pune to see what kind of measures we are taking and how we are doing the mapping, both relating to containment and micro-containment. That was a major boost for the city administration.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 11 May

I think the city's going through a bit of PTSD here, you feel it. Back in 2008, the city let go about 50% of their workforce. No one wants to be at the wheel when you're literally firing half of the team.

Stephen Hammer

Week of 11 May

It’s interesting looking at where lockdown protests have been most vocal. There seems to be a sharp contrast with countries that went through wars or other serious hardships within living memory. Perhaps the people there are more resilient and more accustomed to, "This is just what I have to do. I have to wear a mask. I have to stay home for a period of time," because that was their reality in the recent past?

As the Wave Starts to Break

This theme of being quick out of the blocks has come to loom large in the global public understanding of the difference between successful and not-so-successful responses to the coronavirus pandemic. In any disaster it is the case that, in the beginning, minutes and hours matter. They can make the difference between life and death. What is leadership’s role at this point?

Pay attention to weak, early signals

All our corporate participants pointed to the benefit their organisations derived in the early days of the pandemic from having offices and active businesses in China. These automatically gave them a sense of the pace and scale of the danger – but they still had to pay attention and act.

Peter Chamley

Week of 18 May

It’s a critical leadership task to pick up weak signals early on and assess potential risk. ‘Should we act on this or watch closely as others act on it?’ At the end of January, with so many staff members travelling for the Lunar New Year holiday, we saw considerable risk of them bringing the virus back to South-east Asia and Australia, so we insisted on quarantine once they got back and then banned international travel. We have a cultural bias toward caution and care within Arup. At that same time our Global Board was briefed by an eminent epidemiologist, who told us “This is out. It will spread round the world.” That made us sit up and we started planning to limit travel, and so on.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 18 May

We need to improve the City’s capacity for risk management. We have a lot of risk management for internal procedures, but not an appropriate risk management approach for the cascade effect of the failure of key infrastructures. My own learning is that I have to push more in advance, for the City to be prepared for a crisis. Because risk management is not what you do after the crisis has happened, it is what you have done before, to be ready for the crisis. I need to argue harder for this, saying "Look, this could come, not in 20 years, but tomorrow", and be more strict about it.

Re-set your strategic priorities and free yourself from the constraints of the existing organogram

Once it was clear that a life-threatening crisis was emerging, at large scale and likely to be around for many months, those of our participants at the head of their organisations took swift steps to re-conceptualize the most appropriate management structure for what was clearly going to be business abnormal.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 13 April

What kind of pandemic task team makes best sense for us? One that includes the necessary range of skills & expertise you might need in order to make good decisions for re-orienting and keeping safe a large organization in fast-moving uncertainty. This extends beyond the health and HR experts, communicators, legal and compliance, to include the IT team and cybersecurity, etc. It doesn’t need to represent the organogram. This task team adopted four priorities:

  1. Take care of our people.
  2. Take care of our business.
  3. We're Siemens - what do we bring to the fight? (We are a Business to Society company, solving for megatrends).
  4. What do we need to be doing right now to help set up a future that's more resilient?

Craig Kesson

Week of 27 April

We cannot regard this as we would a normal portfolio or normal project, where you have a budget, a definite outcome, and your objective is to reach that outcome and spend your budget. Across all of these different planned interventions, what we’ve done is designed a plan and secured resources from Council at the outer limit of what we think is required, which is like creating a portfolio of interventions in a typical budget. Within that, though, we are utilizing a toolbox of interventions, a variable structure that responds to changes across the systems as they are required. It's not a typical structure and it's not a typical project and we need to embrace that level of complexity.

All you can deploy at the outset is what you already have

Once a crisis hits, the rapidly increasing drumbeat of demands on your organisation and leadership team emphasize the need for setting up robust crisis response mechanisms and relationships during 'normal' times.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 6 July

There is no time, when you're in an emergency, for people to try to build the dialogue that would enable a new way of working. It's not possible to build a Resilience team just when the emergency arrives. I think it’s pretty clear, you cannot create something from scratch at the beginning of a crisis.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 20 April

The best preparation for a management team going into a crisis is for them to have already developed a high level of mutual trust. It takes specific interventions within the leadership team to get them past politeness and self-interest to an efficient place of frankly expressing their own needs and listening to the concerns and needs of other parts of the business.

Craig Kesson

Week of 20 April

The 2016-18 Cape Town drought experience allowed us to rapidly spin up an approach and a response in a matter of days and weeks that we would not have been able to do without that previous experience, which was very hard gained. At an emotional level, it has helped to know that, when there’s cause for great apprehension or trepidation, these are not unusual feelings to experience. I have a wellspring of experiences to draw from, not just mentally and managerially, but also emotionally, of what it's like to be in charge in a crisis. The same is true for my team.

Adopt a ‘start-up’ mentality

This ability to free oneself from the constraints of the existing organisational chart or organogram may turn out to be a game-changer, in that it helps place the best people and most needed resources where they can do the most good in an uncommonly fast-changing landscape. Traditional seniority may be a poor guide to who will function most effectively in a crisis – in fact several participants likened the atmosphere of those early weeks to being in a start-up.

Craig Kesson

Week of 27 April

The past five weeks has been such a fast-moving journey of almost developing a start-up within government to respond and mutate with the requirements of the pandemic as they become understood and manifest in South African local conditions. What did we learn?

  1. In a crisis don't retreat to silos or hierarchical positions, think about who can get what done in the best way and give them as much space and scope to get it done.
  2. Don't retreat into strict sector responses but think about thematic issues and how these cut across sectors, and what are the best ways to activate them. Don't think of the problem structurally or in terms of organograms or flow diagrams. Think about it as here's the issue and what's the best way to manage that issue.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 13 April

In a time of crisis, I think a lot of us default to your classic command and control model of management. But by the middle of March, my team had put together a network and had thought about all of the different types of expertise you might need in order to make good decisions for a 50,000-person organization. This extended beyond health and the HR experts to include communications, legal and compliance, IT and cybersecurity and so on. Pretty soon there was a nice big virtual staff table full of all of those experts, basically getting situational downloads on a daily basis and then raising their hands and saying, "Okay, now it's time to engage the business leaders."

Leadership and the Personal Perspective

As one of our participants reflected early in the pandemic, any crisis sorts the good managers from the not-so-good. The call is to step up, manage one’s own fear in the service of helping one’s people manage theirs, and give them a sense of focused purpose as events churn around them.

Remember who we are!

Part of a leader’s toolkit in difficult times is an appeal to a team identity and culture that has some empowering stories attached. As the late Peter Drucker said, ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch’.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 15 & 22 June

We've all felt anxious, angry, sad, but we're Siemens, we have all these capabilities that the world needs right now. We have a responsibility to actually drive through and bring value. This isn't a moment to feel sorry for ourselves. The future is not to be feared. The future is ours to shape. What can I put in place so that the organization can't slide backward? It can only go forward because, like a ratchet, we've now moved the baseline. One of my biggest worries is that people will reach a point where they think “I've got to enhance business results in any way possible, at any cost.” That breaks the ratchet. We get more accomplished together than we would as individuals. This entity called a corporation can do things that no individual or small business, or even a small government can do. The power of Siemens is unique. So how are we going to channel that energy right now?

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 15 June

We are Italians, that is what gives me hope! We are not good in normal times, we are good in a crisis, so I think we will be dealing better than other countries. When they have chaos, they go crazy. When we have chaos, we have fun.

Tom Lewis

Week of 25 May

Our CEO wrote to all staff with an interesting approach to the issue of the social protests. “How can you be a good advocate if you're not thinking into the future? If you're only designing a bridge for today, you're not really doing your client a good service. You need to design a bridge for four decades from today.” And so his social message was basically likewise, “How can we say we're inspired by the future and we're future-ready as a company, if we're not looking at this societal issue and what needs to change? Let's design the future together, not just in terms of infrastructure, but in terms of culture. We need to be part of this."

