LTC9: Lessons from Graham T. Allison on Leading through Crisis

In this BSC podcast, Matt Andrews interviews Graham T. Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. Graham reflects on lessons that can be learned by the U.S. from other countries in the fight against COVID19.

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Transcript

Katya Gonzalez-Willette [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to Building State Capability at Harvard University's podcast series. In this BSC podcast, Matt Andrews interviews Graham T. Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. Graham reflects on lessons that can be learned by the U.S. from other countries in the fight against COVID-19. 

Matt Andrews [00:00:25] It's my pleasure this afternoon to be talking to Graham Allison. Graham is a legend to the Kennedy School and to anyone in political science. He wrote an amazing book that was one of the first books I read that made me interested in getting into anything related to politics on The Essence of Decision, which was about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the way in which political decisions were made and then operationalized in that crisis. I've asked Graham if he could share a little bit on things that he's learned and things that he's hearing and practices that he is picking up on about leading and making decisions in COVID-19 crisis in particular. And I've asked him a range of questions, but we're going to have an open conversation about things like: are there any best practices that we see with leaders in this? How do leaders make decisions? What kind of information do you need? Who do you bring around you? How do you manage the politics of a decision where you have real losers and real behavior modification that's going to be required? So Graham, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it. I wonder if you just want to get us going with thoughts on the top of your head. 

