LTC12: Empowering Work and Learning, Even if Things Seem Chaotic

In this BSC podcast, Prof. Matt Andrews interviews Harvard Kennedy School Professor of Public Management Mark Moore. Mark tells us why leaders should allow messiness and focus on providing their teams with information, encouragement, and a sense of urgency during crisis response even though they may feel that they should be taking control.

Read our Public Leadership through Crisis blog series.

Transcript

Katya Gonzalez-Willette [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to Building Safe Capability at Harvard University's podcast series. In this BSC podcast, Professor Matt Andrews interviews Harvard Kennedy School Professor of Public Management, Mark Moore. Mark tells us why leaders should allow messiness and focus on providing their teams with information, encouragement and a sense of urgency during crisis response, even though they may feel that they should be taking control.

Matt Andrews [00:00:29] I'm really happy this afternoon to be with Mark Moore, who is one of the professors at the Kennedy School and a legend at the Kennedy School for his work on creating public value. Mark has a lot of experience thinking through control, organization, coordination and especially public value. What is public value? How do organizations determine what the public value is that they focused on? And then how do they structure themselves to pursue the public value? Mark thank you very much for being with us this afternoon.

Mark Moore [00:00:55] Thank you, Matt, for inviting me. I'm amazed by your resourcefulness and glad to be a part of this effort.

Matt Andrews [00:01:00] Great. So, Mark, one of the things we've been talking about quite a bit on the blog and also with people who are engaged in crisis response, whether it's COVID-19 or others, is the idea that oftentimes at the beginning of a crisis, you get bureaucracies that almost move into control mode and everything becomes about almost circling the wagons of top of government and a small group of people who don't really trust other people coming together, developing the strategy and telling others what to do. On the other hand, we find that within the literature, the biggest problem that happens in terms of your organization is a coordination problem. We don't know who's got to do what we don't know. It's unclear that everything that needs to be done is being done, etc., etc. And sometimes you find that the control actually becomes a problem because you're not coordinating, you're just trying to control and it takes steps. What thoughts do you have on this tension between control and coordination and different models of coordination that people might think about in the face of crisis?