Create a narrative and a sense of being in this together

In many conversations we heard that people at all levels were moved to lean in towards the danger and its essential tasks. What leadership can provide these individuals is a framing vision or story, or an igniting experience of high-octane camaraderie.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 13 April

One of the highest tasks of leadership may be to provide a narrative that describes where we are on this uncertain journey and where we must now focus our attention. e.g. ‘We’re digging in for the long haul.’ Barbara recalls the story of Captain Shackleton’s ice-bound crew in Antarctica. We realise we face a long period of danger and uncertainty. We must take what we really need from the sinking ship and leave behind a lot that once seemed important. We’ve sent some scouts out to find a vaccine but they could be gone for a year or more. We must figure out how to survive in the meantime, work out what our daily tasks, challenges and routines are going to be so that we keep our morale up and ultimately achieve our objectives.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 4 May

A new member of the team joined last week, who’s normally the Oakland Tennis Centre manager but put his hand up for re-assignment in the disaster. On his first day I invited him to sit in with me on some in-person meetings in the Emergency Ops Centre. How we operate normally in the city can be a bit slow and bureaucratic, but then you get thrown into this crisis and it shakes up and accelerates bonds or emotions. He said, "In the one day I've been here, seeing everyone and how they operate and the level of sophistication and intelligence - I really want to be that. I want to live up to that." I think it is a hyper-efficient atmosphere and for the right person who wants to help, it makes you want to be better. It did it for me! You have to step up. It is a privilege to find a way to genuinely help.

Ann Rosenberg

Week of 27 April

You want to be part of this. And I think a part of this is also your own personal journey into the unknown. I would say having those conversations every single day with my team, we have never been a stronger team together. We have never been more thankful because it helps you as a person to go through this, and you know it will take a long time.

Communicate honestly. Be calm.

Given the rolling uncertainty, with staff facing real threats of both sickness and loss of their jobs, while having to retreat to work from home, many of our participants spoke about the efforts they and their fellow leaders were putting in to communicating with their teams. One had the impression that what was showing up here was not only the personal approach and character of the individual leaders but the long-established culture of their organisation – something that underwrites how people will behave with each other under stress, and that cannot be faked.

Peter Chamley

Week of 4 May

Over the years I’ve learned that remaining calm in a crisis and being honest and transparent with my team works best. This is my way of handling uncertainty and modelling it for my people. Treating people like grownups, able to handle uncertainty, yet needing honest interaction with their leaders.

Elaine Roberts

Week of 4 May

This crisis reminds us that good leaders have experience of making tough decisions and living with the consequences. They have developed some humility about what they know and what they don't know. I think we’ve tried to be honest and we haven't shied away from some tough stuff that we're having to do. We're explaining the logic and rationale where appropriate. While people might not appreciate the message, they recognize they're not being excluded and things are being shared with them.

In a crisis, when one’s people are likely to be feeling threatened and anxious, a leader’s fundamental character – formed and tested long before - steps into the spotlight. How one holds oneself and how one holds one’s people in this moment is of the greatest consequence.

Peter Chamley

Week of 22 June

My style is to be open, to be able to display vulnerability, to be human. And to say when you don't know and don't have the answer. Make sure everybody has as much information as you can give them, even if you and they know that the information is incomplete for now. I'm able to just step back and be objective and not get sucked into the drama and the panic. I don't panic. I tend to find a way to be detached, look at a problem and say, "Right. We're going to calmly figure this out."

Adriana Campelo

Week of 13 July

Our Mayor has always said “We need to work at what we say. We cannot promise something that we are not able to do.” He says in our meetings, "I cannot say something that I cannot deliver, I need to deliver everything, every single word that I say." So I think it's a commitment of honesty. There is a sense that the administration is serious and strong, and sometimes makes decisions that the public doesn't like, but people know they’ll go ahead with it.

Deal honestly with loss and grief: it may bring surprising gifts

The early stages of the pandemic response were marked by an adrenalin-filled sense of collective action, but sooner or later there comes an encounter with death, a very personal experience. Good leaders make space for this reality, both in their teams and personally.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 27 April

Loss and real sorrow are just getting closer and closer. I think we're going to need to find ways to grieve and support one another as we go through… We aren't living in a bubble. It's a big semi-permeable membrane that surrounds all of us and we've got to acknowledge that these very human things are happening to our employees, in the midst of us keeping our business enterprise healthy and going strong.

Craig Kesson

Week of 4 May

We had a very sad milestone yesterday with our first staff member who died from COVID-19 in the city administration. They worked in one of the departments that I'm responsible for. We’ve taken all the steps that we tell everyone to follow in the public, from not just a health and safety perspective, but also an employee wellness perspective, the mental engagements, etc. But some staff have suggested we must close the entire Civic Centre. I said now is not the time to panic. There's a person, they had a name, they had a life, people knew them and there's where they worked…and now they're gone. It focuses the mind. But our job as leaders is to maintain our cool, in as much as we can. The possibility of trauma has been real for me for weeks, but it's very difficult to get everyone focused on the crisis when you are discussing theoretically what is going to happen in the future…until that day arrives, and you realize, heck, it's here!

Adriana Campelo

Week of 4 May

I had a sudden serious illness at the start of the year and had to stop everything, take time out. Then, as I was starting to come back, coronavirus arrived. It's been an interesting journey, dealing with crisis both on an internal, personal level and now also on an external, societal level. I've been left with the question "What matters?" What I've discovered is that I needed to slow down a lot personally, and in that process my perceptions of some things have changed. For instance, coming back into my department I've wanted to allow my team to keep a lot of the responsibility they took on when I had to be away.  I'm listening a lot more to them, letting them lead.

A small but fascinating insight into the way that, in times of great stress, the principle of skirting around a taboo subject – in this case death – may conflict with the principle of valuing one’s employees’ exceptional efforts.

Craig Kesson

Week of 22 June

I was receiving photos of staff on-site who are working almost 24/7, breaking down and extending the cremation facilities. I was excited about the fact that there is really visible progress, with people in their hazmat suits working on a public holiday so that we could be ready. So I shared these photos with my Executive Management Team, highlighting great teamwork and action. Some of them wrote back to say, "We feel a bit awkward about celebrating this, because of the connection with fatalities." And I said, "It's not the celebration of cremation facilities. It's the fact that these are our colleagues, working around the clock to make sure the City of Cape Town is ready, and they deserve to be celebrated for the immense work they are doing."

Leading from a position of not knowing

Most of us have grown up assuming that leaders know more than the rest of us. A crisis teaches leaders that, while they must do their utmost to understand what is going on and why, there are always things they cannot know – that perhaps nobody can know. Good leaders don’t feel threatened by not knowing and realize they must press on anyway, always prepared to change direction as new information arrives.

Peter Chamley

Week of 29 June

We had a board meeting yesterday and we set aside three quarters of an hour, and all we did was discuss racism. I said, "I'm not making a proposal, I'm not asking anything of you. My personal position is that I probably don't understand as much as I would like to. I'm a privileged, middle-aged white bloke brought up in a rural part of the U.K., so I haven't got any of this experience." We had a very good debate. A colleague from Malaysia, who's Chinese Malaysian, said, "There's racism in all places”. We've been very clear in saying, "Racism has no place within this firm." We're just wondering what do we do about it? If I launched something, would I actually be doing the right thing? Or am I actually making the situation worse?

Elaine Roberts

Week of 22 June

Sometimes I would like a politician to say, "This is a really complex problem and we are going to get these people together to answer these three questions. We commit to coming back to you in a week's time, not necessarily with all the answers, and then we'll go from there."

And there are some types of ‘not knowing’ that feel existential. How does a good leader deal with the sense that the path ahead may not actually exist?

Adriana Campelo

Week of 25 May

This week I have a feeling, more than before, of “Where are we going, actually?” I don't know if you feel that, where are you going? Kind of more lost, at least here. I can't see a horizon right now. I can't see a pathway.

Letting staff go

There seems an inevitable conflict between the economic needs of a business (which from time to time require staff numbers to be reduced) and the good leader’s sense of empathy with employees. Covid-19 brought this conflict into sharp focus for some of our business executives.

 

Peter Chamley

Week of 29 June

Nobody on my Executive Committee is arguing that we don’t need to let anybody go, even though there are some parts of the business that are quite busy at the moment, but we want to take the opportunity to just deal with one or two past mistakes. We've grown very quickly and maybe some of the hires haven't quite worked out the way that we wanted them to. There are some people with performance issues, so we have an opportunity to deal with that.