Graham Allison [00:01:23] Well, thank you very much for the opportunity. And I've been trying to think about this from the perspective of the U.S. government and the cascade of failures to date in the hope that we will find our way and find our footing and do better going forward. Before one despairs, because unfortunately, the U.S. record is not a great one today, if you're telling the truth. But before despair, I always look back to history, which is one of the great sources of illumination and inspiration. And history suggests that democracies, and especially the American democracy, don't do well in the first innings of a war. So if Revolutionary War for the Americans had been over at the end of 1776. So that's a year and a half into the war we lost. So basically the Brits won and we're still a colony. In World War One, the US didn't show up until the third year of the war and it was almost over. And in World War Two, by the time we got our act together, Hitler had taken over all of Europe mainland and west, and was about to take England. But the point is the war is not over yet. Coronavirus is going to be with us for several years until there's an effective vaccine that's widely available, which should be a long time, probably. Unfortunately, at least with the American story, once we finally awakened and get our act together, we roar back, often successfully. So that's encouraging news for Americans who are about to be gloomy about what we're doing now. The other thing that's very American cannot complementary for us as Americans is that we suffer from what H.R. McMaster, who was Trump's first National Security Adviser, or after they got rid of Flint, who was just there for a minute, calls strategic narcissism. This is a great term. So we think we're great. We're exceptional. We learn all lessons for ourselves because we're America and we are great. And we are exceptional. I'm very American. But the idea that other nations haven't learned lessons that we could apply is completely stupid. And so I've been hammering friends in Washington. And actually, I have a half-written paper that will come out next week, if we get it finished, called "To Defeat Coronavirus, Adapt Lessons from Those Who Have". Who have been the most successful in this effort? Singapore is a wonderful example. And the Prime Minister there is a former student of mine whom I'm very friendly with. I've been in touch with him and many of his team right through this exercise. Their response has been brilliant. South Korea, another extremely interesting case where they heard the alarm early. They reacted quickly and adapted. They were capable of and were administering very substantial number of tests almost from the get go. How could Americans get tested for coronavirus virus? By being a soldier, an American soldier in South Korea. They could test this, not in the U.S. What's wrong with this picture? Okay. Taiwan, another extremely interesting case. Hong Kong, another extremely interesting case. And in the European context, Germany. Interesting, quite interesting. Now each one different in its own respects but basically for defeating Coronavirus, which these countries - defeat, maybe it's an over exaggeration, because even if you eliminate new domestic infections or get it down to such a low reinfection rate that it's petering out or so it's manageable. Even then, there's no protection against someone else from abroad re-introducing it. And so wave to wave three. And history teaches us, for example, from the Great Flu in 1918, that it was the second wave that killed twice as many as the first wave. And even the third wave. So at the end of that story, there were, I think, five hundred billion people worldwide that died. So you just look at that and say, well, my god, way out of proportion with anything. So this is not ultimate success, but what have the countries that succeeded done? Basically, the core of the problem is not very complicated. It's first to identify people who are infected. And second, to separate them from people who are healthy. And third, to wait for, therefore, the reinfection rate to decline to zero. And then that season is over. And in Singapore, they virtually had done that. In South Korea, they've gotten close to that. In China, even though the numbers are subject to some debate, they've got very close to that. So where are Apple stores open today? Not in Boston. Not in Chicago. In Wuhan, China. And in Beijing, Where's Starbucks? What about McDonalds? In China. We can learn a lot about these three core steps now each have interesting Winkle's. To stay with Singapore for a second, where I've been in touch with a number of the people running it, I think have a wonderful example for everybody in decision making. So first, you have a competent leader who is confident and competent and knows that he doesn't know everything. He doesn't think he's an epidemiologist, but he thinks he's a competent consumer of expert information. And he has appointed a team of cabinet officers, half of whom graduated from the Kennedy School. So I'm very proud of all of them and many of whom I know extremely well. These are remarkably capable, competent public servants. They could be making multiple, many multiples of their income if they cared about money more than they cared about making a difference in their country. But they have chosen to do what they're doing and they do it extremely well, not perfectly, they make mistakes every day. So that's one way to be a competent leader. And secondly, with a competent, committed set of key assistants. The same thing then goes through next where, through the core people working in that government. So if you take the students who come to the Kennedy School from the Singapore government, these are star individuals. They could be go off doing anything. They think public service is something valuable to do. So they believe in that idea. So they build a confidence in government. That's the starting point. Crucial then, that they have a set of relationships in which they get a new problem they analyze the hell out of it. They study whatever anybody else did anywhere. They go back and forth and discuss. Then they have a discussion and debate. So they have a pretty full vetting of the issue. Third, they're not unwilling to say they made a mistake and to change course. I mean, just recently I was shocked, actually. So they said they were even being a little proud about the fact that we brought this under control by the strategy that they had followed. And now, lo and behold, a half dozen, a half dozen, think of this, cases showed up in which they were unable to determine with any confidence how did this person become infected? So their contact tracing system is so effective that if they find a single person who's infected and they can't figure out where he got the infection, up comes the light. So six lights, six lights came up. And so the Prime Minister said, "Well, maybe what we've been doing and reopening everything is not sufficient. So we're going to reverse the victory that we declared. We're going to step back and have a lot more things closed and a lot more social distancing in order to find out what the hell's going on." And then we'll... so they're prepared to adjust and adapt. So adaptability is I mean, it's impossible to anticipate everything. What the question is, how could you adapt when you are surprised? How can you mobilize? Then the next, if you look at their practice, so there's as many citizens of Singapore, as there are in New York City. So think about that. So here we are as Americans, so concerned because so much of the news comes out of New York, in New York City has been an epicenter. They got the same number of people. What about the performance of the two places? Not even in the ballparks of either one. So we say, "Well, but it's Singapore, you know, it's just a little country and it's an island." Well, it's sort of it is about a million people come from Malaysia every day into Singapore, cross the border to do the labor that Singaporeans don't want to do. Well, what about them? So they are all given a health inspection when they come in, they get a health inspection when they go out. So those little temperature gauges that they just give you a shot of ifra-ray. If you have a temperature, you're not coming to work here today. Sorry. I think you better go home and get well. And if you have a temperature, then you go to phase two and we see what else you have and so forth and so on. So I think there's some generic lessons there. And then there are some specific lessons, though, obviously how much they can be applied in any local setting is heavily dependent on what the capabilities of the system is that were built up in advance. Just one last point. So on the American side of this, as a generic matter, where have we failed? I would say the biggest failure, the many failures of the Trump administration and most people in Cambridge or Washington or New York just blame Trump and that's not the problem. And there's a lot of problems about Trump for sure. But leave the other side. Imagine the Prime Minister of Singapore was the President. What a wonderful idea. But if that were the case, the failures that have occurred in our system, our federal government, our Congress, our states and most importantly, leadership places like us, we can pick about anything in our society, build a capability to do four things. One, surveille to hear the alarm. Two once you hear the alarm, be capable of acting. So how can software start producing thousands and tens of thousands of tests and then roll out sufficient tests to test massively when the US. Now, what, two months later is still testing constrained? What's wrong with that picture? Well, a lot. We could go into the details. So you've got to be able to adapt and respond. Then, you have to be capable of executing so not only program that will fit to the specifics of your character and culture? So we're not going to adopt a surveillance state like China has. That's contrary to other values that we have. But on the other hand, if we're not prepared to make use of the information, private companies like Amazon and Google and the cell providers have about who was in touch with who. This idea that we're now in Boston. We've announced a big win program that we're going to hire a thousand or 10000 people to do contact tracing. I'll let you and me run a contest that, you know, you can pick whichever side the one of the sides says, "I'm going to work very hard and I'm going to take Mr. Jones here, who was like Larry Bacow, our President of Harvard, who was infected. And I'm going to contact trace by asking him, "Larry, with whom were you closer than six feet in the two weeks before you knew you were positive?" Well, he's got a calendar, so he knows what was on his calendar. So I got all those. Okay, good. And then there's the people in my office. I know who those are. Then there's people, "Well, I went to a Harvard event to work. There was 400 people there. And I remember two of them who were at my table. And then there was a whole bunch of other people that I shook hands with and wanted to talk to me. And I sat around, you know, stood around and talked after. And then there was somebody that gave me a ride to the Harvard Club. And I was on an airplane. Yeah, there was a lady that was sitting beside me, we had a conversation." And you start down that path maybe 10 percent upwards. I was talking to a fellow who used to run Google until recently, Eric Schmidt. He said it would take them about 15 minutes to figure out if they put together the database that Google and Apple and Amazon and the cell providers have, to tell you every person with who who was within six feet, given that you have location items on your smartphones. And so therefore, in a place like China now and they're doing a version of this in Singapore, you go to your WeChat, there's an app and you either turn up green, yellow or red. So if it comes up red, you know that you ran into me. We were friendly. We had a conversation for three minutes face to face, not on zoom. And I was infected and you weren't or vice versa. So you should now be looked into to see whether you might be. 

