A greater goal

Dermot Casey
7 min readJan 26, 2021


An outline Strategy for dealing with Covid19 using the Strategy Cycle

I’m teaching Strategy across a few Masters courses at the moment — using Wardley Mapping and the Cynefin Framework as core elements. I started looking for an example outside the technology field to illustrate Simons approach and to give it a grounding for students. I walked though the basic elements of a Strategy for dealing with Covid19. I’ve posted it here


If we start with purpose what are we trying to achieve with a Covid19 Strategy? One of the challenges here is that there are conflicting purposes (or at least there appear to be on the surface).

For most people ( this is me generalising from myself and general conversations) it is a return to some sort of normality — kids in school, ability to go for a coffee with friends, the ability to go to the cinema, to a match or out for food and feel comfortable when doing so. The precedented times.

The challenge through most of this period has been the apparent conflict between economics and the suppression of Covid. There has been a continual tension between the need to suppress the levels of disease in the community and the need to continue with some form of economic life. The government has referred to this strategy as “living with Covid”.

Unfortunately, it is proved almost impossible to live with Covid. You can’t negiotate with a virus. And “living with Covid” is short for “living with Covid until we’re all vaccinated”. So vaccination is a critical part of this strategy (and the WHO have pointed out the limitations of that strategy).

As an alternative I’m going to describe the purpose here as the ability to live normally or almost normally . This is our why of purpose. The ability to live a normal life to do the normal mundane things, to hug our parents, to ensure our children can play with their friends to enable education at all levels to continue , and in reality to resume most economic life.


So what is the landscape we’re operating in. The landscape is a highly infectious virus, that is spread mostly through the air, but also through touch (to a much lesser extent). Its is a virus that has the ability to mutate to become more infectious as it has done over the past few months as the UK and South African variants make spread easier and containment harder. It can incubate for up to 14 days and a percentage of people are never symptomatic.

It is an environment where we have gone through multiple lockdowns in Ireland. Where we used them to supress but never crush the virus. It is where communication has been sometimes clear but frequently muddled. (Facecoverings v’s facemasks and the lack of discussion on how this is spread through air etc) . Other elements are a limited heath capacity — our beds per head of population are much lower than Germany and the US which makes containment important because we can’t treat more than a small number of people. There are 50 more people in ICU today than we had ICU beds 12 months ago.


If climactic patterns are the things that change the map regardless of your actions then we can see virus mutation as one pattern. We can see the development and roleout of vaccines are another pattern acting on the environment. We can also see the actions of other countries where they have crushed the spread — Australia and New Zealand (and look to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand for other examples).

If one climatic pattern is that everything evolves then the ability of the virus to mutate should be a real warning to us. We crushed the virus in Ireland in the summer. A second wave was seeded by a Spanish variant of the virus — not more virulent but a version which was reintroduced through travel. The third wave here was caused by socialisation and during that period the UK variant spread and is becoming the dominant form in Ireland making containment significantly more difficult.

Globally we risk a situation where a strain that is resistant to existing vaccines emerges. We have created a global petri dish for selective evolution of the virus. It would not be great if we got to 80% of the population vaccinated when a variant resistant to vaccines emerged.

I’d also describe some of the general understanding of the spread of the virus as a climatic pattern that is influencing behaviour. We know from random antibody sampling across the UK that schoolkids are more slightly likely to have had the virus than the rest of the population which is an important consideration.

Doctrine / Principles for Action

So what principles to do follow to get to our objective — how do we move?

The first step has be an aggressive suppression of the virus — a target that we get to before any lockdown ends. And a potentially a stricter lockdown to get us to that point. Would ten days with less than ten cases per day where test and trace can effectively deal with any flareups be sufficient?

We do need to stop travel in and out of the country. Mandatory two week quarantine for those coming in on the Australia/New Zealand model would seem to be the only way to do this. There is the set of strategic elements described in the ISAG document which would require fleshing out.

How do we deal with the border with Northern Ireland. Trying to get an All-Island approach should be the first approach. If we can’t do that then the sort of measures taken during the Foot and Mouth Crisis twenty years ago when we were able to protect our agriculture industry effectively would seem to be a reasonable set of steps to take. It was pointed out last night that more people on this Island have died of Covid in 12 months than died during the 30 years of ‘the troubles’. It is in everybodys interest to work together.

Fully resource public health. It is underfunded to the degree that public heath staff are looking at strike action and have publicly complained about lack of resourcing. The ability to do massive test and trace on outbreaks and to backtrace any that happen is going to be critical because there will be occurrences of Covid. This is where the phrase #zerocovid may be not be the best phrase in the world.

We need to step up our education around the virus to get this number down as fast as possible. It is clear that

This is transmitted primarily through air.

People need to wear masks when outside their home. And there are now questions emerging on whether cloth masks are sufficient because of the new variants emerging. The governments in France and Germany are telling people to wear higher grade mask. The government should give everyone in the country a set of higher quality masks.

Schools are as safe or unsafe as any other working environments, environmental measures eg. CO2 monitors, checking for proper ventilation etc can make them much safter than they are and can limit the spread of the virus.

Core principles of communications — a bias towards open, common languages, challenging assumptions should be in place. The messaging on this needs to be consistent across the whole of government and the health service. We need to focus on the outcome here.

We also need to vaccinate as fast as is humanly possible.

Use appropriate tools — Look at the lessons from other countries there is an awful lot we can learn from others.

Leadership to Action

This is where I worry that leadership has not been in evidence. I’m struck by a line from a piece with NZ Prime Minister “The alternative is to set a lesser goal and then still misfire”

If we set these goals then there may be some chance of normality by the summer — no chance of travel abroad and no chance of tourists coming here but we can get closer to mundane things again. We put ourselves in a much better position economically and we would do an awful lot for the mental health of the population.

It now requires action. There is a concern of half action when we need decisive comprehensive action and action that is communicated well.

We have a clear why of purpose here. And we have a clear why of movement.

We have been through a year of observing, orienting and responding rather than deciding and acting. We can and need to do better.



Dermot Casey

I help ambitious people build the future and companies reduce risk in growth. Director Resolve Partners