The current floods that have impacted various parts of the country have given rise to an extensive commentary on the response cycles of various stakeholders. It has in turn led to continued crisis communications and statements in the media by agencies and ministries alike. This binary approach to the discussion has also created a perceived “us and them” situation when in a crisis of this nature there should only be “we”.
Instead of being anxious about the ongoing commentary and flood of social media comments, the government should now take the opportunity to actively listen and embrace the process. This is free business intelligence, especially if the business model is keeping people happy and safe. Don’t let the critical data go the way of the floodwaters – simply flowing into the oceans or seeping back into the soil.
The challenge will be organising the information into a meaningful framework. For that penny dropping moment to take place, there needs to be a reference for the narrative, a ground zero. For the governments involved, state and federal, this information framework needs to run the width of all ministries and agencies; then it needs to be multiplied by the depth of an analysis that includes an understanding of litany, the social and systemic causes, the impact of worldview and the myths that shape the metaphors that are deeply woven into culture and history.
Pioneered by Professor Sohail Inayatullah, Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) is an approach and a technique used in foresight to develop possible and desired futures. While used in future studies, designing a desired future often sees its catalyst in the eye of a crisis. As a way to design a desired future, it is a much-needed starting point.
Moving forward, how will corporate leaders address the critical questions in a business ecosystem that has increasingly been defined by crisis?
The recent floods have seen an increasingly important role of the private sector. Supply chains that deliver food, water, and essential items, in particular, are all in the hands of the private sector. Therefore, they need to be recognised as a critical stakeholder; to be included at each step of the process from planning, rollout, monitoring and review of each crisis.
As the collective conscious of the nation grabs the preverbal elephant and as one of the three blindfolded men, there is a need to take a step back and view the overall problem with open eyes. Each crisis is deeper and wider than initially imagined.
The social media analysis shows, in the mind of the public, that the line in the sand has shifted. It was once enough to “respond to crisis”. Now the new baseline is to “resolve a crisis”. Between responding and resolving is a considerable difference in resources required. No doubt, millions have been spent. However, when faced with the wrath of mother nature exacerbated by climate change, clearly billions not millions will be required.
Retained organisational learning is the key to unlocking the much-discussed resilience. This will be required at NADMA (National Disaster Management Agency). Imagine a repository of knowledge and talent better enabled to coordinate and respond with all stakeholders – public and private, community and international.
Looking forward, as we begin to wrestle with 2022, better decisions within the sphere of crisis management will be gleamed at the intersection of data science, applied foresight models, deeper stakeholder understanding, behavioural communications and meaningful resource allocation.
*Written by Nordin Abdullah, Founding Chairman, Malaysia Global Business Forum