Matt Andrews [00:15:40] I think all of these questions are really valid. We were actually speaking today to the people in Boston about how they're thinking about doing the tracing. And one of our alums is running the process in Bahrain. In the back of my mind, I was contrasting just the supply chain in Bahrain, they're doing it very much like you are now. They're using real information. They also have private detectives and they have the resources and they are literally investigating these things. And when they decide that somebody has to go into quarantine or even into isolation, when there's a suspicion that they may have it, those people are in quarantine, they put risk bracelets on them, that they got the idea from Hong Kong so that they see where they are. And and and they basically saying this only works if you have 100 percent success. There's almost no point in doing this if we don't manage that. And I think one of the things that also I think people in the US sometimes think is that we are the only ones who value privacy and that this value of privacy is something that is peculiar to here. Now, there are states that are different. And what I would say is maybe where that value sits in the hierarchy of decisions is different. It's not that they don't value it, it's that the interaction of that value with other values is a lot more fluid. 

Graham Allison [00:16:49] Let me say a word about that, just please because I absolutely, crucial insight. So I have had this argument with the Harvard hierarchy. So without naming names is to say so, Harvard Health Service has a doctrine and the doctrine calls and they state it on their discussion of what students and others should do. They say the privacy of the patient is paramount. Let's do that one again. So I'm infected. I was face to face with you. So you are at risk. Well, we're not going to take any chance of identifying me because my privacy is paramount. Now I say that's a judgment that a society could make or Harvard could make. And you should understand that it includes a huge implicit ethical assessment that privacy of the one is worth many lives of the many. And if we were to put that to a vote, you and I wouldn't vote for that. We would say, "Wait a minute. My life is at risk. And if there's some modest encroachment on your privacy for my life..." How about if it was two lives? How about if it was 10? So the question that societies have to wrestle with is what should be that balance? And I think as we learnt after the terrorist attack on 9/11 that the interpretation of the rules that balance my liberties on the one hand as they interpreted and my security on the other. Again, if you ask most Americans if you were at risk of a terrorist attack, do you want your government to be somewhat more intrusive in listening to the phone calls of foreigners who happen to be in your country? The answer is, a lot. That's not a very hard choice. 

