Day 12

Day 12

Settling in was the feeling today. We’ve had two weekends and it’s the third working week we’re in. After my walk this evening I felt quite tired again, not sure why. Have I got Daylight Savings around the wrong way somehow!?

I suspect it’s running on adrenaline for too long, but it could also be all the walking – don’t tell anyone but I have got quite a lot of exercise done – or should I say more regular exercise during the lockdown. Even lost some weight!

Over the weekend I noticed lots of walkers, runners and cyclists out and about, enjoying the great weather in Auckland and getting their essential Lockdown exercise. Walking past the Olympic Pool in Newmarket a bus pulled up and the driver exited. I joked that it was a busy day on the bus today. “No one at all” he said. I commented that you can only get in the back door, and so I assume you can only use your Auckland Transport Hop Card. He told me there were three ways of travelling: If you’re an essential worker, it’s no charge, if you have a Hop Card, you swipe it, and if you haven’t got a Hop Card, you “just take a ride for free“.  Weird times we live in. Even weirder than the payment options, is where do you go, and when you get there what do you do?

Which is more or less what we’ll be asking in 16 days and a bit. We were told it was a minimum of 4 weeks and I’m picking it’s unlikely we’ll be free earlier, until all likelihood of risk is eliminated.

When we assess risks in almost any field that I am aware of we assess Likelihood of the event occurring and the Impact of the event (virus in this case) should it occur. So in assessing the risks of COVID-19 it is firstly necessary to assess the likelihood of the virus spreading.  So if nothing is done to mitigate the virus there is probably a strong likelihood that it will enter the community, obviously really.

One would then look a the actual impact. There seems little doubt that there is harm from the virus. In studies I have read, acknowledging that there’s still lots of research to be done, some general themes appear:

  • Most people suffer mild symptoms.  One Chinese study put this as high as 80%. This must mean that there are many more cases of COVID-19 than the records show, I would have thought. I wonder whether the figure is exponentially higher, globally. But that’s my speculation, but if it’s the case, the death rate is much lower.
  • The death rate increases by age. Although there was a media report recently of a 5 year old dying, it hasn’t come through in the statistics, and subject to that, the death rate for ages 0-9 is zero. By far the greater risk of death is to those over 60-70+ and those with underlying medical conditions. This BBC article suggests that many of those that died would have died from something in the short term anyhow, and argues that to attribute those deaths to COVID-19 is not realistic.  That sounds harsh, but everyone dies of something, and if COVID-19 is the final trigger, it paints a different picture of harm. Be that as it may, patients with cardiovascular disease are much more likely to die, so if you’re 75 with heart disease you’re at high risk of serious harm. Of course, death is not the only harm – being on a ventilator, struggling to breathe for an extended period is not exactly a picnic.
  • There are non-medical impacts too: If there were many cases, we might not have enough medical resources to manage it i.e. beds and personnel.

What we’re hearing a lot more of now is the economic impact of the Lockdown which, on the face of it, has tackled the risk by ensuring that virtually none of the impacts – barring a very small number of exceptions – have come to fruition. And this is where it gets really complicated.

Early information released was that there was the likelihood of 80,000 deaths in New Zealand alone, then it was adjusted to 14,000, then back up to 20,000+.  I doubt that many people think now (or even then) that those figures were even remotely possible, given the relatively small global death rate – I say small because it’s never going to get anywhere near the 1.8m people that died from the Spanish Flu in 1918, and might be within the ballpark of the 150,000 who die each year globally from influenza.

Taking an approach that has virtually eliminated all harm in New Zealand is attractive, but all risk decisions have winners and losers.  In this decision there are a probably relatively small number of winners (we may never know) and many losers, in economic and social terms.

Leaders make decisions on risk daily. No decision is perfect and leaders know that you can’t eliminate risk completely – be that regulatory, economic, timeframes, Cyber protection, or the myriad of other things that need to be assessed for risk. But there will always be risks that leaders determine the impact of is just too great to bear, and will take maximum steps, at the cost of other activities, to eliminate that risk. Physical workforce safety is one of those things.

Whether the virtually complete elimination of the impact of the COVID-19 was the right thing to do is a judgment call made by the Country’s political leaders. We won’t know whether the consensus that this was right or wrong until much later, when the economic and social impacts – the new harm caused to eliminate the virus harm – are properly known.

But I do feel more relaxed about it all having lightly analysed a decision making process!

And that could well be my longest blog – way too long – sorry about that!

Stephen

Day 3

Day 3

The weekend! I heard the weather forecast and wondered whether we could do without it. Does it even matter now?

A walk (yep the weather matters!) – got the sweats up today –  chats to family and friends, although not face-to-face. The roads were quiet, but not completely clear, although I got this shot of one of the busiest roads in New Zealand on my walk. The prison in the background. Every hardship in perspective.

