The need for civic engagement and clarity at Covid-19

Author: Manu Steens

Two articles on the website of the VRT appealed to me. They block the seriousness of the situation:

– Microbiologist Herman Goossens: “Insufficient Security Council measures, we are heading for disaster if we don’t act quickly”.

– Antwerp governor pleads: “Please limit your social contact to your family or choose two regular friends”.

The governor also said in the interview, “Be tougher on yourself than what’s allowed.”

This is not simple: it requires engagement and participation from the people.

Then, of course, the question arises: “What is engagement?”. And what are decisive factors at the government that demands engagement from the citizen?

According to John C. Besley (in Chapter22: ‘Public Engagement in Risk-Related Decision Making’ in ‘The SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication’), the fact that public engagement can involve a huge variety of activities is a stumbling block to transform available information into knowledge.

According to Creighton, public engagement is “the process by which public concerns, needs and values are incorporated into governmental and corporate decision making. It is two-way communication and interaction, with the overall goal of better decisions that are supported by the public”.

There may also be mechanisms whereby citizens have some degree of control over decisions. This then is a continuum that goes from agreeing with what the government wants up to becoming citizens who have a meaningful voice, and are recognized for this by the government.

An important parameter, according to the literature, to get participation is the confidence citizens have in the decision makers, as well as the more they know about the situation in which they have to participate. For the latter, a pervasive communication with press conferences and much more than that is a permanent necessity.

In our country at the moment, it seems that it is mainly the citizens agreement with what is decided that takes place. There are very few citizens initiatives. This seems to indicate that the citizens look to the government with the question “tell us”. But also with the question “save us, because we do not know the solution ourselves”. Decisions can therefore be tough, and as long as they are made authentically and offer the solution in the long term (if necessary), the citizen will continue to agree.

The solutions must also be clear.

This implementation of measures always requires clarity. How do you do this? Goal: defeat the virus. Operational measures are therefore necessary. How do you clearly describe the goals and actions operationally and why do you want to do that? In his book “Your Best Year Ever” Hyatt writes about a well-known method: SMARTER. How can we apply that to the actions we want to roll out?

SMARTER stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-keyed, Exciting, Relevant.

The idea is that we first have to write down the goals. In this crisis, there is only one goal. To defeat the disease. But that in itself is not SMARTER.

This could be a proposal:

Specific: get the number of infections to zero to prevent a third wave. We do this by complying with the six golden measures and limiting our social contacts to our own family and otherwise to a maximum of two friends a week. The intention is to get the R-value back below “1”. However, all this is not specific enough. Therefore, to make things operational and specific, there are the MB and the FAQ. Unfortunately, in the past it has already been shown that these will always be incomplete, because one cannot summarize the lives of 11 million people on about 40 pages of paper. But the rules are there, both in the letter and in the spirit, and people are asked to take their own responsibility with common sense when their situation is not literally described.

Measurable: through testing and contact tracing, no new infections are detected. This is a criterion that clearly states when the downward tail of the new infections reaches zero. This is only possible if indeed we get the R-value under “1”. This is also measurable, through the numbers of for example hospitals that are passed on to the government. But measurable also means that the police must be able to check compliance. Such as leaving your details when visiting a cafe or restaurant. An example of what is very measurable here is a name tag.

Actionable: I translate this here as feasible and useful: it’s about what we do. Here the FAQs are useful again. The six golden rules are not difficult to follow. But the question was asked whether it would not be better to limit ourselves to much smaller bubbles. That in itself is not actionable: it is not useful, for example, to measure your social contacts. Better is “Find a maximum of 2 friends per week instead of 15”. This is useful because it is based on a useful verb: search. Not more generic, often unclear statements with verbs like “are” or “have”. So choice of verb is very important in communication.