Matt Andrews [00:18:53] Yeah, yeah. I think it was the same after the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon. I think when people saw the cameras that were used to capture those guys were cameras that capture all of us all the time whenever we go downtown. 

Graham Allison [00:19:06] Yeah, and we didnt complain. 

Matt Andrews [00:19:08] Yeah. No one complained because you got to see it and you thought, "Oh, so they watching me too. Yes, but if I didn't have them, they wouldn't have gotten that guy." 

Graham Allison [00:19:14] The other other thing you, Matt, is just exactly right too. The Bahrain case I didn't know about so I didn't know about that one, but I know Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan. So the Governor Cuomo of New York this weekend said, "I am issuing a new order. Here is a new order to every citizen in New York: You are required to wear a facemask when you're outside." And then he said, "And this order is self enforcing." So the current process that you described for quarantine for the person who might be ill because they came in contact with someone who certainly was ill, says you should go home and quarantine yourself for 14 days. So you go home to your house. But as you said you have your wife. Are you going to quarantine from her? And then you have your children, are you going to quarantine from them? You say, well, no, I don't mean by that. So whereas, I know an American couple who are doctors in Shanghai. So they came back to China after the outbreak of Coronavirus. When they arrived at the airport, there's public health officials and police that are there. They interview each person and they said to these two people, you have to each be quarantined by yourself for 14 days to make sure you're not going to reintroduce the infection. And they sent them to apartment buildings where they had to live in. They could Facebook with each other I presume, but they couldn't talk to, they couldn't come in contact. And every day would come a little package to their house wrapped in plastic. And the guy would put the plastic thing out and knock on the door. And then they have to wait one minute before they open it. And then every day somebody comes and takes their temperature, looks to see how they are. In Singapore's version as again one of the people running it? Explain to me. He said, well, let me tell you our version of that. If you land at the airport the same way, we actually put you up in a four star hotel because the hotels are empty, but you get to spend two weeks in a hotel. And I know a former student who said this the first time he ever got to stay at a four-star hotel. He said that not all the services were working, he couldn't go to the gym and he understood. You know when he looked at the book that there's a lot of other stuff that they can't do. Most places can't do that. But the difference between counting on people to self enforce and alternatively saying that because they're a threat to the other members of society, we have to be more directive. 

Matt Andrews [00:22:02] So it's interesting, just an example from Bahrain: they have now have Corona negative hotels and Corona positive hotels and the negative ones are where they are quarantining. And the positive ones are where they are isolating. And so the positive ones have health officials there who can determine whether they need to move them into hospitals. But it's exactly the same thing. It's interesting, though, because I think your ideas about competence, getting a team to make the decision. I think those are important. But when you're talking here now about a decision which is a different class of decision that maybe politicians usually make. Usually their decisions are decisions where they're weighing up responses of people. They're trying to stick within the lane of what accepted public values and norms are. They aren't really going against the grain. Right. But what you're saying now is actually sometimes decisions have to be firmer, have to be of the type that people are not expecting from those leaders, you know, because there may be countercultural, maybe they almost saying we are going to have a firmer hand than usually have. We know that there's going to be a lot of political opposition to this. We know also that it's going to imply a lot for resource allocation, because if we do want to say to people that we're going to take your right away from you and you are going to have to quarantine, maybe you do have to put them up in a four star hotel so that you can kind of manage that loss a little bit. But even that is a much bigger decision, a much more forceful decision. How do you work with leaders to make those kinds of decisions? And I think it's in the same category as getting leaders to pivot, because I think political leaders don't like pivoting. The idea of a pivot is we were wrong, we made a mistake. People will jump on me. I don't usually want to do that. It's almost getting them to make a decision that is outside of kind of what you might expect them to do. How does that work? Do you see that happening quite often? And how do you kind of nudge or push or cajole leaders into making those kinds of decisions? 