Tom Lewis

Week of 29 June

We just did a round of reductions, most of them furloughs. We're hoping we can bring the people back once we get more work, but truth be told, my guess is at least 20% of that team will be permanently reduced because I just don't see the likelihood of enough work coming to bring them all back, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. As a manager, some turnover from the lower end of the performers is naturally healthy, actually. 20 years ago, I wouldn't talk about it that way, but now I see it for what it is and it's true. We become stronger when these kinds of things happen and I view this the same way.

Peter Chamley

Week of 6 July

Before, the conversation about reducing staff numbers has been a bit more esoteric, because we've been talking about broad numbers and percentages and what does that do to the salary bill. We're now into the nitty gritty of names, where it starts to get more difficult. That's when the advocacy begins and the, "Well, I know we agreed to 10%, but I didn't really mean it," conversation. It's one of these times in the economic cycle that I find difficult. I don't think there are many people who would relish doing what we're doing at the moment. But we'll just work through it.

Elaine Roberts

Week of 6 July

In these times it feels important as a leader to remember that everybody is a human being. Connecting with people at a personal level is so important and can actually make difficult conversations easier, rather than harder.  When you have to have a difficult conversation with someone I believe its important that people feel “seen” as an individual. No one gets up in the morning looking forward to difficult conversations, all you can do is your best. So, you might be saying, “We're going to have to make some redundancies.” If I've really seen you beforehand, then people might not feel they’re just a name on a spreadsheet and you don’t care about them as a person.

Consciously letting go, and empowering others to step up

Just as our leaders have generally relished the leadership tasks that fell into their lap with this pandemic, several of them have spoken of realizing that others around them would equally thrive on being asked to shoulder more leadership.

 

Barbara Humpton

Week of 18 May

What's been really crystallized for me is that the most important thing I've learned to do - and I enjoy doing it - is to let others lead, to recognize that, especially at times like this, people want to step up, they want to be given more to do - so let it go.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 18 May

If you're really about getting work done, you don't have to get the praise. We want people to get tested but it doesn't have to be the City that's leading the charge. We're not the experts. So we’ve said to the County, "You either need to give us some money to operate and expand these test sites or you need to help us understand what your long term strategy is. Because if the City sites shut down, we are going to rely fully on you the County to help us meet the goals for testing per population." It's going to be an interesting shift for us, as the City, because I know I'm ready, and I’m hoping our political leadership is ready to hand to County what’s been an excellent City story of setting up and operating test sites.

Coincident with the Black Lives Matter surge came a realization that the voice of younger generations isn’t adequately represented in societal decision-making. There are things that can be done about this.

Tom Lewis

Week of 29 June

Transformation isn’t really about you and me in our age group. It's about how proactive the middle and the younger generation is going to be. Yes, I'm in power, I can yield a lot of influence and that's nice. But we who are in those positions can actually have a better impact by stepping aside and empowering other people that come behind us. I need to figure out who in that middle and younger generation in the company I need to focus on, doing everything I can to give them some power. I need to set up the right people in the right positions and help them, so they're effective; and then move aside and let them do it.

Influence, Diplomacy, Dialogue

Getting the decisions you think are best out of a large organisation – even when your role has seniority – usually entails personal persuasion and patiently building the requisite support. Even in a crisis, this may be the only way to get things done.

Stephen Hammer

Week of 15 June

Early in my career, I had to get out of government because I just couldn't tolerate the bureaucracy. I just wanted to do the good stuff and get it done and not have to deal with all the internal politics. Now, I'm in a position where I'm a bit more patient, still have little tolerance for it, but actually know how to maneuver more too. I'm senior enough that I actually can influence things a fair amount.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 29 June

It always has been difficult for me personally to recognize someone whose authority over me is just because they got a political position. Sometimes they don’t have the same qualifications that I have – and they are normally men. I started to train myself to be more humble and to try to identify what are the qualities that that person might have, understand why that person is there and work out how I could manage down my ego, my intellectual ego, so that I can connect with that person.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 15 June

I have faith in my leadership that we can get there. I know it's just going to take some massaging and conversation. And it's harder to do on email or in these quick online meetings. So I am trying to figure out how to write it out and really gel it into a way that folks are getting the message.

…and then there are times when playing the diplomatic game has become a habit and a screen to hide behind…

Stephen Hammer

Week of 13 July

We read a lot of tea leaves: “The board won't approve if…” or “The board won't do this if…” or “Our clients won't borrow if we do that.” So we always pull up short by ourselves. Shouldn't we in some cases try and fail? And see exactly how far we can get? And learn by doing?

The strange satisfactions of being severely challenged

In the early weeks several of our participants spoke of the exhilaration of responding to danger. As the crisis wore on, the exhilaration gave way to more complex emotions.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 4 May

I'm convinced that everything is going to keep changing, day in, day out, week in, week out for the foreseeable future. So I've coined the phrase 'the now normal'. It's very much like the things I've learned in yoga, just to be present. Keep yourself on your mat and recognize that the past is gone and you don't know what's coming. Everything you need is right here on this mat. What I'm finding is that I just have this deep-seated joy. I don't know how else to describe it, but this deep-seated joy. People want to be useful, and I'm people, I want to be useful.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 27 April

It's been incredibly taxing on me personally, physically, but it's been the most fulfilling eight weeks of my life.

Craig Kesson

Week of 6 July

You have to be relentless. Crises of this nature are long and hard, and no one else is going to pick up the slack for you. If you neglect it for a couple of days, or a week or two, it's not like the universe has said, "Right. You as a leader need a break, or to focus elsewhere, so we'll just keep everything in stasis for you." You have to be driving it, day in and day out, and it's very hard to delegate that. You can figure out who your drivers are, but it's really for you to keep up your understanding and your pressure. And there's no second act in this picture. You're either going to get it right or wrong. That's up to me, and that is the trust that has been given to me. I can recognize, at the human level: “Yes, I'm tired. Yes, a break would be nice.” Firstly, I know I couldn't take a break. It's just not possible, because even when I have my day off, my mind starts spinning. But second, it's just not in my personality. This was given to me, and I'm going to do it. That is what I mean by ‘it's relentless’.

The Turbulence of the Breaking Wave

In a crisis such as this one, with no certain end in sight for most countries, the initial high-octane response phase gave way after a few weeks to something much more complex for all our participants, taxing their leadership skills in new ways.

Dealing with uncertainty

All our participants have commented on the challenge of working with so little certainty and so few stable landmarks to navigate by. Not only is the behaviour of the coronavirus still not fully understood, but most national economies have entered freefall. Add to this having to work remotely from home and the job of keeping one’s organisation or city functioning simply magnifies.

Happily, in all our participants’ cases we got the sense that the people who needed to show up and be present to all this difficulty did exactly that. Stories abound of individuals and teams leaning in energetically to solve new problems and stabilize the chaos.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 20 April

In a crisis, paradoxically, many people will respond best if you give them really hard problems to solve. This may be particularly true of engineers and technically minded people, but possibly many others. It can channel adrenalin, provide a sense of clear purpose and reduce anxiety. Crises can draw out inspiring responses from one’s people. Devote resources to harvesting and sharing these in real time, particularly internally.

Craig Kesson

Week of 20 April

We are doing everything we can to process and broadcast messages of support, messages of appreciation for all of our staff members, and amplifying their stories and interactions and trying as much as we can to make sure that they get what they need.

Peter Chamley

Week of  11 May

Our hardest challenge currently is future planning – it’s like the ‘Phoney War’ in 1939, when we were at war but not much was happening. We’ve just had a really good month, revenue-wise, but there are clearly some sectors that are completely flat. And we’re sure it’s going to get tougher generally, but it’s so hard to plan with confidence. In normal times this kind of buoyant revenue picture would have us wondering about recruiting more staff – but we’re absolutely not there yet.

One of leadership’s toughest tasks in an existential crisis is to reckon with the inevitability of failure and loss, and to proceed purposefully anyway. Craig is charged with running the City of Cape Town’s Covid-19 response. After weeks of preparation he arrived at this reckoning.