Risky. Ugh. Normally it says something like “Reasonable”. But using the word Reasonable makes that we often do not challenge ourselves enough to set the bar at a high enough level. Reasonableness encourages you to make it easy with quickly achievable objectives. A bubble with 15 friends is easily achievable. It seems reasonable. But it’s not. It’s certainly not a challenge, but more than that, it’s a number where people stop counting. 15 seems infinite, so we’ll do whatever. And before you know it, you’ve got a lot more contacts than 15 and the infections are rising. Meeting just two good friends is much more challenging. You have to make choices, decide who you prefer and why. It’s more confrontational, the bar is much higher to realize it.

Time-keyed: the measure of the bubble is the clearest example here. Two friends, who are allowed to change per week. But it doesn’t always have to be time intervals. They can also be frequencies. This concept also divides the goals into “achievement goals” and “habit goals”. An example of an achievement goal is that you buy name tags to leave behind in a café that you visited to be available for testing and tracing. An example of a habit goal is that you always put on a mask when travelling by train. The goals should become a habit as much as possible. Then for many people it goes by itself.

Exciting: “What in God’s name is exciting about such goals and measures?” Actually, internal motivation is meant here. It is an important characteristic that people are intrinsically motivated to make them achieve their goals. Good health is an example of this. I assume that everyone loves themselves enough to find their own health important enough to be motivated. So contrary to what the word suggests, it is the feeling of concern that is important here. Worrying about your neighbor and yourself. Let that concern inspire you to take good care of yourself, your family, and your friends and neighbors.

Relevant: this is here with regard to the crisis situation (including other people) and also your personal health interests. This criteria is the bottom line. Effective goals and measures are relevant. It has everything to do with giving direction. This gives you the opportunity to check your gut feeling before committing to the measures. It is here that everything can go wrong if we are not careful. There are four criteria for measures you can check here: is the measure proportional, prudent, efficient, and effective? Note: what is “proportional” doesn’t necessarily have to be easy, it’s more in the sense of “necessary”. This criterion of relevance gives the necessary pressure in a crisis like this: the pressure can be social, financial, professional, … whatever. This helps to explain why challenging a crisis like this is no easy task. It is therefore essential not to oppose each other. Be stricter on yourself than what is asked for.

More information:

Covid 19 – Discourse for innovation and lessons learned

Author: Manu Steens

Roughly the last 5 months our country has been under the spell of Covid 19. All kinds of things happened, and as in every war (but now against an invisible enemy) we get to know people from their most beautiful and ugliest sides.

To curb the pandemic in our country, measures were taken during the first wave of the disease. But the virus spreads quickly and smoothly over the results we have achieved. Today we can roughly say that we are at the beginning of the second wave, sooner than we originally thought it would occur. Has it been for nothing then? Or can we learn what we need to do from the past?

The first lesson we identify is that the lock down had an effect. But was the way this happened optimal? Are other formulas possible? And should we pretend to start from the same initial situation during the second wave, or is the experience of the population important if the given signal is strong and clear enough?

A second lesson we can see is that there is likely to be a shift in the target audience of the disease. It is no longer especially the elderly in the retirement homes that are the target of the virus, but more and more the younger people. A question that arises here is whether this is because of the so-called super spreaders , and possibly because of edge workers , of which I spoke in the previous blog. The population would then be split into two groups: the common man and the risk-seekers. The common man will let his actions be guided by the measures taken by the government, not so the risk-seeking edge workers . Punishment does nothing to them. Perhaps one can teach them how to do the things they want to do safely rather than make them renounce it, for example through punishment . Because the latter does not work. But then the question arises: how can we teach them to do it safely, because (for example) safe partying is actually a very useful concept for the whole of society. For example: do events need to be adjusted, or is a new concept of events needed? Like the virtual neighborhood party was one.

So we can still identify some lessons. The question is whether we should identify the lessons through a “wild brainstorming” and “ implement quick actions ” or whether we can use an existing framework to make the necessary change (from the lessons identified ) work.