Graham Allison [00:23:55] Wonderful question, and we could do a whole seminar on it so let me try not to be too wordy, but I'd say obviously for any political leader, very high up on his priority list is maintaining their position in control of the government. And that's an extremely demanding challenge because in a democratic system, there's the other half of the people that are trying to kick me out. In an even more autocratic system there are people that may overthrow me. And if I'm not simply holding on to power for its own sake, though, I would say most political leaders that's a big part of their motivation. If I think that I need to hold on to power long enough to achieve the noble objectives that I'm pursuing, if I lose my job, I'm not going to be able to do that. So there's Richard Newstead wrote brilliantly about this in Presidential Power that political leaders have always to be looking at the impact of choices on their own authority and ability to govern. So that's a big factor. Secondly, depends a lot on the reputation. Well, on the character of the person and their ability as the leader, to be willing to recognize, "Gee, I think I made a mistake." Aand adjust and adapt. But I think particularly in crises, it is possible for a leader to explain because I don't think you have to explain very much to most citizens today. This seems like a big deal and it wasn't that anybody had actually prepared for. And we're all in this trying to figure out where to go. So we're doing our very best but what we do is be as transparent as we can and as truthful as we can. And we're going to change our mind from time to time because I always quote Lord Keynes on this who said, you know somebody challenged him and said, "Well, gee, what you're telling me today was just the opposite. What you told me yesterday." He said, "Yes, sir." He said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What are you going to do?" OK. So I think that's why I particularly like what the Prime Minister of Singapore did in backtracking, having not adopted a policy of closing down large parts of it. He said, well, things are happening that we didn't think were going to happen, so we're going to make an adjustment and then we'll adjust back. So that a lot depends on, again, the confidence of the leader and the relationship he has with people that are necessary for him or her to stay in a position of power. The other component of this is in societies for which there's a great respect for science and expertize, which unfortunately it's not all societies. And indeed, unfortunately for American society includes quite a lot of people who think the world is flat or that Elvis appeared somewhere recently, that maybe this was brought to us by foreign agents from a different planet or something. But in general, making use of the best expertize and being able to credibly respect the expertize of the relevant experts, but not to be a prisoner of them. So, again, that's a pretty subtle point here but an important one. So professionals in any domain acquire just from their organization and culture, a group think you could even call it, but a set of perspectives, presumptions, doctrines like the privacy of the patient is paramount, sayings that this help them coordinate, which may or may not be appropriate when confronting a new and novel crisis. And in fact, I have a paper that was just published today on our website on whether we may be fundamentally misdiagnosing the Corona crisis. And my suspicion, my bet is, that we are. Which is. And as I say, this wouldn't be unique because when struck by a unanticipated novel threat, especially one that the professionals involved failed to anticipate, their ability in the first round to understand what hit them or what hit us is limited. So if we need it the most. I mean, I know the national security arena more than the health arena, but if we take the national security arena after 9/11, something that the attack on the World Trade Center that killed 3000 people, Americans who most of us who imagine we live in a secure bubble and that bad things happen in other places in the world. And we watch them on TV and send the military there to help. We lost our bearings. And in that context, a very well-meaning and competent, thoughtful, experienced group of leaders in the George Bush administration chose to invade Iraq, which actually was not even connected in any way to the attack on the World Trade Center and the terrorists. And we're now 10000 dead Americans, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, more than 100000 another American soldiers or servicemen and women who bear lifelong, severe handicaps and seven trillion dollars in a lost cause. Well, you think well OK. So I think that the possibility that the professional community may not quite get the answer right in the first instance. And so what this paper, this is basically saying we need to have a much wider ranging debate among people from the analytic community, not only deferring to the public health and epidemiologists who should be respected, and especially given that they're now in the middle of the fight making such extraordinary efforts. But still, it's possible we haven't quite got it right. And so in the intelligence world, national security, where we would often once we have a point of view in best practice, you would then say, well, let's organize a team B. So in national security we're the blue team and you organize the red team and you take some of your best professionals or sometimes people outside. So I've sometimes been on Team B, so people from outside and they say, "OK, your job is to be the devil's advocate. You should challenge everything. Challenge the data from the blue team. Challenge the assumptions. Challenge the presumptions. Challenge the doctrines. So you tell me if you can do a better picture." And again, in the language of intelligence, this would be called. You start with what we call dots of light. So just little points that you say, well, I at least know what happened in Bahrain. I got this clue about what happened in Singapore. I got this clue from what happened in Hong Kong. I got this clue from what happened in here. So I got all these things. And now the trick is to try to connect the dots. But to not let your prejudices lead you to find the devil in the clouds. If you have a big idea in your head, this is part of the story of The Essence of Decision. So if you have a conceptual picture in your head that you're strongly with it, too. You could look at a Rorschach test and seek confirmation for it, so you don't want to only see what you think you want. You want some other person who you respect but who says, "No, no, no. You think this is a devil? This is actually either just clouds or so there's no information in this. Or alternatively, here's another picture." If you take a few more dots and you make tattoos and make them correct. So I think the need for a process, as particularly one's trying to understand a novel threat that engages more than just the professionals who might otherwise defer to. Again, in the national security world, there's a cliche that says, you know, "War is too important to be left to the generals." And I would say, "The war against Coronavirus is too important to be left to the public health professionals." As crucial and important as their input is. 

