Sense Of Urgency (Comes From Nowhere)

Sometimes a sense of urgency can appear to come from no-where. Thus the need to be opportunistic. Some examples:
i) Ireland (for centuries the Catholic Church in Ireland dominated the debate on social reform in that country.  The Church maintained very strong views against same sex marriages; this inhibited any reforms in this area. Starting in late 1980s with the exposure of the Church's sexual abuses of children, etc and following in the 1990s, a series of criminal cases and Irish Government Inquiries established that hundreds of priests had abused thousands of children over recent decades. Also, exposed was the way the Church hierarchy covered up these misdemeanours, eg the abusing priests were moved to other parishes to avoid embarrassment or a scandal, victims were not believed and/or treated badly, etc. This exposure significantly weakened the credibility of the Church in Ireland and encouraged social reform. As a result, Ireland was one of the first nations in the world (2015) to legalise same sex marriage. A similar story is evolving around other social reforms in Ireland that the Church has previously opposed like abortion, single mothers, children born out of wedlock, etc. This is a case where a loss of credibility caused a sense of urgency.)

ii) Tobacco (despite on-going research showing the major health risk of smoking, eg addiction to nicotine, causes cancer (there are around 70 chemicals in tobacco that are known to cause cancer), increases the chance of heart disease (strokes, heart attacks, etc), etc, the tobacco industry is a very powerful lobby group which resisted any restrictions on the sale/advertising, etc of cigarettes, etc. Yet in Australia, 2 people were instrumental curbing the power of the tobacco industry, ie
- Dr Bronwyn King (medical professional specialising in cancer who convinced the Australian financial industry, like super funds, etc to disinvest around A$2 b. away from the tobacco industry)
- Prof Simon Chapman (Public Health academic who was pivotal in convincing the government to only allow plain packaging on cigarette packets. This was the last place that cigarette companies could advertise their product).
As change agents, both these 2 people stress that the keys to their success in changing mindsets were
- research (have indisputable evidence to back up their points of view and to counter the opposition's allegations, understand the basis for evidence behind others' points of view, be pro-active rather than reactive, use improved technology, etc)
- be opportunistic (be prepared to take advantage of "lady luck", eg unexpected opportunities, etc)
- communications (get the community/stakeholders, etc on side, eg get their acceptance by linking tobacco with health issues and alcohol drink driving with road accidents/trauma; always be available to the media, understand how the media works, eg 7 second news grab, etc)
- have a support team with a wide range of knowledge, expertise, experience, etc who are motivated both professionally and personally (many experts in the financial industry supported Dr King and gave her financial advice; she had over 1,000 "coffee" meetings)
- be patient & persevere (to the point of being so single-minded that one is regarded as boring; be ready for personal attacks; recognise that it can take years to change mindsets, etc)
- have a champion supporter (eg Hon. Nicola Roxon, Australian Minister of Health who in 2011 introduced legislation restricting cigarette packaging)

. A sense of urgency can come from a corporate crisis but it can cost tens of millions of dollars. One in 4 companies don't survive as a crisis that generates bad publicity, lost sales, increased costs damage brands and reputation, raise the prospect of lawsuits and make stock prices fall significantly. It is crucial that management handles the crisis skilfully as they may not get a second chance. There is a need for a crisis management plan that assumes a worst-case scenario, eg fatalities. In addition to keeping the organisation operating and eventually recovering, there is a need to become proactive to get ahead of the story, ie deepening its customer connection.

 

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