Such a framework exists (Timothy L. Sellnow , The SAGE handbook of risk communication , Chapter 20: ‘ Crisis communication ‘ and references therein ) . To maintain a discourse with an impact on innovation and improvement, an organization must want to learn from each crisis (the lessons identified ), reflect on ethical responsibility and liability, develop a forward-looking vision, and present that vision rhetorically. This may also apply to society in the current crisis.

A society that engages for renewal will then want to change and improve as a result of the crisis. After all, the lessons identified only make sense of the crisis if we turn it into lessons learned . Only when these lessons become part of society do they penetrate their culture and change the way decisions are made. But if the memory of the society regarding these lessons fades over time, eg. because euphoria after the first (small) victory , then this society is again vulnerable to the same crisis.

We saw the latter after the measures were lifted: many people seemed to think that the crisis was over, and the lessons learned quickly “faded”. Result: the R-value quickly rose back to around value 1, according to one source its calculation method just below (0.98) , according to another just above (1.1).

That is why reflecting on ethical responsibility is paramount: a thorough handling of innovation has a strong value orientation . Ethical violations can be things like stinginess, hubris , injustice, context-sensitive rudeness (such as shouting at someone that causes aerosols to spread widely) that are more likely to contribute to a crisis. A society which has a values-structure that is not centered around any of its citizens , has it harder to get into a new normal. It is as if citizens feel as if something is not right, they are tired of it more quickly , which is why some of them will be opposed to it all. To permanently motivate them, purity of spirit and authenticity in the positioning by the policymakers is important. It provides self-protection for the leaders. So making concessions through social or other pressure is not always a good idea. There is a real chance that this will return to the decision-makers like a boomerang afterwards .

A foreseeing vision is important to avoid this boomerang: in the aftermath of the crisis, people are quickly tempted into a “blame, shame and denial game”. That never leads to a solution, it is only a waste of energy, time and resources and it only leads to a deviation from the goal. A foreseeing vision is needed to shift the focus to building a more resilient society that can deliver again its mission with respect to itself, as well as any citizen facing any other citizen. Good communication is central to frame this vision. After all, the fact is that there is no real script in a crisis. Plenty of plans exist, but any pre-made plan is worthless. Over and over again, one has to discover how the crisis at hand ‘works’. Moreover, “The devil is in the details” is true time and again. That is why there should be no one to throw the first stone. After all, casting the first stone does not make a positive contribution to the development of an ethical responsibility. But working out a vision well can help you parry those stones.

This vision must be presented rhetorically: commitment and vision can take the form needed to put the society back on track. After all, the rhetorical activities create a reality of their own for the citizens , to inspire them to remain loyal to themselves and each other during the crisis, and to rebuild society better than it was before. The message must be about all the previous things: the lessons learned, the value structure and the hope for the future.

If society effectively learns of the crisis in the aftercare phase, it can have a ” fresh sense of purpose and direction ” experience. This will enable it to evolve into a new-normal situation after the crisis. The pre-crisis phase thus separates the crisis recovery and – aftercare phase from a new start with the regular risk management (whose strategies are also subject to change themselves). Policymakers must then enter into dialogue with citizens about risks and risk tolerance. This dialogue then makes them respond to change. It means that everyone in the organization is focusing on the new future again. To this end one should also speak with almost everyone . Because without internal communication , people are blind and there is a greater chance of new crises.

But this ‘change effect’ also indirectly provides a criterion for calling the end of the crisis: the crisis is over when the (necessary) change happened, and everyone there finds her place, and picks up the thread again. Note that this does not mean that the wounds are no longer there or have already fully recovered.

Teleworking where it can

Author: Manu Steens

In the press conference of 3 June (https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/news/nsc-0306/), measures for the reduction of the lock-down were given by the NSC (National Security Council) under the direction of Prime Minister Wilmès. A measure in which there is reasonable resentment among some employers is: “Working from home is recommended where possible”.