Matt Andrews [00:32:49] It's actually quite strange because in my unit we work with all sorts of policy issues and we find that these kind of biases come into everything. And whenever you're dealing with a new issue, I always remind people, you know, firstly, no matter how much expertize the expert has, if the expert is working in a new context, they are not the expert of that context. So that's firstly something you need to think about. And if you're dealing with a new challenge, then they're not an expert on that challenge either. So I think the idea of getting multiple types of experts is important. One of the things that we also try to do is we try to get people to identify rather than jumping to the solution, we say let's work out what the crucial questions are. And the idea would be start with identifying the crucial questions, then get those multiple teams providing their own answers to those crucial questions. So there's you actually you're forcing getting multiple points of view onto the table right at the beginning. And then we say now go out to people and go out and speak to people at the grassroots level. You know, one of the things I see right now is people are saying, how are we going to open the economy? How are we going to do this? And when I speak to people across the world, I keep saying to them, "OK, you are sitting in a room with five or six economists talking about how to open the economy. Are you speaking to business owners? Because I can guarantee you that every single restauranteur is asking that question of himself or herself. They are the ones who are thinking about their employees. They are the ones who are thinking about how many tables they have, etc. Go and get as many points of view as possible because expertize is a very fragmented thing in this perspective." People see different parts of this elephant. And I think it's important for people to recognize that. I think that's a tremendously, tremendously useful piece of advice. 

Graham Allison [00:34:24] Let me just second that 100 percent, particularly because, for example, you have now the conversation about what steps next on the stairway to the reopening of the American Academy. And if you look at the guidelines that came out of the White House yesterday, they have some, I think, pretty good words. But there are now already almost 30 percent of the workforce working. And they're in what's called essential industry. Essential is the supermarket, the drugstore, the filling station, many restaurants that are doing takeout. Those people working there are not there by command. They're there ecause they would prefer to be working there with the risks that that entails than not getting paid or being at home. So if we want information about what many people seem to think is good enough for them, you might ask them and you might watch their behavior. The other idea in red teaming and in what I think we now need in trying to understand this challenge and what to do is to recognize what I say is that there's no monopoly of strategic wisdom in the government in Washington or in the topic I work on US/China competition in Beijing or Washington. There's no monopoly of wisdom or insight on this in Cambridge, Massachusetts. These are issues where people who come from really well outside the domain may be able to have more strategic imagination than the rest of us, because I kind of know what the playbooks are so I think of examples from the playbook that I know. And they seem good enough and kind of a wild idea that comes from somebody in an entirely different space. You know, initially the reaction is you don't even belong in this conversation. And we don't need any ideas from financial wizards or from historians or from, you know, somebody who's just run a business or some other subject which answers. Maybe, maybe. But I think many times, if you're not bound by the presumptions and culture and professionalism, that's your strength. Nonetheless may be limiting of insights to somebody from outside, may help bring. 

