Q&A With Christine Nixon

6 Jul 2020


Q&A Christine Nixon_Course Image_1920x600.jpg

David Ali: I just wanted to ask one question, Christine, and there are a couple of very excellent questions that came through. You mentioned in the first part of your session, Christine, in regard to scenario planning and being able to safe guard against a crisis.

For me as an observer in terms of COVID-19 pandemic, there’s really no real playbook in regards to the pandemic and to think about it from a planning perspective.

So, do you think that this is a bit of a wakeup call, for all organisations large and small, to really think about the whole range of possibilities from a risk perspective and what they need to think about in managing the eventuality or otherwise of these crisis as they may emerge.

Christine Nixon: I think you’re absolutely right. Firstly, two things. I’m not sure that mismanagement and mis mitigation has had the focus in many organisations. I’m part of a number of organisations, and they’re just in the early phases of understanding what the risk the organisation is facing and what we mitigate or how we deal with it.

And so, I think that it is a really important piece to think through, if we talk just the health response (hospitals) they had a surge response.

But it is, part of this process is to look for the prophets. Who are the ones who predicted this? Who spoke about this? And, I think there are some prophets around. I bought the Peter Doherty book, and of course he has been around for some time. So, I think often you can find the prophet, but the point sometimes, and the reason why I wanted to teach this and have done some work with a range of others is just to have people think about it.

I have spoken to people in China at one point about this issue, on what they are going to do in a crisis, and the reactions were ‘crush it early’ which is not exactly the best response to them saying ‘you mean we have to work with people and we will have to respond?’

But, your point is well taken. And it is about that. It is a wake up about that. It’s about saying, whatever the crisis is; can we at least do some practices of it? Because the people who often sponsor this are not seen as… you know the ones kind of ‘oh look, I’ve got too much to do now, I can’t really do some thinking about that’.

All the organisations part of, it has certainly become a much bigger issue and much more important thing to think through.

David Ali: Good. Thank you.

So, Nick Field has asked a very interesting question, in terms of whether you, Christine, have a view on a format for good communications not only to teams but to the broader community following a crisis.

His observation in terms of post-911 was that pre-aspect.

First it is; ‘This is what we know’,

the second is; ‘This is what we don’t know’ and

the third is; ‘This is what we need to do’.

Is this a question set that is still considered good practice? Nick asks.

 Christine Nixon: I think that there’s probably a range. Paul Toheart is one of the experts that I have seen and really like his work.

I think that from a research base and my own experience, you’ve got to be telling people what has happened.

And then you have to tell them what your response is, what have you done? What’s going to happen next? And then come back to the next phase, which is;

This is what we did, this is what we’re going to be doing in the future, and this is how we bring it to a conclusion.

I had some great communications people work with me both in the police and as part of the bushfire recovery and other places, so I think that the model is still relevant. It’s always about telling the truth as you know it, and if you make a mistake and things change, go back and say that you’ve made a mistake. I think that’s always a very important piece of information to share with people about where you’re up to.

If you don’t know the answers, say you don’t. I remember having a conversation with a fellow in the bushfire community who had lost his house, and his business, and he said to me:

‘I wanna go back’.

And I said, ‘Well, you could. But, first of all I don’t think you’re in a space to look at rebuilding your house or your business. And more importantly, around your business, there’s no traffic. There’s nobody going by. You’re going to have think about moving to another place and starting again. Because this community, for the next 12 months, there’s going to be no-one around to help your business run’.

And he said to me then, ‘How dare you tell me that’.

And that’s life. That’s what the problem is. The interesting thing, is that this same man did go back into a suburb and start his business again. This time in Marysville.

And he not only owns the local pub, he has his shop back in place. But he said ‘Sometimes you need people to tell you the truth like that’.

And I think you do that for the community. I mean, a lot of people have said to me when I was the Police Commissioner, you know, we hear other people and then they go, ‘So what does Christine think?’ So, communication for me you… need to practice it a bit. If you’re not good at communicating like that, you do need to practice it.

Get clear in what the message is. And sometimes I would be going to do a presentation and I would practice, and make sure I understood what the simple messages were. That’s a really good question to follow through with.

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