Mark Moore [00:01:58] It's a really good question, Matt, and I guess one way to think about it is to deal with the paradox that I think Tom Peters once focused on in talking about single organizations and even in ordinary mode, which was how to organize what could be called both tight and loose controls. Right. And so one of the characteristics of a crisis is typically, as you suggest, that A) the existing resources are overwhelmed. All right. B) they aren't appropriately positioned for being able to deal with the crisis, both in the sense that they're in the wrong geographic place. But there are some things that we really need and are helpful. But many gaps also exist that we don't know how to create. And so the idea that we could essentially manage our way out of a crisis through explicit command and control, through a sort of formal planning process just is not consistent with the situation in which you find yourself in. On the other hand, in a crisis, you have an asset that you don't ordinarily have in ordinary government. And that asset is the urgency that people feel about doing something about the task. All right. James Q. Wilson, one of my mentors, once he wrote a great book about bureaucracy, and he said, "The problem with bureaucracy was that we created them because we thought we could do better on a task when we all got together. But as soon as we got together, we forgot about the task and we began doing other things." But the thing about a crisis is that you can't forget about the task, it's staring you in the face all the time. So the important question facing everyone is what can I do in the context of other people's action and make a contribution to the solution of this problem? And you can imagine that we could rely to a certain extent on the judgment of people who have assets to deploy and know what they're capable of and can see what the problem is around them. And who simply sort of get up and start doing the work. And then what they need to do, of course, is not wait for authorization and not wait for direction control, but start working right away, but then keep reporting centrally about what it is that they're doing, raising their hand, describing what it is that they're doing. And there has to be some central place where the information about who's doing what and what particular areas begins to accumulate and begins to get sorted out so that you can see what the players are doing, what positions on the chessboard, if you will, are being occupied and fulfilled. And then I think it turns out to be the job of the center, not to direct and control everybody, but to essentially, probably most importantly, identify and start to fill the gaps as best you can. As part of that, you always figure out where there are misplacement of resources with respect to places and populations and stuff like that. So that's a place where you do have to then exercise some authority because you have to take the resources out of the hands of some people and get it to other people. according to the urgency of it is that you do need some top down authority. But the thing you don't want to do is get into pissing contests with people about what it is that they're doing, because what they're doing is probably pretty good, it's probably wonderful that they stepped up and started to do it without waiting, asking for permission. So this sometimes makes me think that the idea of coordination is an overrated virtue. All right. In a crisis, there are certain kinds of coordination you need which have to do, as I say, with shifting resources around if they happen to be important to move around. And with starting up and getting increases and critically needed capabilities. But apart from that, interrupting the work that other people are doing on their own, that would have a positive contribution because you're not in control is a nutty thing to do because you're going to need all that work. My father had a farm in Wisconsin and, you know, we weren't real farmers. We were kind of gentleman farmers and he'd love to get on his tractor. And one day he was driving around on his tractor and he knocked over a pile of wood that had been there. And when he knocked over the pile of wood, he uncovered a huge hive of termites. Just huge, alright or ants I guess it was not termites. And from the point of view of the ants, of course, this was a crisis. Their habitat had been completely overwhelmed. And I looked at the ants and they were all running around in a panic and they were grabbing their little babies and carrying them this way in that way, and they were bumping into one another, just complete chaos that was happening. All right. And I looked down and I sort of shook my head and thought man they could sure use some coordination. But I came back a little bit later and within five minutes, that thing had been completely protected. All the babies had been carried off and put someplace else and stuff like that. So I began thinking and I thought, you know, what happened there was just the huge scale of the effort and the effort that was made. And sure, people bumped into one another. And sure, there were some misallocations. But instead of running around complaining, people would say, excuse me and I'm sorry to bump into you. And, oh, by the way, is there something I can do to help you and what you're trying to get done. And that decentralized mobilization of energy turns out to be something that you don't want to mess in with coordination mechanisms that try to direct and guide everything around. You want to reserve your, quote, coordination efforts for the things that are not going to happen simply because people decide they'd like to do what they think they can do to help with that particular problem.

Matt Andrews [00:07:22] So it sounds like, Mark, there is a role for something at the center, but we're talking about something like Marshall Ganz's Snowflake, where you have multiple players who are playing. And if they and if they're doing things kind of don't disrupt them, rather channel them.

Mark Moore [00:07:37] Not even channel them, channel them is too much.

Matt Andrews [00:07:39] Yeah.

Mark Moore [00:07:40] Let them do it as long as they're doing something valuable.

Matt Andrews [00:07:42] OK.

Mark Moore [00:07:43] And long as you don't need them someplace else, that their resources would be much more valuable than what they're doing.

Matt Andrews [00:07:50] And then I guess one of the keys would be make connections to all of those different groups. So the tracking of information flows to and fro. They can know what each other is doing, that they aren't getting any.

Mark Moore [00:08:00] Peripheral vision.

Matt Andrews [00:08:02] Yeah, something like that. OK. That's a it's almost sounds like if it's like a computer is that you're looking for like a a motherboard in the middle, but the motherboard isn't getting in the way of all the other programs the other programs are being created. All it's doing is it's allowing those things to kind of do their business.

Mark Moore [00:08:17] Yeah. That's a very good analogy. And I think that's what I have in mind. And so one of the things that's very important about that, too, though, is then to have a really good monitoring capacity with respect to the state of the problem as well as the efforts that are being made. And it's often easier to get a pretty good picture of the state of the problem before you get a complete inventory of all the action that's being taken. You need the information about the state of the problem to keep people's attention focused, to keep their motivation high, to create the sense of urgency. This is where I think the tight, loose control comes in. The tightness is around getting as accurate information as you can about where we currently stand with respect to the solution of the problem and having knowledge about who's doing what that is designed to affect that and having enough of a strategic battle plan, if you will, to know where it is that you need to shift resources or what new capabilities you need to bring into play for the system as a whole or in some particular area. That's all very important to manage at the center. But an awful lot of the work is going to be done by people who are already positioned is something that's worthwhile.