Matt Andrews [00:36:59] I think also, you know, some of those people who have made the decisions can teach you about the decisions. And that's why I like your idea of going to speak to the people who have consciously or unconsciously made the decision to go back to work or to stay at work and to take that risk. I think there is an incredible amount we can learn. We've had a long time with you. And I wanted to tell you one of the things that I enjoyed with the Singapore Prime Minister, I really respected seeing the pivot recently. I wish that they didn't have those cases that they weren't picking up on because, you know, obviously it would be an even better story. But it's great to see them pivot. But I was actually amazed. I watched an address you know in February and then I watched an address he did in March. And when we're talking about this issue of making decisions that stretch some of the values of your leadership and that maybe you think will affect some of the values that people expect you to be supporting. And he was speaking about how at that point in time they were stopping political meetings and they were stopping religious meetings. And it was interesting because I could see in his presentation that these were values that people would be concerned about and then they would probably question his decision. Our political freedom or religious freedom matters. And it was interesting because he discussed who he had discussed these things with. And he said, we discussed with this religious leader, we have had those conversations. And then he actually laid out. This is not about religious freedom. This is about this. And these people agreed that it's about this. And I thought it was very interesting to see how bringing those people into the decision making process allowed him then also to communicate the decision to the public so that it allowed him to kind of navigate that very difficult value space by saying this isn't just me, this is a bunch of people who have decided at the right time this very hard decision is the right decision for us. And I think that that's also, I think, a general lesson for everybody, that if you decide to go to it alone here or just with a very narrow set of professionals, I think you open yourself up to a lot of criticism and, valid or invalid. But I think that all the risk is basically on you and them. I think when you introduce other people into the conversation, it might slow the conversation down a little bit. And I think people don't want to do that in times of crisis. But, you know, I say there's a way in which if your process allows for time bound conversations with a bigger group, you can still make quick decisions, but you have more people involved in the conversation. I think that could be something that helps the legitimacy of those decisions once they come through. Would you agree with that? 

Graham Allison [00:39:27] I do. It's not a point I had thought about and so that's why I was sort of smiling and thinking. This is an absolutely correct point, because in the course of the conversations, you might learn something if you're the leader and I suspect you will. And you'd be surprised by some things. One of the things about what I called dots of light is the person happens to know the things that they know. So don't tell me that I didn't spend 14 days in a hotel unable to talk to my wife. I'm telling you, I did it. It maybe just an anecdote. But what is the point of the anecdote? Data. So at least you have one point that you're not. And then the other thing, as you say, is that. And I didn't see the Prime Minister's speech so I'll go back and look at it. It must be on YouTube or it's on this site. Yes, he has a site. In explaining it. If the leader says, "I know everything. And trust me." And now has to make an adaption or adjustment. So trust me, we were going north. And now today I say we're going south. Much more difficult. Whereas if the leader has earned the position of some degree of trust. And then if the process is transparent enough and if he's credible, not just making a show about the fact that actually this leader from this community, that's what he says or she says, I talk to him and, you know, you've got to make sure they haven't changed your mind. But, you know, it's not. And this fellow says this. This fellow says that. So, again, not everybody agrees, but it's my job to have ultimately to make our decisions. And this is the one I think, that's best for us. Just stop with that line from Harry Truman, who's one of my favorite American presidents. So he would often say, "There's probably a million people in the U.S. that could do this job better than I can. I understand that. But I happen to be president and I'm going to do the very best job I can. I'm gonna to try to and I'm going to make decisions when I have because that's my job. And I'm trusting that I will make the right decisions. And when I don't, I hope I will be man enough to change my mind." So I'd say that's pretty good leadership lesson for for all of us. 

Matt Andrews [00:41:51] Very much so. Graham, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Graham Allison [00:41:53] Pleasure. 

Katya Gonzalez-Willette [00:41:56] To learn more about the Building State Capability program's, Public Leadership through Crisis blog series, visit www.cid.harvard.edu/public-leadership-through-crisis. Thank you for listening.