Craig Kesson

Week of 11 May

I don't doubt that our systems are going to come under strain, they will. But in as much as we can be prepared for dealing with the pandemic at the operational and health level, I think we are there now, and it's going to come. Whether we are in hard lockdown or not, that moment will arrive. The consequences of the lockdown in terms of food security, in terms of economic and social security are so dire that they create compound problems that just make our response that much harder. From my engagement with the leadership, my sense is that we need to get into it and deal with what comes, without pretending that we can defer this pain, because it's just not possible. Those are very harsh calculations to make, but it would seem to me that they are responsible and mature leadership responses.

On the horns of the ‘re-opening’ dilemma

Locking down whole countries was, in retrospect, a relatively simple process, helped by the copy-cat effect that Wuhan went first and thereafter governments around the world had a template to work from. Also national governments tend to thrive on actions that involve central control, so the simplicity of ‘Stay at home!’ worked well in most cases for the first few weeks. But as our conversations started to reveal from mid-April onwards, the process of returning to work was going to be orders of magnitude more complex.

Tom Lewis

Week of 20 April

How to manage the gradual reopening of our offices? There is a lot of sophistication in reopening successfully. We’re polling our staff for their feelings and expectations. The added complexity of the patchwork of different states' approaches to the reopening. And of the various landlords whose office space we rent - what will their approach be? It really matters to staff to be communicated with often by management, and with a caring approach to their needs. Our plan has been to provide guidelines to staff but then allow them to respond to specific circumstances as they see fit, within some broad guidelines that have been set based on government frameworks - e.g. getting on public transport may be challenging, so allow continued work from home and off-peak commuting. And it was especially tough early on when PPE wasn’t available, yet clients wanted them to go to a site – we do not force those who are uncomfortable to do so.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 27 April

What the community want, I think, is not really to go back to normal life, but to get back some meaning, to let the puppies play together. But I think that people want to know the rules in advance. So what is important is that we get the rules for the Phase Two, not the day before, but some days in advance, so people can be prepared. At the same time some are asking "Must I go back to work for my boss's profit or can I take care of my health?”

It's an issue that tests an organisation’s claim that ‘our people are our greatest asset’. Will staff experience the organisation as truly having their best interests at heart? The answer seems to lie partly in the levels of trust that have been built over years and partly in the leadership’s willingness to communicate frequently and honestly as tough decisions approach, while listening thoroughly to staff concerns… all of it remotely through a computer screen.

Peter Chamley

Week of 20 April

We’re working out when and how we will re-open our own offices and helping clients with re-starting their operations in large buildings. It’s a complex challenge and pivots around the issue of trust. Staff need to trust that coming back to the office won’t put them in harm’s way, either using public transport or when they get to the building or a client’s site. In all cases, we’re finding that communicating openly with staff and asking their views is both much welcomed and yields useful information.

A common thread in conversations has been to ponder the implications of the pandemic for office-based working in future. Suddenly our assumptions about our head office as the body that naturally houses the mind and soul of an organisation have been thrown into doubt. Do we need big, expensive offices? The other side of that coin has been a realization that, while we still have head offices, re-opening them well calls for skill and judgment beyond that normally required of the office administrator.

Tom Lewis

Week of 4 May

We're making sure that office re-opening is not being handled as just any other office related activity that the office administrator would do, like ordering paper, or taking care of the copiers. This is much more important, so corporate leadership has asked the operational managers resident in the offices to take a leading role as to coordinating amongst those who want to come into the office, when they come into the office, tracking how they're doing in the office, etc.

The power of good data

Perhaps more than any other kind of crisis, the global spread of an invisible virus places the value of data front and centre. Our Chief Resilience Officers frequently referred to the importance of decision-makers being data literate in order to make sound, defensible decisions for their city.

Craig Kesson

Week of 8 June

As we move into the peak fatalities period, I’m comforted that we’ve now got our temporary morgue and the city’s 48 funeral businesses have started using the WhatsApp group we set up, sending us daily data about bodies they are handling. This is giving us a layer of more timely and reliable data than what we’re getting from the clinically-driven Provincial Government models, where a chronic delay in test results renders much of the data meaningless. It’s that test delay that stops funeral businesses from processing bodies as they must await a Covid result, and hence the need for the temporary morgue to provide that additional storage.

Mahesh Harhare

Week of 18 May

Something I thought was very obvious turned out not to be so to government officials. We regularly do digital mapping, but for them that was a game changer. The moment city officials started looking at the mapping exercise and saw they could update details into that in real time, they realized it would actually help them in terms of communicating better to stakeholders, doing proper analysis and managing resources.

…and often the quest for simple headline statistics overlooks critical nuances that lie beneath such numbers and suggest a different course of action.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 15 June

Everyone's obsessed with the numbers of people getting tested, and I get it, but zeroing in on the number and not on the ‘who’ is how you get people left behind. We have a huge screen in the Emergency Operations Center and our leadership want to see numbers every day of who's been tested. But it’s not just the numbers of people being tested, it’s also figuring out where they're coming from or what their race ethnicity is, given that the highest vulnerability is in the poorest areas of the city.

Leadership from a rollercoaster

We all experienced that trap of thinking, “Once this is over…”. But by early July it was becoming obvious to our participants that expecting an end to the crisis any time soon was more than just wishful thinking – at a psychological level it was positively unhelpful.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 6 July

The thing we've gotten right is this idea that we're in a period of rapid change. Stop thinking about change as something we're going to get through, but something that we have to master, that we have to be good at. I'm beginning to hear a couple people go, "I'm tired." I'm thinking, "If you're not exhilarated by this kind of change, then you may not be the right person for the role that we've got you in. Maybe we need to look at a different role if you find this exhausting." My feeling is, get yourself in the mindset that, "This is normal. This isn't strenuous. It's not exhausting.” I think differently now. My imagination is a lot more lively at moments like this.

Ann Rosenberg

Week of 13 July

When Covid hit the world there was a lot of unknowing, but because it's now been hitting so many parts of the world there's a trend that you kind of know how to deal with it. But how do we now go from being more or less paralyzed with Covid, to knowing how we navigate it, in an environment where our partners’ economies are continually opening up, closing down, opening up, closing down? I'm a person who loves planning. I love to know what we are doing in the next half year. This is now super difficult. You can't plan anything. You can only take one day at a time.

Peter Chamley

Week of 13 July

The renewed lockdown of Melbourne affects a lot of our staff. The general view is quite dispiriting. People feel very deflated. I think there's a lot of the people who have been doing it tough and they were just sensing some relaxation, kids going back to school, thank goodness for that. And now they are having to do it all over again. I think that's hitting some people quite hard. So the work that we've been doing over the last several months around people's wellbeing and personal comfort, we're going to have to redouble all those efforts.

If the mould no longer fits, break it, innovate and move on

Any crisis entails a dramatic change in circumstances. Systems originally set up in circumstances that no longer exist may need to be suspended or changed - all at speed.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 29 June

We're still at low infection numbers for Siemens but we're seeing an uptick and we're seeing more frequent closure of facilities. So every time we've got to take a factory down for a shift or a day, that's an impact to the business. I’m saying, “Let's start managing the whole picture, not just focusing on how many sick days our staff are allowed and thinking, ‘That's all we can afford.’ Could you pay somebody to stay home if you knew that otherwise you'd have to shut down the site?” Simple math.

Craig Kesson

Week of 29 June

We have a contingency plan to help the private funeral home industry to cope. It relies on a number of drivers to drive repurposed City vehicles to take bodies to where they need to go. We have the vehicles, we have the drivers, who are currently under-utilized because of our working practices at the moment. The problem is getting the drivers to agree to take the bodies, because it's one thing to be moving documents from one city building to another but it's another thing to deal psychologically with taking a body. We always knew we would hit this constraint, but we're trying to work through it. I think we have a viable incentive scheme, which is basically a form of risk pay that we will be willing to give the drivers. I fully believe in asking people to go above and beyond, but I do understand that asking someone to go somewhere to pick up a dead body who has never done it before, that is a bit more than saying, “Can you work a few more hours after five o'clock each day?”

