Adapt, Innovate, Motivate: Responding to a Crisis

27 April 2020

In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo the hobbit exclaims ‘I wish it had not happened in my time’. Gandalf the wizard replies ‘so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’

It’s the sixth week of a lockdown designed to confront the most significant leadership challenge of our generation, and we have been deciding what to do with the time that is given to us.

We have transformed our organisation into a virtual network with a straightforward AIM: to Adapt, Innovate and Motivate.  

Our organisation is adapting to a new reality, designed to maintain critical services whilst protecting the health and wellbeing of colleagues and customers. Investment in technology is enabling virtual meetings, new products are being developed online for services as diverse as the arts, leisure, access to museum collections and building control. Our waste service has developed a significance bigger than bins. The team’s commitment to the cause speaks volumes: the council stands alongside you, we are in this together and together we will win. Public support is overwhelming.

Working with partners, innovative solutions have been developed to protect vulnerable people. We are in direct contact with some 14,000 people most at risk from the virus. Together with more than 70 groups of volunteers, we are keeping them safe, with food and medical supplies, a friendly word and a metaphorical arm around the shoulder. We are awarding £23m in grants for nearly 2,000 businesses, injecting funds into the local economy to protect our employment base and keep employers afloat. The response has been amazing, and if we can capture a small fraction of the community sprit unleashed by this crisis, the challenges presented by climate change stand no chance when this is all over.

Continued motivation for the entire workforce is up front and centre in our thinking, focused on nurturing health and wellbeing. Flexibility is the watchword, enabling colleagues to develop a working pattern which respects the demands of childcare, home schooling, and caring for vulnerable members of the family. Leadership can come from anywhere and empowering colleagues to find the solutions to daily challenges is key to success. 97% of the workforce tell us the organisation is doing the right thing to manage the crisis and nurture wellbeing.

Looking ahead, we remain focused on organisational resilience and colleague wellbeing. We are determined to champion learning, in order to transform the organisation when the crisis is over. The new normal will not be a return to the old normal. And we are building the strategies and plans to drive mobilisation. We are advancing plans for investment in building the homes that our district needs, the economy that will spark recovery, an environment designed to address climate breakdown, and the services that will meet the challenges presented by a new decade.

There are big challenges aplenty, including risks to cash flow, loss of income, contracts, capacity and resilience. The Lord of the Rings trilogy centred on a small team thrown together in a crisis facing impossible odds. It brings to mind the oft quoted Margaret Mead, ‘never doubt that a thoughtful, committed group of citizens can change the world, it’s the only thing that ever has’.

Every time we find someone a place to stay, award a grant or arrange support for a vulnerable person, every bin we empty, every product we develop on line, every visit we make, every service we deliver, every conversation we have changes someone’s world somewhere for the better.

Ian Fytche is chief executive of North Kesteven DC

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