After all, many employers want their employees to go back to work in a 100% profitable way. This is understandable and desirable, since the economy is currently very damaged by the situation. However, does this also require a 100% presence on the work floor?

The NSC’s statement is nuanced in two ways: it says “Working from home is recommended” and “where possible”. In other words, this can be interpreted as follows: “dear employers, we advise you to continue to allow telework where possible, of course you may return to work where that is not possible, decide for yourself but please use your common sense”. And it’s this common sense that’s so desperately needed right now. Because what does it mean when you, like so many other employers, take a short cut and decide “that everyone goes back to work”? Arguments are given going from “the employees want social contact with their colleagues” to the other extreme “I want to be able to ask everyone questions when I have them” or “it doesn’t work 100% profitably now”.

Above all, such a reaction as an employer is unsubtle. It is absolute. It does not take into account the people who are afraid of being infected during (public or organised) transport. Such an action is tantamount to asking employees to leave their brains at home in the morning when they leave for work and only use them at home in the evening. As an employer, you pay emotional interest on this. Emotions cannot be switched off. And going against emotions is very demotivating. It is therefore better for the organisation to allow a limited presence on the work floor. The question then is, how can you best do that? Do you have to assign everyone a day? Or two days? Etc. And then work from home for the rest of the week where possible?

Looks like this is best pretty loosely organized. People should come to work when they need to. They know best when needed: they are experts in their job and know when they need certain things from the shop floor. Also when a face-to-face meeting with colleagues is important. So the principle can be better “you are welcome at the work environment, if you consider it necessary according to your personal needs” than by order of a higher hand. Because in the latter way, it just becomes more difficult to make good and even effective arrangements and to work together. In this way, the principle of “come to work one day a week”, for example, can be flexibly implemented in consultation with their colleagues. That is why the advice is: limit the number of places on the work floor and in the meeting rooms, and have everyone reserve a place if they feel the need to work away from home that day. Moreover, important conclusions can be drawn afterwards from the numbers that emerge from this in combination with the performance numbers. E.g. how much office space do you really need, and what are the real needs to work 100% profitably. From this you can then make suggestions for improvements.

Of course, this does not apply to production halls where, for example, cars are assembled and where you need the work force. That’s why “where possible”.

risk management, strictly speaking – success factors of support

Author: Manu Steens

An organizational structure , a decree or law, (a) (some) measure (s), … must be supported to succeed. To be supported, they must be recognized. (I have no criterion to say in which cases this model is all relevant, for that a study should be done of successful and failed business in hindsight.)

Recognition in itself, however, is based on four success factors:

  • legitimacy,
  • cohesion of the target group due to proximity with civilians / the employees of the organisation,
  • effectiveness with purpose and perseverance,
  • authority.

These four pillars are interdependent. If you remove one leg from the table, the other legs will come along and the table will fall. So you cannot actually view them as independent. For the sake of the further discussion, I do that here anyway.

One thing that seems to be clearly supported is the EU regulation of the GDPR. Something that does not seem to be supported is the Brexit . Let us therefore illustrate these two things with this idea.

Success factors of support applied to the GDPR.

  • Legitimacy: The GDPR legislation was imposed by the EU and applies to all EU countries for implementation
  • Cohesion of the target group through proximity : The EU countries are interdependent because they are related to the EU, but also because they have free movement of people, which implicates that they can enjoy similar legislation despite traveling in the EU. At the same time, the EU is for the most part a coherent whole, as a result of which the countries are coherent in terms of supporting the legislation. Proximity is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that EU citizens have recognized the legislation as something that concerns them very much. It belonged very quickly to the
  • Effectiveness: A true barnum advertising has been conducted for the GDPR, pointing out that this legislation applies to the citizen. This was so effective that the people of the EU and the organizations are aware of their rights. And in the very short term jobs have been created: eg. lawyers specializing in GDPR but also DPOs, courses, …
  • Authority: There is also a place in the legislation itself for punitive measures in case of non-application of the law by the organizations in the EU. Also, auditing capabilities were provided. Partly as a result of the possible effect of the hammer, many organizations applied the law, and there was a great sense of “doing something about it”.