Matt Andrews [00:09:29] So that monitoring that information requirement is a big thing. We heard this very much. We interviewed Tolbert Nyenswah, who was the head of the organization that ended up eradicating Ebola from Liberia. And it's one of the things that he was stressing as well. And it was also the information about the problem and then using that information about the problem to engage with all the teams. And he describes a process where he would meet with the teams regularly and all the small teams individually. He wouldn't meet with them as a broad body of 100. He'd meet with them all individually. They would talk about the information coming from them and the information that he wanted to give to them. So it was both ways and it was all about how well are we doing solving the problem? What is it that you're up to and what are the other people doing? And so he was it wasn't that they all had to bump into each other, it's that he would transmit to them. But there seemed to be a gigantic amount of delegation at all times and actually that the person at the center becomes a little bit of the servant to the system.

Mark Moore [00:10:25] Absolutely. And a coordinator of the system. They're not commanding this system, they're enabling it and the enabling of it starts with being able to observe the what's already being done and whether it's being done well or not, and then reserving their authority or any centrally held resources for their times when they can use them to good effect. And I think, you know, once you begin thinking about it that way, you realize that this would be a good principle to follow in non crises situations as well. And I remember Tom Schelling, one of our colleagues, I went to him at one stage early when I was working on management. He was an economist, as you know. And I said, "So, Tom, tell me what you think management is and what it's about?" And he said, "Well, I think it's like a traffic signal, because when you think about it, all that we're really trying to do is to coordinate and to make that coordination as easy and inexpensive as possible. And what a traffic light does is coordinate the use of a scarce resource, which is a particular space in the middle of an intersection. And all it does is to say, go, don't go to the people that want to use that scarce resource. And notice that if there isn't an intersection, we don't have to do any coordination. We can just let people do what they want. But because there's a scarce resource, we need to get a little bit of coordination. And the coordination is the traffic light and the traffic light essentially efficiently allocates the right to go and use that common resource. And the traffic light doesn't have a central task or something like that. It is true that it runs a regime which does affect the efficiency with which that space can be used and it does affect the fairness of who gets to use that space. So it's a use of authority, but the whole goal isn't to exercise control over the drivers. It's to make sure they don't bang into one another when they're all trying to use the same space." But that's only one of the tasks that you have in a crisis, is avoiding people banging into one another. That's kind of an overrated challenge, it seems. I mean let people back into one another a little bit and make sure they say, "Excuse me." So that everybody's morale can stay high. But apart from that, let them go.

Matt Andrews [00:12:30] And I do think the banging into each other is part of the creative process. And, you know, one of the things with the crisis is that you have a lot of uncertainty, there's a lot of unknown. There's a lot of creativity that needs to be done. And unfortunately, creative processes tend to be messy. They do tend to be messy. And I think that you'll focus also on understanding kind of what the problem is you're trying to solve. I mean, I spoke with Tolbert and I said to him, "One of the questions for me is how did you get the room to maneuver to create this kind of structure? And how did you hold that group?" Because when he was put in place, you said the government was under a lot of pressure. They hadn't done well the first couple of months of the outbreak and people were actually calling for the government to resign. So I said, "You know, how did the president create the space to make this change, of course, in this? How did you manage to keep that room to maneuver?" And he said, "It was knowing what the problem is you are trying to solve and showing results fast."

Mark Moore [00:13:21] Absolutely.

Matt Andrews [00:13:22] That's it. This is what we trying to do here are the results and we're showing you and he said, "You need to be able to do that in the system. The system can't just be, you know, moving around. You need to get everyone focused on doing that and you need to show the results are coming."