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I started a new audiobook – Getting Things Done – by David Allen on my son Thomas‘ recommendation. As the world changes we all need to find new ways of working and finding fulfilment.

I broke my Facebook Amnesty – a tool from my last book – Deep Work by Cal Newport which has unexpectedly prepared me for my Home-D. Unsurprisingly, Facebook hasn’t changed, but the mood seemed to be of compliance with the new emergency lockdown and almost unfettered power to the police. Questions about approach appeared to burst bubbles (not the home bubble I hope!) of reverence to those in power. It worries me that there is so little critical thinking on where we’re going. I’m not saying we’re not doing the right thing, but in Leadership, embracing all alternative viewpoints provides a richness in decision making. Think Appreciative Inquiry, Strategic Thinking, Ladder of Inference and BXT. When we embrace views contrary to ours we do our best.

I obsessed slightly about the rates of COVID-19 infection and impacts. Cases went up in New Zealand as expected, by about the same as the day before, although the numbers in ICU doubled – from 1 to 2. Global cases passed 600,000 with deaths at 27,500 and those in serious or critical condition at 23,500. Ninety-five percent of cases still active are in mild condition.  Italy and Spain have extraordinary large numbers of deaths per million of population (151 and 110), then there’s a group in the 20s and 30s (France, Iran, Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland), a few countries with rates of 5 – 10 per million and the bulk well below.

Practiced some Windfulness today on my walk – focussing on the surroundings and stillness, although there were plenty of people out exercising. I used the time to bring my thoughts in closer, to focus on what I can control and lead. It helped.

Anxietyometer: Started higher today, but down after the walk and focussed mindfulness.

Season 3 of Ozark is out! 

Stephen

 

 

Shades of Fabrication

Shades of Fabrication

The world marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz last week on 27 January 2020  – which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day – with the main memorial at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland. There’s unlikely to be anyone still alive to be brought to justice, but we mustn’t ever forget and stop learning from these tragic events and the evil that caused them.

The Netflix series The Devil Next Door, is the story of  John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born Grandfather and retired automobile employee living in Cleveland, USA, extradited in 1981 to Israel to stand trial on charges relating to his alleged time as a Nazi death camp guard. He is accused of being “Ivan the Terrible”.

Various witnesses identified Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible from the death camps. Watching the trial I had a sense that the evidence didn’t really stack up. In fact, it looked like there had been fabrication of some vital evidence –  a photograph on a military record appeared to have been replaced with another – and there was other evidence that appeared, forensically, dubious.

He was convicted but later the conviction was overturned on appeal on the basis that there was reasonable evidence that another person was Ivan the Terrible.  Demjanjuk returned to the USA, but investigations continued and and he was later extradited to Germany to stand trial on being an accessory to the murder of almost 28,000 Jewish people at Sobibor extermination camp. He was convicted and died while waiting the outcome of an appeal in 2012, aged 91.

Recently, photographs have emerged which appear to confirm that Demjanjuk was indeed a guard at Sobibor. Demjanjuk’s son denies the evidence, but the German police have used biometrics to confirm the identity.

I don’t know the intricate details of all the evidence, but on the face of it, it looked like evidence was fabricated, or at best confused, at the original trial. The prosecutor and witnesses were adamant and, unsurprisingly emotional in their certainty that they had the right man. But they were probably wrong. Not wrong that he was a guard at a death camp, just not the one that they said he was.

To those charged with investigations, the idea of fabricating evidence should be an anathema. There’s untold stories of fabricated evidence around the world, to dishonestly secure convictions. We’re not immune to it in New Zealand.  So what drives those charged with getting to the truth of a matter to make it up? Some investigators are over zealous and forget their purpose is to obtain and present fact “I know they did it and this will help to prove it” or “He’s a bad bugger anyway, it’s about time we got him for something“. Utterly unacceptable of course.

But there are shades of grey too, in investigating. In my forensic work we come up against it quite a lot. Statements that are correct, but not complete: “Files were uploaded to the google drive the day before she finished up her employment“. But wait, they were personal files. That’s a different perspective. Or “No authority was obtained for the expenditure“, whilst leaving out that no such authority was required.

We’re frequently challenging, and reminding ourselves that’s it’s not just the truth of the matter, but the full truth that’s really important. A lot can depend on it.

Of course, we’re not investigating crimes against humanity or murder, but the principles are just the same. No shade of fabrication is acceptable, or in the end likely to even be helpful. I suspect a lot of pain could have been avoided if those investigating Demjanjuk in the 1970s and 80s had been a bit less zealous, and a lot more impartial.

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Stephen

Note:

Under German law, having died before his appeal was determined, Demjanjuk is not considered to have been convicted of the crimes he was accused of.

 

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