Conclusion: due to the barnum advertising, this legislation was strongly founded on these four success factors, so that it could actually only succeed.

Success factors of support applied to the Brexit .

  • Legitimacy: It came about through an unclear referendum with a majority “behind the comma”. There is total division within and across the political parties and within the people. The British Prime Minister was therefore completely in a gap of uncertainty. None of the proposals from the EU or the British themselves was accepted by a clear majority.
  • Cohesion: The British are divided. The votes for and against are neatly divided and without clear coherence. Many people, together with their politics, attach great importance to their sovereignty. Others opt for the possibilities that a cohesive Europe together with the British could mean. The connection is lost. The division is down to the granular level of the population.
  • Effectiveness: Due to a great deal of uncertainty, all proposals about the Brexit in a reasonable manner were As a result, it is regularly postponed. As a result of that, it is unclear how, if and when the Brexit will be a fact.
  • Authority : The Brexit could turn out differently from day to day in a new referendum. There is also a difference of opinion between, for example, the Scots and the rest of the British. In addition, the British regularly state the historic words of Churchill that “GB is with the EU but not of the EU”.

Conclusion: The Brexit cannot be called a success .

Resilience strictly speaking – Disaster management: Red Ants, Gray Rhino's, Black Swans, and the relation between BCM, Risk Management (RM) and Crisis Management (CM)

Author: Manu Steens

A first question I ask myself: how do these concepts relate to one another?

The following figure of disasters can offer a solution: this is about known knowns.

This table provides a minimalistic sketch as an answer to the question “What can Disasters be like?

In addition, there are Unknown Knowns such as the Gray Rinho’s.

These are things that come to us, that we know they are there, but that we choose not to see, or forget about them.

Gray Rhino’s are not divisible in well-known or poorly known probability and impact. The impact is great. The probability is great. They are always well-known in terms of probability and impact, and thus fit within the quadrant of Disasters, as follows:

Known Unknowns also exist. These are things we know that are there but we do not know exactlywhat they are. Therefore we can not treat them. These can not be classified with a probability or impact. The consequences may or may not be known. The odds equally. If the consequences are large, but not actively known, and the probability is estimated low, but it suddenly occurs, without any expectation of the event, we speak of a Black Swan. The turkey does not know why the farmer always gives him food, but could have suspected it from a suspicious “Why” question. But the turkey does not know the Christmas party, and can not really assess the probability.

Finally there are Unknown Unknowns. We do not know that we do not know them.

Not only do we not know the probability and the impact, we do not know the event, we do not know the reason, we do not know the consequences. So we can not give a foresight example of this. Unless you look back on the past (Hindsight). Was it right of the priest to save Adolf Hitler from drowning, when he had fallen through the ice as a child?

It is the intention of Resilience management to get to know as many of these four groups as possible and to push them back within the possibilities of the disasters square.

This provides a possible way to frame resilient needs. Where is CM, however? The answer is: everywhere. In all 4 groups, CM actively takes action when a threat manifests itself. Because the known knowns are best known, it is always an advantage to elaborate and prepare RM.

Question 2: what are historically the added values of BCM, RM and CM?

The known added values already known for these three disciplines, are:

  • Compliance with legislation and with clients
  • Protection of the reputation of the organization and the strength of the brand
  • For the time being: competitive advantage
  • Operational improvements
  • Capturing the knowledge and experiences
  • Value protection

Question 3: what are the “new” added values ​​of BCM & RM?