Mark Moore [00:13:34] It's interesting, though, too, because in some sense, you don't even need good results. All you have to do is keep showing people where the work is. Ronny Heifetz often used to talk about leadership as being able, helping people identify the work to be done and the work to be done. And our colleague, Jorrit de Jong had this method that he used often to deal with bureaucratic dysfunction. And the way he did it was to sit in front of the set of government agencies, a particular person who had to deal with those agencies and to have that person testify as to the difficulty that he was facing and trying to interact with those different agencies. And what that was, was putting that person there was the embodiment of the work that needed to be done, which is this person has a problem. This is what we're doing to him. That's the problem we've got to solve. My other favorite example of this is the person who wanted to get New Yorkers more concerned about the environmental crisis. And so he's an artist. And he got one of those machines that paints lines down the middle of the road. And he went around New York City with this machine drawing a line where the water would be in 20 years. And that has the way of taking a very abstract, distant thing and bringing it into people's lives so that they can begin making adaptations. Right?  It's all about the adaptations. And so if you just have a very concrete picture of what it is that it's out there that we're facing, that we're facing together, we're gonna make mistakes. We're gonna bump into one another. Let's be sure we apologize, make sure we try to fix the mistakes that we made. But we're doing it together. And this is not a time for me bossing you. This is a time for me, all of us together, helping one another find the way to solve the problem. So then it's an authority. I'll take the responsibility for saying here's what the problem is and making sure I get a good measure. I'll take the responsibility of arguing that there's a particular approach that we ought to be taking to this general approach and noticing that if that's the best way to deal with it, that we've got problems over here and problems over here, and we're going to have to take resources from here and put them over here and we're going to have to increase and accelerate our rate of production over here. But as I say, that's going to be 10 percent of the activity that's actually carried out to do the results.

Matt Andrews [00:15:54] And I think a good point of yours there was when we all talking about the results that keep us kind of going, I often say to my students, it's like, what's the currency of the Kremlin right now? And it sounds like what you're saying is just seeing work, being reorganized, just see work being done, just seeing progress. That is itself a currency that keeps you alive. And I must say, and I work on P.D.I.A, we found exactly that. We found that when people start to see that actually there's effort, that effort is being channeled and it's producing whatever you want to call it, you know, new ideas, new whatever, people are saying wow, they almost call that results. It's not even that it's been solved, it's that there's progress going on.

Mark Moore [00:16:31] Right. So what's interesting, though, is you and I are both trained as technical people, Matt, right. And so we always want to try to be sure that the means we're using are going to produce the desired results. But it turns out that in order for people to feel motivated to do stuff, they don't have to know that there's gonna be a result. They just have to make that connection in their mind. So there's this problem that I'm sitting in my living room deciding whether I'm going to go out to the grocery store and wear a mask. And I have to make an emotional connection between that decision and this larger goal out there of dealing with pandemic. And if I can make that connection, my motivation to wear that mask goes way up. And that's independent of whether I can see any effect of my wearing the mask. I'm never gonna be able to see right. It;s all going to be sort of abstract. So one of the interesting things that helps to get things moving forward is to make this connection between the large and the abstract distant and the particular thing that I'm doing today. I mean, think about that. Religions do that all the time by connecting you to God through tiny little rituals. And interestingly enough, I mean, this isn't always good because one of the things that happens inside organizations and inside responses to emergencies and stuff is that people think that what they're doing is making a useful contribution and the best contribution they can make. They join those two things together so tightly that they can no longer entertain any criticism of what it is that they're doing. So organizations develop a mission and then they develop a means for accomplishing that mission and they can no longer see the distinction between that. And so sometimes you have to make the connection and then other times you have to break it. And when we're talking about the reallocation of resources from one place to another or the allocation of resources for doing something that we know how to do but isn't working to something we don't know how to do and have to try out, both of those require more effort to make the connection between those particular concrete actions, which I'm asking you to do. And the ultimate result that you agree with me is this is the right aim to have the artistic use of authority to create spaces, to give encouragement, to mobilize people rather than simply to direct and control. Because if you're gonna direct and control, by definition, you haven't got enough there. And if you're going to plan it all, there's not enough time for that.