Lift your head and collaborate, collaborate

In ‘normal times’, competition seems an unavoidable characteristic of both politics and business. In an existential crisis the stakes alter dramatically. People quickly become intolerant of such behaviour from prominent institutions when life-or-death decisions are to be taken. Indeed, there may never be better conditions for collaborating across boundaries than in a meta-crisis where everyone is affected and involved.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 18 May

I think Brazilian society is very competitive, even though some people assume we’re more ‘collective’ because we like to live and gather in large groups. But then in the very first moment of this crisis people were very afraid because they didn't know what was going on, yet there was a willingness to help, to collaborate somehow. It was very positive. We could also see this in big companies, even though philanthropy is not as strong in Brazil as in other countries. It was quite powerful. Some very rich people start to organize a movement, organising big companies and wealthy individuals to get together to donate.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 18 May

To address some historic difficulties in collaborating with Alameda County my team and I have been actively seeking their involvement and showing appreciation for everything they do of a collaborative nature. Even in the just last week the synergy has been different...they're coming to the table more.

Craig Kesson

Week of 18 May

I've been working deeply with provincial colleagues and city colleagues on what our approach is to the ‘hot-spot’ areas, which are now our strategic focus. You could boil it down to an intensification of our public health measures in those areas and our resource allocation. But it was quite gratifying to see that, given the time we had spent to get the planning parameters right for general service responses, we are now able to activate them to say, "Deploy in this area." What the payoffs will be remains to be seen, but at least there is good coordination within government and we’re leading thematically and not just across sectors.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 25 May

What we’ve learned in the first phase is that people were willing to collaborate. For this city and this state, this is very important because politics always gets in the way of things. Politicians are always putting their own before the public’s interest. But this time was totally different. What we saw here was a civics lesson. I hope that the collaboration continues as we reinvent how we manage the city, manage business and manage our lives.

Mahesh Harhare

Week of 18 May

I think during these months, a lot of trust building has happened between governments, citizens, and the corporates. I think the way corporates are functioning will drastically change over time. Since a lot of these corporates and other entities, like educational institutes, were involved in supporting the city, they will play a very active role once the entire curve is flattened and the situation is completely under control. They will actively get involved, especially in aspects related to public health and sanitation. I think the next time something like this unfortunately happens, the government will know the players, and which ones were active.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 6 July

One change that I hope will last is the state government and the municipalities collaborating a lot. The municipalities are creating lots of protocols for each sector and each activity. But then the governor and the mayor put together the teams to work on this, so the city and the state will announce one single protocol, so as not to confuse people. And both teams are working on the economy as well, to reduce the number of different taxes and make things easier for business. And that’s more than collaborating, it's actually working together. So I think this is very radical.

Where must authority be situated in a crisis?

The appropriate location of decision-making is rarely a question that captures the public’s attention, yet it can make all the difference as to whether governance can be effective in a crisis. In the pandemic we quickly learned the value of top-down, nationwide lockdowns. But as time wore on it became more and more obvious that many crucial tasks are better handled locally than centrally. Indeed, this is a well understood principle of disaster management: delegate authority and resources to the most local level that can handle them. However, that requires central authorities to let go…

Barbara Humpton

Week of 13 July

Crises are best managed by the people who are closest to the action. In the US we have actually gone for hyper-local empowerment. You heard the President say, "Hey, governors, this is yours to go solve." And then of course governors were dealing with city managers. Often the true nature of a crisis is hyper-local, so people close to it solve it, but this is more, "Who am I going to blame for the health crisis and the economic crisis?" It makes you wonder what the appropriate response would be.

Craig Kesson

Week of 29 June

When we present to the Provincial government on certain initiatives, it's almost as if they can’t comprehend that the City would be thinking innovatively about something – it doesn't compute. It's like a cognitive bias, perhaps an institutional one. I've certainly believed for so long that cities are where so much attention, public policy, and effort happens. But the Provincial and National government just have no way to register an innovation that comes from the City, to understand that this is something that a local government could do or think about. I do have a very rich working relationship with many provincial colleagues, and it does not impede my relationships or my work, but this is a deeper reflection about the manner of cooperative governance.

Mahesh Harhare

Week of 13 July

Right now there is a lot of autonomy given to the state and the city to decide what to do. But a lot of health facilities are with the private sector, and it's really difficult for the city to have the kind of control where you can really serve society. State and city must work together with those hospitals to basically tell them that this is a critical situation, where we want maximum control of facilities, so that we can respond dynamically, based on real-time changes in the situation.

In the middle of one crisis, another arrives

For the first few weeks, Covid-19 was pretty much the sole object of our participants’ attention. This was remarkable but could not last, and soon they were faced with additional layers of complexity and challenge.

Hurricanes

Tom Lewis

Week of 13 July

Hurricane season is coming to the East and Gulf Coasts. We’re preparing for a call with the leadership of one of our most important state government clients to talk about not just getting ready for a second wave of Covid cases, but for that to happen at the same time as hurricanes, which peak from August through October. This raises all kinds of difficult questions. For example, they ordinarily have very prescribed evacuation procedures and routes and systems with buses or other mass transport. And then sheltering and what they call ‘mass care’, such as where you put people in a school gymnasium or an auditorium or sports arena. So now what are you going to do? Maybe there's more sheltering in place. Maybe you're using things like Uber and Lyft instead of buses. Maybe you're using hotels or college dormitories that are sitting empty instead of large gymnasiums to mass shelter people with more individual separation.

The Black Lives Matter protests

When the BLM protests broke out at the end of May, our participants in the US (and shortly after, the others) immediately recognized it as something they needed to turn and face, a crisis demanding their attention just as Covid-19 had.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 8 June

I'm still in charge of test site operations and getting test numbers up. City resources are all strained, trying to deal with these protests. Staffing the test sites has been hard, including security, as police are preoccupied with the protests, and now we're dealing with a potential surge in cases. But then there’s the matter of getting a test operator who's comfortable being in those spaces where I can't control the police. How can I get someone to commit to showing up at a testing site if we have, over the last few nights, teargassing and flash bang bombs?

Barbara Humpton

Week of 13 July

Because we started with a healthcare crisis that precipitated a financial crisis, you could almost predict from the very beginning that we now have ourselves a political crisis as well. These things are inexorably linked. At Siemens we were getting ready to ramp down our formal global crisis team. The idea is that we've put new approaches in place, we’ve empowered individuals on the local level, we have escalation paths set up for them in the normal course of doing business. So we don't need a crisis team to help us with that. But now add on a layer of civil disruption, and yes, we in the US will need to deal with that. On top of that, we've got a storm season that's about to start, so we're prepared for that. And so having a team of colleagues that are constantly acknowledging and managing, I think we're in good shape.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 15 June

The George Floyd saga has opened the eyes of multiple departments, not just police, to their role in structural racism and perhaps even contributing to police brutality. For example, the Department of Transportation is now thinking about parking tickets, which are a big revenue producer. There's literally a pipeline from parking ticket to unpaid parking ticket, to people driving after their license has been revoked because they have to get to work, to - in certain cases – incarceration, mostly of low income black and brown people. So how can we create a parking ticket solution that is more equitable? This is not just police, it's structural racism. It's our economy. It's everything. So it's everybody's responsibility. Hearing department directors ask those questions has been heartening, it's been nice to see.

Elaine Roberts

Week of 22 June

As the BLM issue has gained prominence, some colleagues have been saying, “We’ve got to do something!” I think we must find proportionality within that. I’ve asked, “Well, you say we need to do something, but what is the why? Let's understand the issue and the facts of our relationship to it, historically and now, and let’s think through what are the points we really need to be making and the actions we need to be taking?”

These protests remind us of old hurts, old prejudices

Alexandria McBride

Week of 22 June

[The technology for Covid-19 testing] has been developed by tech companies that were around before all this started, they made their business model on genome mapping. Now they are getting big contracts with the County to set up testing, since they are coming up with solutions that are “quick and efficient”. But they're saying that they still have the right to sell that data, which is coming out of these swabs [for testing for Covid-19]. It'll be anonymized, but they still have a right to sell data. In the States, it reminds a lot of us about the Tuskegee Experiment. This was a syphilis study done in the fifties or sixties, to test a cure for syphilis. They specifically went to black populations to do that testing, and it was government sanctioned. They were essentially testing it on black people and not giving them the cure. Many black people died at a time where they had a cure for it.