The new added values according to ISO 31000 are:

  • Value creation, and therefore also
  • Included opportunities

Value creation

  • By studying the threats in new and existing projects and processes, these threats can be tackled so that they happen with a greater probability of success and with less costs in the aftercare phase.
  • This also increases the quality of the output and the outcomes, enabling a stronger positioning in the market, which attracts potential customers.
  • This immediately improves the reputation, creating a positive spiral that reflects in a better market value of the organization and generates a positive effect on the stock market.
  • By applying RM in its projects, the government organizations will mutatis mutandis create added value on a social level, which also means more income for the governments and thus create a positive value spiral for society.

Included opportunities

  • When an opportunity presents itself, it can be recorded correctly, in the sense that the risks run by the organization are known and can be tackled in order to optimize its probabilities of success.
  • Because RM has an ‘outlook’, threats, but also opportunities, are better and faster seen.
  • Because there is systematic reporting that is integrated into all layers of the organization and the processes and projects of the business, the policy can assess the opportunities better and faster correctly.

These added values also apply to BCM.

Question 4: what is the most important added value of CM?

What I really want to know is what is expected by the co-workers and by society.

People expect more and more from organizations. They desire certainty in uncertain times. This is what the organization has to do:

  • Deal with the threat
  • Meet the urgency
  • Fight the uncertainty

Deal with the threat

Threats are relative and personal. There are also general threats that affect us all. Perhaps the best example is terror. Although terrorist attacks demand far fewer casualties than fine dust year after year, it affects the people personally through the choice of method, place of occurrence and the timing. They choose these well to maximize fear. This fear touches everyone personally, because there is arbitrariness where when and how one can be a victim. The society does not know, and as a result, everyone of the potential victims address their anger against the perpetrators.

Meet the urgency

Urgency is personal. A potential crisis that affects you personally is usually urgent as long as you are still hoping for opportunities to escape from it.

Fight the uncertainty

The organization mainly does this by making a division into operational management, communication management and strategic management.

With the operational management the organization can show that the problem is being addressed. Counter actions take place and there are claims to be observed. With the strategic management the organization can do sensemaking, and give an understanding to the people of where they stand. The organization can also indicate its actions, explaining the reasons for these actions, to include its liabilities. Also to learn lessons, to avoid the problems in the future. With the communication management, the organization can make itself be heard about the situation, that it is working on the problem, and what the expectations are.

Question 5: And now this: What about Red Ants?

Is this yet another invention to describe risks? No, actually not. It is a disaster type that is naturally present: incidents with small to moderate impact and small to high probability, but with the possibility to grow into a Black Swan or a Gray Rhino very quickly.

Black Swans (Nicolaas Taleb): very small probabilities, very big impacts.
Gray Rhino’s (Michèle Wucker): Very big probabilities, very big impacts
Red Ants: Very big probabilities, smaller impacts.

Often Red Ants are the small incidents without major consequences that are a warning of imperfections in the safety of a system or organization. Usually a large number of red ants precede a gray rhino or a black swan. In addition to the fact that red ants are an annoying phenomenon in the field of security they are a reason to extinguish a lot of fires, and they therefore have a serious warning function. This is: find the root cause and tackle it thoroughly, otherwise sooner or later really big accidents happen.

So every “animal species” is therefore to be taken seriously.

Question 6: And what can you do about it?

Well, let’s present this schematically in the disaster management table:

Conclusion:

  • CM Exercises are the most necessary aspect in disaster management.
  • Risk management includes preventive measures and protective measures (by analogy with the bow-tie analysis method).
  • Uncertainties have the characteristic that probabilities are poorly known but the impacts are better known. Usually because causes are poorly known. As a result, there is a particular need for protective measures.
  • Ambiguities have the characteristic that impacts are poorly known but the probabilities are better known. Usually because consequences are poorly known. As a result, there is a particular need for preventive measures.
  • In the event of unkown probabilities and impacts, the focus must be on the lookout, to estimate unexpected matters in a timely manner and to incorporate measures in the policy of the organization on a continuous basis.