Matt Andrews [00:18:58] So it sounds like, Mark, I think gets us into the conversation about public value quite easily, because when you're talking about that bigger thing and that thing that your organization that your government is trying to address with the interesting thing I've always thought about public value is it exists at the governmental level, at the organizational level, at the unit level and in the individual. And I firmly believe that in many organizations you do get a decoupling between the processes and the value that's been generated over time. I believe that one of the things that the sense of urgency in a crisis can do is it can bring those two things together. I think it actually has to. My guess is that if the people who were involved in this don't understand the value that they trying to produce, they can either find themselves really buckling when the pressure gets too much or they could actually find themselves making mistakes, solving the crisis in certain ways, but in ways that really exacerbates other things that matter.

Mark Moore [00:19:52] That's the hard one.

Matt Andrews [00:19:53] Yeah. And, you know, one of the things that I do watch, for instance, at the moment is a lot of talk about the use of technology, taking away people's rights, et, etc.. How do you work out in an organization on the fly, what is that public value thing that you're going to communicate to a broader population? But you're also going to use for yourself as a driver for your behavior and how do you work out some of the tensions, some of the tradeoffs that you have to think about regarding public value in this case?

Mark Moore [00:20:19] Yeah. You and I could use some technical language here a little bit. We had an objective function or a social objective function, and somebody asked the question, well, what's our social objective function with respect to the pandemic, that coronavirus pandemic. And, you know, you start off with a fairly obvious one, which is, well, we'd like to minimize the total number of deaths. We'd like to minimize the total amount of morbidity and stuff that would be associated with the epidemic. And we can all get pretty head up concentrating on doing that. And to a certain extent, you can feel the public health people sort of marching to the fore and nominating that dimension of value: health, less fatalities, et cetera, as the only dominant value, we should spend all our money. We should give up lots of things in our life in order to accomplish this. And it's true that that's the one that is salient and will mobilize a lot of action and ought to be the thing. So we need to have that as something that motivates us. And also something that guides and directs and controls are action. We're motivated to it because we want to save lives. And we know how to do it because we know that these are the methods that would be necessary to save lives. But then what often happens is that that one dimensional, although it's not really one dimension, is kind of a complicated vector of things. But it's in one large index, if you will, that sort of says public health is the stuff we're after. Another index pops up and it sort of says, well, wait a minute, well, we're having this big impact on our economy. And that's a non-trivial thing as well. And we're paying a huge price for that. I wonder whether anybody's paying close attention to that or not. All right. And so then you got a lot of people come sweeping in and sort of saying, well, that's an important objective, too. So we've got two big social arguments in the utility function. One of them is to stop the illness and the other is to minimize the economic impact. And then that complicates the design of the social response, because we have to do things to accomplish both of those objectives, not just one. And as you suggest, that raises the question of tradeoffs. I think we waste an enormous amount of time talking about the tradeoffs, because I think a lot of times we're not on the production possibility frontier. We're well inside it and we don't know what the tradeoffs are. Right. We know that both of these are important objectives. So we have to try stuff that will accomplish both objectives. Political systems are terrible at assigning weights to arguments of utility functions. But they're very good at reminding us that there is another dimension of value out there that we ought to be paying attention to. So then we're stuck there with our limited brains and our limited knowledge to try to think about those things. But if we've got them both in mind, chances are we're going to do better than what's out there. So far, everything I've talked about has to do with utility. And we could go further and say, gee, we're gonna have a lot of fraud. We're going to have a lot of price gouging. We're going to have to have things we do in the economy. And we're gonna make a lot of mistakes and people are going to die, on the other side, so bad stuff is going to happen with respect to both of these dimensions in utilitarian perspective. But then you know damn well that somebody at some stage is going to come out and say, well, are we doing this fairly and justly or are the burdens being distributed in a way that's consistent with our understanding of our rights and responsibilities to one another? Are the effects we're having properly distributed between burdens and benefits? And so then you have to add sort of a different dimension of public value in this, which is the degree to which we think we have a good idea and are living up to an idea of what we might owe to one another. And in the course of experiencing and acting on this epidemic and again, so there's a part of this that has to do with the management of civility and right relationships, as well as the economic effects and the health effects. So, as I say, you can get all in a lather about, oh my goodness, it's gotten so complicated now and we have to be observing the effects of our actions on so many different dimensions of value. And we're going to have to have so many different instruments to deal with each of the particular effects. And so, again, the chances of being able to come down and make a rational, synoptic decision that optimizes our response in that situation is virtually nil. Right. And what you want the value framework to do is to alert you to places where things are going wrong. So, again, going back to this metaphor that we're trying to do is keep in front of people a picture and not so much of the problem, but essentially the values that are at stake in the problem and the way in which we're responding to it in both the short and long run. I actually have a lot of confidence in human brains to cope with that kind of complexity and make a reasonably good judgment in the face of it. But if you ask them to compute it by assigning weights to each of those dimensions of value, they'll give up. They just won't be able to do it. So what I think is the mistake is to allow ourselves to get focused on only one value. Many people would recommend that because that simplifies the problems and allows us to make the calculation. But it doesn't mobilize everybody and it doesn't identify the things that we have at stake that we have to manage for. If we could get accustomed with dealing with multiple objectives and not sweated so much with this analytic problem of how we're going to optimize over a large set of values using a complex portfolio, that's dynamic, policy instruments. But the other thing that's cool about that is that when the values will pop up as people begin experiencing loss or difficulties arise, people will begin making a response and we'll be able to fashion out of that response some larger effort that will give that thing an appropriate standing. If we were spending all our time now worrying about vigilante-ism, that would be a big mistake. It's not a big problem yet, but it's going to be out there someplace. And the good thing is that you've got a large number of people mobilized. They're mobilized and alert to the values. So that's going to happen.