Peter Chamley

Week of 8 June

We have a number of Aboriginal employees within the organization. I know that some of them have found the recent events quite disturbing and personally very stressful, because it brings into the open for some of them how they were treated themselves. Arup has a range of initiatives aimed at integrating Aboriginal students and professionals into the organisation, and several field programmes using our engineering skills. But in a way, the more ways you find to contribute, the more you realize there are some problems you can't fix - but you also can't walk away from them.

Tom Lewis

Week of 13 July

Sometimes, when you say something in a meeting, and then later you hear the same thing said by somebody else who’s maybe a little louder, or a little more of the mainstream. Then all of a sudden, it's a great idea, and it’s their idea. This happened often with me and my boss and mentor at my previous company, and I used to let it go. At first, it bothered me, but after a while, I just said, “It's not worth it. I'll just let it go.” It's interesting, because it was maybe another category of white privilege that doesn't bother me as much, because I'm not a woman, I'm not of color, so I can't ascribe it to that when it happens to me…and it did. I look back at it now, especially through the lens of the current inequality issue, and see I was basically contributing to the problem by letting that behavior go.

Organizing for the longer-haul crisis

Time plays a crucial role in any crisis. Our participants’ organisations all made rapid adaptive changes to their operations once the pandemic became clear, but the mainstream assumption was that this was a storm that could be persuaded to pass within a few weeks, or at worst months. Once that assumption fell away, strategies had to be revised.

Craig Kesson

Week of 22 June

I've gone through two structural iterations with my team in dealing with this crisis, a planning phase which was frenetic and then a highly structured execution phase, which has now been going for about six weeks. What is concerning me is that back in the day, we thought the peak would be a sharp curve that lasted two or three weeks, but now it looks longer and flatter, projected to last from late July to early October. So what I'm wrestling with in my mind is whether there’s another structural change that I need to go through in order to manage that longer, harder slog, which I also think is going to amplify the economic effects of Covid. If I recalibrate the structure, we'll lessen the pace and the load for those who've just been doing this and nothing else for three or four months. But there’s a level of depth and strain on a system, whether it's depot closures or service disruptions that you are dealing with for a longer time period, because all of this has been set up to deal with a certain expected level and duration of crisis management. I think there may be a different language we need to use, or at least adapt. Where do we start to make the transition from crisis leadership to - I don't know what that would be – ‘pressurized operations, sustained over time’?

Barbara Humpton

Week of 22 June

At Siemens globally we’ve declared that we are no longer in a crisis. A crisis happens when we have a disruption, when we realise that the tools we have that we're using today are not sufficient to help us successfully weather what's happening, in this case pandemic. First with the health crisis, then with the risk of a financial crisis, then with the BLM societal crisis, we have in each case gone into crisis mode, but then, as soon as we’d put in place reliable systems to manage down the elements of disruption and turn them into tasks, we agreed, “The things we can control, we now have under control”, and we moved out of crisis mode on that issue.

The emotional and psychological pressure of the longer-haul crisis

We humans are genetically programmed to move swiftly into a high-adrenalin response to danger, and all our participants referenced the intensity and astonishing speed of adaptation they achieved in the early days and weeks of the pandemic. What followed, when the danger stubbornly refused to go away, was an inevitable deflation. Our participants and their teams confronted the real possibility of becoming stuck in a very drawn-out, low-adrenalin crisis.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 25 May

I just went for three days to the Lake and took a moment. You start to recall what you have done during the last three or four months and you recognize what really happened, because during the last three months, you were in a kind of bubble. I had a chance to reflect on what should have been done better, to give me a chance to act differently. And it's quite shocking, because you didn't realize. It's like downhill skiing. You go for three months on a roll without stopping. And then you realize that maybe we should have more time to think and to take a break, even if you don't have the time, because you need to have this break.

Craig Kesson

Week of 25 May

I think there's no doubt my team is under pressure. The people dealing with fatalities management are under a lot of pressure. And I'm trying to do as much pastoral work as I can to motivate people, to not be hard on them. To push and to drive, but not to break. And trying to pull out all of the leadership qualities that I may have got over the past few years. It's interesting for me just to know how the people close to me are observing me emotionally during this time. And these people, who've been with me through several crises, if I express a frustration I can see they think, “Is he asking me to come in and support him?” So I'm very clear to say, "This is not making me fall apart. I just need to express this, and you need to hear it. And now I've got it off my chest and I've let it go."

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 8 June

I think there is a bit of anger around, in my opinion because a lot of people are tired and they need a break. It seems that a lot of people are working too much.  And there isn't even certainty about a holiday because you don't know where you will be allowed to go.

I had a conversation with a friend - she left here and went back home to the South. And she said, "Why did you not answer my calls?" "Because you left the city. It's easy to stay in a city like Milan when everything's going well. But it's too easy to leave the city and then come back in September, when we have gone through all the difficulties. And then you come back and you’ll find everything fine. We needed all the support we could get.” Somehow my reaction was too strong on this. I called a psychologist friend, who said, "This is completely normal. Because you were more exposed to the reality than the other people, and then when you speak with someone who was not, it's quite easy to have this kind of reaction.” There is no one who was not exposed from a psychological point of view. When you’re exposed to death, different people have completely different reactions. And we don't know, we can't judge, we can't play the policeman - we need to reflect on the other person’s situation.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 22 June

I think people are getting tired. I can see it in my family, we are getting tired of not having any kind of light ahead. Where are we going? And I'm scared that we will lose the opportunity to learn a lesson. We know there is another crisis that has been announced for quite a while, the climate crisis. We are not doing enough to avoid that next crisis. For what are we going through this crisis, then? What do we have to learn here?

Alexandria McBride

Week of 22 June

Personally, I found it hard stopping and then having to start again, after taking a few days off. Stepping away allowed me to observe how much and how intensely I’d been working. So on Monday morning, I was like, “You’ve already lifted a hundred weights, you took a break, and now you have to do it all again - only this time you know how heavy and awful it was.” It was a surprising challenge. But then, I'd do it all again in a minute, so that was nice.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 20 July

I've been doing public consultations for our very democratic climate action plan, and I thought it would be a great opportunity. But actually people were dumping, they were angry for everything and not turning on their cameras. I think it's nothing to do with climate change. I think it's to do with the fact that they don't know what to do and they are losing jobs, having their incomes reduced. They have to deal with the children doing home schooling and they have to cook, clean, and stay in the same space.

Recovering Better

Our participants are, both by nature and by choice of role, people who work to improve the future. This has meant that, even while spending most of their daily energy focusing on solving the immediate problems posed by the pandemic, their gaze would inevitably shift from time to time to consider the future and how it would be altered by current events.

Green stimulus? Green recovery?

What will it take to tilt the way governments, particularly in the developing world, spend their stimulus billions? Our participant from the world of development finance sees the post-Covid stimulus and recovery period as a unique opportunity to influence a green recovery, simply because of the unprecedented scale of the money being borrowed and granted. But it’s a hard sell to conventionally minded finance departments and their political masters.

Stephen Hammer

Week of 4 May

The real risk is, 10 years from now - or even two years from now - they're going to be writing the same obituary of the billions of dollars that went out the door. ‘We would have, should have, etc. Just like 2008 and 2009.’ Well we didn't get it done, and therefore we lost the decade. And given that this is the final decade in which to be able to do things in a cost effective manner to address climate, it comes back to, ‘Can't we get out of our box and really push very hard or think a bit more creatively?’ It's widely recognized in our C-suite that we should seize this window, but the conversations with client governments are naturally highly complex given the many needs in these countries.  It’s a real dance. And it's a bit of a time crunch that we're facing. I think it is weeks that we have.

Stephen Hammer

Week of 15 June

Of all the things in the world that we could do to move the climate needle or the climate finance needle, how do we figure out which we want to do in the coming six months? We're dealing with countries that have so many development challenges that I don't envy the ministers who have to make the call in terms of what goes into the package, because there's so many things that they could spend it on. If this is your one bite at the apple, you're making some judgment on what's really going to do the most for your country over the long-term or short-term. Are you going to argue that if you're going to be spending a lot of money, that you should not address those issues and only go do the green stuff?

