WIG CEO Blog March 2020 - Leading Through Unprecedented Times

“I just want to live in precedented times”,  as the meme goes. Things are normal until they are not. Interestingly, the top risk on the National Security Council risk register has been pandemic for quite some time. As is common with risk, people take heart in the likelihood of high impact things occurring being, on the whole, quite small. Perhaps this leads to a naturally greater focus on the middle of the Cartesian diagram. Either way here we are.  
It seems almost churlish to comment on the strain of leadership under these circumstances. I am not running a ward in a hospital, fighting to maintain an ambulance roster or systematically risking my health in some other way in support of the NHS or essential services. My appreciation and respect for those who are in those roles knows no bounds.  

For the rest of us, however, uncertainty and doubt abound. The foundations of normal life and business have been at least warped and in some cases thrown into complete disarray. It seems that three horizons emerge: the immediate shock and requirement to react to reset an organisation;, the medium-term manoeuvre to safeguard organisational survival; and lastly the sense of what this will all mean in the thereafter.  

Recovering from shock and mustering logic and analysis to service the medium term are still the priorities. The levels of certainty typically required for significant decision-making are mostly unavailable. When will ‘normality’ return? What assumptions can be made about the future financial environment? What is the long term effect on finely-tuned supply chains forced to be held in stasis?  

There is an emerging discussion on how the pandemic will change the future but these ponderings seem premature to many. The future of work, lifestyles, recession,  ‘U’, ‘V’ or ‘W’ recovery models, global cooperation, the nature of society and community, the implications of resilience in systems thinking... the list will grow. WIG will be ready for the conversations, but in the meantime, we thought it fitting to provide a probably incomplete list of contributions made by our membership in support of the current crisis. Our team is collating these positive stories on a regular basis so do reach out and let us know how your organisation and team is responding and what creative collaborations have come out of this crisis for you. 


  • Simon Ancona CBE

    Chief Executive

    Simon Ancona enjoyed a full career in the Royal Navy including service in the Fleet Air Arm and appointments abroad in both Hong Kong and Bahrain. He commanded 4 warships, the UK’s Carrier Strike Group and UK maritime forces in the Middle East but also spent about 10 years in Whitehall including time in Ministerial outer office. His final appointment was as the Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff in charge of world-wide defence diplomacy and engagement. On leaving the military he worked as the Chief Operating Officer responsible for Network Rail’s North East London and Anglia region, which provided experience of commercial delivery and the challenges of operating at the seam of both the public and private sector. Married to Lisa he lives in South London and has two university aged children. Interests include cycling, walking, theatre, cooking, books and playing the blues Harmonica (normally when the house is empty).

    Simon writes a CEO Blog for WIG on topics that he identifies as relevant to and impacting on our members.