Matt Andrews [00:26:14] So it sounds like having multiple values is a good thing and not a bad thing because it mobilizes lots of different people and different people are going to be mobilized by different values in the system.

Mark Moore [00:26:25] And they'll be in different positions to take action on those.

Matt Andrews [00:26:27] Right. So if you are there, should you be aware of the values that you are most concerned about, the ones that you are trying to move positively toward, the ones that maybe you're trying to kind of defend? Do you have any framework that people could use to kind of practically think about that?

Mark Moore [00:26:43] Yeah, I mean, in some sense, the book that I wrote on Recognizing Public Value, sort of is designed to encourages people to construct something called a public value account. And if we were to take that back to our earlier discussion about talking about where the work is and what it is that we ought to be paying attention to. That's what that is.

Matt Andrews [00:27:02] That's what that is, OK.

Mark Moore [00:27:04] And the public value account is a set of dimensions, each of which may have a metric, each of which also ought to have a vivid image and a story behind it, because it's those different dimensions and metrics that allow us to keep track. And we don't have to optimize for all at a particular moment in time, particularly not in a crisis. We may have to sort of adjust and adapt as we learn not only about the methods, but also about the values that are at stake.

Matt Andrews [00:27:33] And some of those values might change over time as well. There are things that come, as you said, you know, you're going to run into new things and they're going to raise new value questions for you.

Mark Moore [00:27:42] It's interesting. It's not that the values change. It's that the set of values moves around. New things get added, old things get subtracted. Some issues become much more important, other issues become less. But there's always a latent structure of values there, which if we're aware of, we can help others be aware of, would invite different kinds of action from different people. That's the other thing is to realize when you're thinking about this, you know, you tend to focus on big organizations with a lot of power and stuff like that. But, you know, go back to my image of the ants. There's a hell of a lot of work that's being done by individuals, families all on their own.

Matt Andrews [00:28:20] So one of the cases that I've been following in the last little while is the case in Bahrain with students about Hamad Almaki. And when they started out, they identified three different dimensions of work. And they it very much sounds like a snowflake. They had a central group that was coordinating and that was responsible for essentially developing information systems. Then they had a set of medical teams.

Mark Moore [00:28:43] Experts.

Matt Andrews [00:28:43]  Yes. Economic teams. And then they had a set of teams focused on the social aspect. And it sounds very much like almost kind of three different value bases and not having a trade off and not saying, well, we just got to work with you and we got to basically from the start saying you guys are focused on that thing and that's what drives you. And that's what kind of really gets you going. And we want you to run with that as hard as possible.

Mark Moore [00:29:06] Absolutely.

