Clear communication is a vital part of life as a project manager. If you fail to receive clear communication and misunderstand the brief or issue muddled messages your project is set to fail.
Crisis management is no different.
Confused messages (eg contradicting government departments over traffic levels;Transport say down, NPHET say up) lead to uncertainty and increase the potential for people to become relaxed about regulations and draw their own conclusions.
We now have evidence of what anyone out and about is seeing: more cars on our roads, more people walking around on our streets. And this is 10 days before any *potential* easing of measures could be announced.
— Shane Beatty (@ShaneBeattyNews) April 23, 2020
The warnings are there, that as a population, Ireland is being a bit carefree and complacent about our responsibilities to each other and the vulnerable in our society. For Ireland (and hopefully other countries with good leadership) coming out of lock-down is going to be a stepped process.
Comparing the Irish situation to that of others around the globe our lock-down was quite casual. Thankfully we never got to the point of curfew and a heavy police or military presence on the streets like some other European nations.
There is however a restlessness developing about when and how Ireland will come out of isolation and return to work.
What options have we?
The big problem is people want certainty. They want a date. They want July 1st / August 31st / October some fixed date to focus their mind on.
The downside of this is that the date inevitably is going to change, even if we know it will change it still leads to disappointment, frustration and further uneasiness. Naturally of course, uncertainty in life leads to issues around health, mental & physical, work related stress & money, family, crime and other social problems.
Part of the answer is excellent communications and introducing a system of exiting lock-down that is not tied to a fixed date in time.
I was forwarded an excellent example of governmental communication during the week which should be considered a shining example of clear decision points based on identifiable conditions.
The press release which accompanied the infographics is very clear in stating the facts about this novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, its effects, spread and risk to vulnerable society. They also highlight the point (which many seen to miss) that should hospital or care capacity be compromised many additional lives will be put at risk – further reading on The Toughest Triage — Allocating Ventilators in a Pandemic.. “the decision about initiating or terminating mechanical ventilation is often truly a life-or-death choice“.
By defining a clear visual reference which is relatable and easily understood the Objective are clearly communicated.
“IF” – “THEN”
The document goes on to provide further information on how the alert system works and what each stage means in terms of easing the lock-down conditions. They also identify the areas where it may be possible that different alert levels could co-exist in society and reiterate the conditions, such as social distancing & hygiene practices, which should remain in place throughout.
Regardless of the Alert Level there are some restrictions which will remain indefinitely until the crisis has passed. These are all based around organised groups of people – bars, conferences, cinemas, sporting events and religious gatherings.
As a roadmap to recovery this leaves little to the imagination and no room for interpretation or complacency.
Criteria for recovery, emerging from lock-down, communication of each Alert Level and what society must do at each stage is laid out in a format that is understandable, measurable and relatable. SMART planning and management from South Africa.
This is a crucial moment in our struggle against the coronavirus. It is a time for caution. It is a time to act responsibly. It is a time for patience.There is no person who doesn’t want to return to work. There is no company that does not want to re-open.
- THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
What does it mean for Ireland?
Our anticipated date is May 5th. Though based on the previous periods of restrictions and the results we are achieving we are on the tipping point of extension or relaxation of the restrictions. It is down to us.“One of the big fears we have is anticipatory behaviour,” @LeoVaradkar Click To Tweet
One thing which I think was misjudged was the sense of “buying time” in moving the period from the initial fortnightly blocks to 3 weeks. Should we have retained the 2 weeks blocks as a measurable period for review and decision? I think so. While we are getting daily and weekly updates on the developments, 2 weeks *feels* like a more natural period. We do 2 week holidays not 3 etc. 2 contact or decision points within the month *feels* more connected to people. We are now about to roll into another month before we know what is happening, another pay or salary period starts with uncertainty.
Business is anxious to know what to expect. 4 weeks of lag in trade could take 4 months to rebuild and 4 times that to recover from. If recovering ever happens.
Ireland needs a clear plan. maybe the South African model could be adapted to suit our society. Who knows?
One thing is clear, we would have to let the decisions be made by the people in charge.
This recent behaviour (while appropriate at other times) of challenging the authority or decisions that are being made for all our welfare is not appropriate at the moment. I get it, we have to hold people to account, we can’t be a police state and so many other points, I do get it. If you follow me on Twitter you know that while I favor stricter law & order I am also vocal and criticising of government actions & inactions
The actions of a few could mean more severe measures being announced on May 5th rather than a ‘release’.
If we all made an extra effort this coming week to Stay At Home and Stay Safe we may just see the results of our actions pay off on May 5th.
As always, would appreciate your thoughts and debate.
Featured image by: Martin Sanchez