Peter Chamley

Week of 13 July

Government tend to focus on shovel-ready projects, of which there are relatively few. Don't just think about something that's shovel-ready, which has been on the cards for years, think about something that is truly new, that won’t be shovel ready but rather pencil ready or mouse-ready. For example there is a lot of investment going into solar and wind. That's making the grid a bit unstable, so invest in the grid to handle an increased level of renewables. Or skip electric and go straight to the next generation with hydrogen-powered rail. Leapfrog rather than just doing a bit more of the same. A lot of stimulus going on is business as usual, not using the chance for a future investment.

Stephen Hammer

Week of 13 July

There is a push by many for conditionality: “You can have our money, but you have to do the following…”. If we're not thinking about conditionality and a link to a long-term development trajectory strategy, then there is a risk that money is spent only on immediate needs. We have certain governments approaching us embracing this long-term focus but given the type of lending instruments being used, there’s great flexibility in how funds can ultimately be used.  So lots of attention is being paid to help craft data-driven arguments about the benefits of spending on A versus B, showing the economic value of thinking both short and long-term.

Inequality: seize the opportunity to move the dial.

Crises usually shine a spotlight on inequality, as it is the poorest who have the fewest options to escape disaster or recover afterwards. Covid-19 has done so on a breathtaking scale, both as a virus that seems to affect certain minority groups disproportionately, and through the mass-scale shutting down of economies, cutting off livelihoods. But in amongst the losses and misery there are some signs that the scale of inequality has become too glaring to ignore, and it may be harder to go back to the ‘old normal’.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 18 May

Normally Brazil is very bureaucratic and to access official systems you have to be registered to vote, etc. But in order to deliver its emergency Covid cash benefits to the poor, the federal government decided to create a digital ID, which would be given to anyone with a cell phone. The big surprise has been the amount of people that actually emerged to claim this digital ID, people who have been living in informality all this time. There was a layer of invisible citizens who were not in any kind of statistics. They didn't have any social security. Last week people started to say the country needs to have a plan for these people, needs to be accountable for these people.

Alexandria McBride

Week of 18 May

I’m part of the newly formed Racial Health Disparities Task Force, started in the wake of Covid-19. It's a broad group of City and County staff plus other stakeholders. Its big ambition is to eliminate disparities related to Covid-19 in the city of Oakland. To do that we need to understand, amongst other things, why Black and Latinx folks are suffering a higher death rate from Covid-19, and the link to higher air quality burdens in their communities.

Ann Rosenberg

Week of 18 May

You can say Denmark is now becoming a safe zone. Finland a safe zone. New Zealand a safe zone. Okay, so what are we now going to do to help? How are we going to help other countries? You can say, "Denmark is okay, so now we're fine." No. We are learning the hard way. You cannot leave anybody behind, because if it is true that there was one person that activated this whole chain reaction, that exactly underlines how that one person you leave behind somewhere in the world can start the whole thing all over again.

Identifying and supporting leaders for the next crisis

A crisis can be understood as an audition for the next generation of leadership, and of leadership ideas. But the learning must be conscious, and time must be allocated to do the necessary collective reflection. As a crisis winds down, people in the thick of responding to it are usually tired and have to move on, so valuable lessons get buried and forgotten.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 25 May

In September or October, when we're starting to get out of this mess, I think the mayor or the city manager should call all the departmental directors together and say, "Look, this is what we did together. And now we should do an exercise to say ‘This was fine. That was a good choice. But what could we do better next time?’ So we’ll use this to improve our decision-making in future crises.

Tom Lewis

Week of 15 June

Some of my leaders on the leadership team stepped up and really shone, because everybody had to do more and more. Others didn’t. Something we don’t have within my senior leadership team – but it would be good to develop - is leading indicators that reveal manager performance. What leading indicators might have given us some warning that these one or two individuals really were struggling?

Craig Kesson

Week of 15 June

When we bring new managers into the organization we’ve understood for several years that we need to focus on transversal management skills, leadership, resilience and working under pressure in crisis and uncertainty. As that extends to executive management, I think we're going to have to look at that very quickly. We have done quite a lot of work in the executive team in the past year, focusing on leadership development as a team. Has that extended to what it means to work in crisis? Not necessarily, but absolutely it is on the agenda for when we emerge, whenever that may be.

Planning cities and infrastructure for resilience

Chief Resilience Officers, as their name suggests, cannot help but see opportunities for improving their cities’ resilience, even in the midst of an existential crisis.

Mahesh Harhare

Week of 4 May

I see more de-centralization coming. There is a large fruit & veg market in the city centre, but it’s inside the containment (Red) zone, so very restricted at the moment. I expect the City to develop several smaller markets in different parts of the city, to be more flexible in a crisis. Similarly, we have a big central train station. We could develop satellite stations around the city to be more resilient.

Piero Pelizzaro

Week of 4 May

We’re looking for dual use of infrastructure all the time. We want to revive the local cultural scene (Milan is known globally for its rich cultural calendar), so we’re looking at New York’s idea of closing down one street (or portion of a street) in each district, so pedestrians can socially distance more easily, restaurants can spill out onto the street and we can host cultural events. We have 88 small districts in the city. We plan to close particularly streets that have e-vehicle charging stations, so that sound equipment can be run off them for pop-up concerts and other cultural events.

Towards a Resilient Future

Since early in the pandemic, there has been a palpable sense that it represents an existential crisis at all levels - individual, organisational, urban and national. Several of our participants shared their reflections on new approaches and principles that could form the bedrock of a more resilient future for our organisations and cities.

The emerging ‘Con-Covid’ landscape and its implications

The contours of this future, living with Covid-19, are only gradually forming. But that hasn’t stopped our participants thinking about both its implications and its creative possibilities.

Barbara Humpton

Week of 11 May

Everybody says "Post- Covid," but I'm going to say, "Con- Covid "...that there's a different way of being in the company of this virus, and so start to get that positive sense of, "OK, once we accept that, we can get creative." Late last year we created a strategy framework we called the US Agenda 2030 - here's what we think our US markets are going to look like for our five main areas of business. We've engaged internal consultants to help us think through the question, 'How does Covid affect these? And what other opportunities should we be considering since things are changing everywhere?' The real trick is how to set up an exercise like this without constraining ourselves. Incremental thinking isn't what we're interested in. We're interested in the really big thoughts.

Our CFO said, "Isn't it too early to be doing this? Who has a crystal ball? Who has certainty?" So we all agreed the objective here is not to create a prescriptive plan, but to hypothesize a set of possibilities and then to set up a sensor network with specific things to be watching for. "Hey, we're getting indications that what we thought is in fact happening – or not," and be able to feed that back into the businesses by way of guidance as they respond to the market. And in the spirit of killing as many birds with one stone as possible, we're thinking through what university relationships we have where students may not have things to do this summer, so can we tap into some brain power that would otherwise be idle. And then what about the talents in our own organization? Is there anyone we can draw into the network of the team that's doing this, in order to keep people's hearts and minds fully engaged?

Peter Chamley

Week of 29 June

We’re having a philosophical debate at work around the future of the commercial office world. A lot of our building and design work is for commercial office clients, and right now they have no clue what the future looks like. Firstly, they depend upon organizations growing and moving into new space. I can't see any organization right now being able to take a decision about this. And if you are going to move, how much space do you need? At the moment, all I hear is that nobody is looking for new space.

Mahesh Harhare

Week of 13 July

Right now there is a lot of autonomy given to the state and the city to decide what to do. But a lot of health facilities are with the private sector, and it's really difficult for the city to have the kind of control where you can really serve society. State and city must work together with those hospitals to tell them this is a critical situation, where we want maximum control of facilities, so that we can respond dynamically, based on real-time changes in the situation. And it’s critical to ensure that the relationship is not spoiled because otherwise it gives a very bad signal to the citizens that the state and the city is not prepared for the second phase of the outbreak, and then there'll be a lot of anger.