Matt Andrews [00:29:06] And you guys on a different trajectory. And we want you to run as hard as possible. And then you guys on the social side run as hard as possible. And then the social people, were giving them advice on kind of what to do with schools and education, etc. And the economic people were saying here's where the fears are. And it's interesting also that the response that they had was very much to the fears. It's fears that drive those values right. People aren't being technically responsive. They being viscerally responsive and saying, you know, tell us what they are and tell us what you need on the medical side. And I was asking the question about this because they started the war even before they had their first case and they had all been working harder than they ever have before.

Mark Moore [00:29:44] Right.

Matt Andrews [00:29:44] Before they had a case. Right, in preparation, which is a very difficult thing to do. But then the day that they closed most of the kind of stores and restaurants, etc., that moment which I think every country is going through, on exactly that day, they also announced the economic package. They announced all the other things. And it was very interesting because in your language, I guess you'd say you had multiple values being represented at one time. And so anybody sitting at home, some people are scared about the public health aspect. And you have a response. Some people are scared about the economic, you're playing to that. Some people are asking questions about social matters, you are responding to that. And so what you really want to do, it gets back to the organization, too, is you want to have those ants scurrying around organized by what value that they have. And then you at the middle want to be able to kind of just see how those things flow with each other as well.

Mark Moore [00:30:38] And how much energy there is behind it. And that's on the production side, going back to the strategic triangle that tells you how much energy there is in the authorizing environment. Right. But then there's also the interesting question about how big is the problem on the public value side? We have too much energy in this one. Right. And not enough in some place over here. But another way to think about that is that attached to each of those values is what you could describe as a value chain or a production process. That's a set of resources that are being deployed through some organizations using particular means to deal with that particular piece of the problem. And it's possible then to take each of those values and to imagine what it would take. And that's probably what those committees did. What do we need to do on the social side? What do we need to do on the health side? And as long as they run independently and aren't claiming the same set of resources, I mean, you know, again, this is where economists lead us astray because they keep imagining that there's an opportunity cost and we ought to be calculating these margins and stuff and it's impossible to do so if there's enough resources, you know, if there's a certain amount of resources. Let's get the most out of those that we can right at the moment with respect to that particular thing and not worry too much about whether we should be reallocating resources radically from one place to another. The requirements of rational optimization cannot be met even in non crisis situations, let alone in crisis situations. So to imagine that what a good response does is look like a effort to step back and figure out rationally the optimization across all dimensions of value using all resources optimally is nuts.

Matt Andrews [00:32:19] So it sounds like, in a sense, you're saying, at least in this point, but maybe all the time that at this point you need to put the cost benefit analysis away for a period of time and you need to focus a little bit on where the energy is, focus on where the energy is and go where the energy is and where you can learn the most.

Mark Moore [00:32:36] You may remember I wrote a paper at one stage on Learning While Doing. And one of the models was essentially the rational, centralized R&D control. This was about how innovation would happen. And the idea was that, well, we shouldn't try something that we don't know was going to work because that would be irresponsible. And we should wait until the social scientists tell us that something works before we do anything and that was one end of the model that I was working on. The other end of the model was the civil rights movement in the United States. And basically, the way the civil rights movement worked in the United States was they didn't stand around and try to figure out whether it was better to occupy the lunch counters or to sing songs. And what they did was they looked around the country for anyone who was in motion and they sent resources to them because there the issue was not so much the method for accomplishing the job. The question was, was where was the will to act? Now, most situations you need both a will to act and a competent methodology. If you put the balance too much on the methodology, then everything slows down. If you put too much emphasis on the will, then you get a reasonable amount of feckless or wasted effort. But if the price of discouraging that feckless or wasted effort is that you essentially turn off a person who is willing to contribute. This is a really weird example of it but when I was doing work in the nonprofit sector and on the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross faced this very interesting, challenging problem, which was what were they going to do with people who wanted to contribute blood but couldn't pass a test that guaranteed that their blood was safe? Now, this is a really interesting question, because in some sense you want everybody to apply. But if you do that and you have this test, then you end up saying to some people, "You know, I'm sorry, you don't pass and we can't use your blood. And it was a waste of your time." So the question is, is if you were the American Red Cross, how would you deal with that situation? Well, you certainly wouldn't give the tainted blood to people who needed it. But on the other hand, you did have to have some kind of response to the people who are showing up and volunteering when their blood couldn't be used. And so a similar thing is, you know, if you are focusing on efficiency and effectiveness of the blood supply, you put up signs and you say, don't come in if you have any of the following characteristics. And, you know, go away we don't need you and say, "Oh, I'm sorry." And then destroy the blood. So maybe somebody shows up and you say to them, "Well, you know, we can't use your blood, but we could use you in these other ways." So whenever any will shows up, it's a little bit like bumping into people that, you know, making the contribution I'd like to make is actually not so helpful, but there are other contributions you can make. Let's figure out what those are.

