xii) Sense Of Urgency (Comes From Nowhere)

i) Ireland

Ireland was long regarded as a bastion of Catholic conservatism, ie strongly anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-divorce, etc.

It took the disclosure of sexual-abuse scandals (including church officials covering up and denying the problem) in the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990s to change community attitudes in Ireland
"...over a generation, Ireland transformed from a country where 67% of voters approved a constitutional abortion ban to one where, in 2015, 62% voted to legalise same-sex marriage..."
Liam Stack, 2018

Other Irish social reforms include
- decriminalising homosexuality (1992)
- legalise divorces (1996)
- permit abortions if mother was considered a suicide risk (1992 & 2002)
- gender equity law favoured by transgender groups (2015)
"...priest once enjoyed great social and political power in Ireland, but abuse scandals led to the demise of the church..."
Leo Varadkar (Irish Prime Minister who is bi-racial and gay) as quoted by Liam Stack, 2018

For decades any proposals, like legislation changes, were doomed to fail unless the church supported them. The sex abuse scandals and associated matters (like the church's attitude to and handling of unwed mothers and impoverished children plus attitude to sexual promiscuity) resulted in the church losing its powerful position in Ireland. People lost faith and trust in the church.

Other factors that helped were
- socio-economic changes (expansion of free trade and economic liberalisation starting in the 1960s, etc which drew women into the workforce and shrunk the size of Ireland's traditionally large families; immigration, like from eastern Europe like Poland; Irish, especially young people, working overseas and returning home with new ideas, etc)
- technological changes (birth of the Internet and social media, oral contraception, etc)

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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