Hany Fam

Week of 15 June

I'm worried that we're going to repeat old mistakes with critical urban infrastructure in the response to this crisis: “Let’s get this stimulus package out the door, let someone else figure out later how we're going to pay for it. ”It’s the hamster wheel of “How do I get re-elected?” rather than asking “Where are we really going as a city? There's a measure of pain that we all need to go through together in this process, but we'll come out better and stronger. And here are the different scenarios that could play out and here's how we could think about them.” That sort of leadership is very rare. A crisis like this is the absolute best time for leadership to come forth and say, "No, we're going to do it differently. What's it going to take for us to be stronger, better, safer?”

Ann Rosenberg

Week of 15 June

Denmark competes with other Nordic countries to attract talent and investment. We now are getting investment enquiries into Denmark that we didn't get before, because we have done much better with the pandemic. I think that’s interesting. What were the winning countries before? And what are the winning countries afterwards, and why? Some factors that are becoming important used not to be factors before.

We’ve been challenged to think differently for our future

Our collective unpreparedness for the pandemic has raised the obvious question, ‘What would it be like if we were well prepared for future crises?’ Which in turn begs the question, ‘What would that require us to have done?’ Answering these, one quickly realizes that our normal methods and institutions for designing and planning our future are simply not up to the task. So what if we began improving these, starting right where we are?

Alexandria McBride

Week of 6 July

Now these issues are sort of merged. We're thinking about recovery, not just from the pandemic, but also from historic, structural racism and other policies. I see us now turning the page to what I imagine to be a new world, or at least thinking about it. And I'm seeing it as an opportunity. I know I've been more open-minded, and so has my mayor. She’s been more willing to listen and try new things than I've ever seen. I think there's an opportunity to leverage that excitement.

Hany Fam

Week of 29 June

How many major cities are doing any form of credible, thoughtful scenario planning and then going and applying that to the market or to the sectors and players in their city, to understand which ones they should be bolstering? Not in the midst of crisis, but in anticipation. Are there scenarios informing thinking that say, "We should have at least a critical mass of X type of businesses or Y type of assets. Or how much of our local supply chain should be on soil versus foreign? Because we've done seven scenarios and under four of the seven, these things become critical and we don't have enough of them." The scenarios could be climatic, business, a pandemic, whatever it is. I don’t know the answer to this at all, but I think it's a mission critical question to the topic that we're tackling here. It's almost crying out in the public sector for a Citizen Assembly, thinking about different scenarios, where people are exposed to the potential of different things happening and they really participate to think through those different eventualities.

Peter Chamley

Week of 13 July

This is a moment where Arup could help get thinkers together - I was going to say ’like-minded thinkers’ but I actually think you need people with disparate views to get together to think through these topics. For example, is this a time for a radical change in how we make our cities work?

A new role for data-led decision-making

The reliance on often complex health data for decision-making during the pandemic has helped warm up the political class to the value of data in decision-making, bringing us close to a future where data-led decision-making is the norm, not the exception.

Mahesh Harhare

Week of 8 June

There was a brainstorming session involving senior people from all levels of government, where a lot of data and insights were discussed on a dashboard. That is a change because that kind of visualization gave them an opportunity to dispel certain notions or assumptions. I think that the working style has changed towards well-informed, data-based decision making, and I think that will be embedded over a period of time, even for crucial infrastructure projects, not only for disasters. Pune is known as ‘the Oxford of the East’, with many educational institutes, researchers, intellectuals. They can actually help the City in our decision-making, building on whatever raw data or information we have between us.

Craig Kesson

Week of 22 June

Something I'm quite proud of is that in my weekly briefing to the Mayoral Committee, we had a really rich discussion about what is publicly communicated by both National Government and ourselves on Covid related death numbers, going through why - after some very deep data analysis - we believe that there's a lag in their numbers. It was such a great conversation to have with leaders, where we were actively remembering what we learned from the Day Zero drought crisis, where we used the most conservative approach to when we thought water would run out. I don't think there will be another crisis in the city where the leadership don't start with, "What does the data tell us, where are the data?" It's such a great sea change. I said to some colleagues yesterday on the Data Coordinating Committee I chair, “There are things that we've done now with data and Covid that have probably advanced by years our change strategy for getting the organization to be data-driven."

Where will future leadership come from?

Covid-19 has caused us to ask some big and necessary questions about inclusion – not simply because inclusion is morally better but also because perhaps these kinds of existential crises demand a diversity of leadership that our institutions are not accustomed to producing. Might we be better led in future by configurations of capability that are hard to imagine right now?

Elaine Roberts

Week of 8 June

I think there will be an evolution of what it means to be a good CEO – that its much more than delivering financial returns. There'll be other values that will come into play, not just in the sense of a balanced scorecard but much more about purpose and connectedness to the global issues. Business transcends national and political boundaries. It connects and employs people across the world and it serves those people. And business leaders are emerging as the voice of reason in these times of change. In the future as communities look for somebody to provide good leadership, they may find that more readily amongst business leaders than amongst politicians.

Tom Lewis

Week of 6 July

I have 5-10 years, max 15 years left in my career. I need to start figuring out now who I can help. Who are those young people I can help? If we could say to leaders like me, "Okay, one of your leading KPI’s that you're going to be judged on, Tom, is that you need to have five touchpoints per month with the youth." I think that's what it's going to take. I might do it anyway if I decide to personally, but if you really want the broad-based leadership to buy in, build it into the KPI’s that all the leaders are judged on. Now you're walking the walk, not just talking the talk. It's got to be measured, it's got to be incentivized. Otherwise it'll continue to just be small islands of time we devote to it.

Ann Rosenberg

Week of 6 July

 I think there are a lot of companies that need to hire people for different kinds of jobs and practices that require sustainability as a skill. Many companies are looking into these skills and ramping up that skillset now. It's the same thing if you look at Black Lives Matters. You can see it when you're looking at job postings now - there's a lot of people recruiting people with a sustainability skillset, a lot with diversity inclusion skills. So I think companies are taking this very seriously. They know they need more skills and more focus on this.

Adriana Campelo

Week of 22 June

One change that I hope will last is the state government and the municipalities collaborating a lot. The municipalities are creating lots of protocols for each sector and each activity. But then the governor and the mayor put together the teams to work on this, so the city and the state will announce one single protocol, so as not to confuse people. And both teams are working on the economy as well, to reduce the number of different taxes and make things easier for business. And that’s more than collaborating, it's actually working together. So I think this is very radical.

Only radical approaches need apply

As the weeks wore on and the limitations of our standard responses to danger became more apparent, it was intriguing to note how some of our participants started speculating about more fundamental change.

Hany Fam

Week of 15 June

I think this is a time for extreme and aggressive scenario planning and radical thinking to come up with different ways to address critical structural inefficiencies that we've tolerated in the past. I think you need to involve two different thought processes: the radical thinkers that can come in and challenge the status quo, and the people who understand what's there in the city and who are open to changing it. Absolutely not the people who are there to preserve what's already there. You need change agents, and you need to embed the change agents pervasively across the system and empower them in every aspect of this process. The Chief Resilience Officers are great examples of this. They could be good advocates for those change agents if we empower them more. But you need the radical thinkers in the room who are going to come up with the crazy ideas and say, "What if? What if we could do this? What if we could do that?" I think cities can be nimble, agile, effective if they go back and tear down some of the blockers and obstacles that they've had the luxury of living with in the past.

Elaine Roberts

Week of 22 June

I'd say at the moment we believe money is an individual right, not a universal right, and what if you move to a world that said, there's enough to go around for everybody, but some of you will have to have a bit less. But who's going to give it up? Who's going to persuade somebody that the poor need more and the rich need less, when the people who are making all the decisions are pretty rich?

Hany Fam

Week of 13 July

We are in a world that has just taken a quantum jump forward to mass unemployment, and we need a different mechanism, a different social exchange for providing minimum benefits to individuals in society. We need to think about a very different way of people micro working, even highly skilled people, at different points in their life. A different redistribution model of wealth has got to come into play, something that creates an incentive for people to do their part in society and help out however they can. Today, the model is unless you have full time, gainful employment, or you're semi-retired and not reliant on income, then you're a nobody. You don't exist. That model needs to change.

Participants

The Emerging Insights on this page have been distilled from weekly interviews with the same twelve participants. We are grateful to our participants for taking time out of their busy schedules every week, and sharing their personal reflections and thoughts through this trying time. Please note that they do this in their own capacity, not as a spokesperson on behalf of their organisation.