Matt Andrews [00:35:17] It's very interesting. I find it a lot of the P.D.I.A work that we do, people say to me, "What is this all about?" And I say, "It's all about it's all about channeling volition."

Mark Moore [00:35:25] Yeah. Exactly.

Matt Andrews [00:35:26] Tolbert Nyenswah, who was from Liberia, I asked him and I said, "What motivated you to do this work?" And he said something to the effect of, "We do this because we want to serve our people." And he said, "There are many, many people who want that." He said, "For me, the crisis just created the opportunity to actually do it.".

Mark Moore [00:35:50] Absolutely.

Matt Andrews [00:35:50] And it's a very interesting thing that I think sometimes we look and we say there's a leadership deficiency, but I really believe the leadership deficiency is much more about the structures that we have that don't create opportunities for the volition that is there. And if the volition is there, channel it but don't squash it. Right.

Mark Moore [00:36:09] That's exactly right.

Matt Andrews [00:36:09] And if it isn't there, maybe create opportunities for it, which even in the face of a crisis, one of the things that I think we see is in every single country, the call for volunteers is always oversubscribed.

Mark Moore [00:36:21] Absolutely.

Matt Andrews [00:36:23] It's always oversubscribed. And I think it tells us that you don't need all the resources, the best practice, because you have people, but you have to give them the opportunity to put their hand up and they will. And I really believe that, Mark, I've spent a lot of time on the line with you. I wonder if we could finish off with maybe you just giving some thoughts for, you know, directly the people who are on the frontlines now, we have many of our former students who are running these things, and I'm concerned for them. I'm concerned for their health. I'm concerned for their well-being. I think they have immense volition, but they don't look after themselves through this period. If you have any kind of messages that you can give to them about kind of just moderating themselves, managing themselves in the face of crisis response?

Mark Moore [00:37:08] Oh boy. Yeah, I think one of the lessons I think we've learned about leadership and management at the Kennedy School is that it's really hard work and it takes an awful lot of people. All right, if they're doing it right. And if you're doing it authentically and seriously and stuff that's emotionally very challenging and difficult. And many of the people who want to do this work in the public sector are people who are very hostile to and averse to self-serving motives, all right, and to selfishness. They think that's bad. But I think it takes a mature person to understand that if you're going to be of any use to others, you've got to do a little bit of taking care of yourself. And that can come in a lot of different forms. It can come in the form of rest, it can come in the form of celebration when you've accomplished something together, it can come in the form of reflection and prayer and stuff like that. But, you know, if you burn yourself out, you're not useful to anybody. And in the same way, you're not particularly useful to anybody if you martyr yourself. Although both might feel great to somebody who wants reassurances that they really do care about what it is that they're doing. Well, you got to care about yourself as well as the others and gotta take some time out from serving others to help yourself to have the energy to go forward.

Matt Andrews [00:38:20] Well, Mark, thank you. I really appreciate your time.

Mark Moore [00:38:23] Thank you.

Katya Gonzalez-Willette [00:38:25] To learn more about the Building State Capability program's, Public Leadership through Crisis blog series, visit www.bsc.cid.harvard.edu/public-leadership-through-crisis. Thank you for listening.