No, it doesn’t show up in the Fortune 500 or any other business list de jour. Peter Drucker thought the Salvation Army got the nod. At one point, the world’s largest nonprofit (supplanted by the United Way when they apparently started counting their branches differently), this group brings an entirely new dimension to effectiveness and crisis management.
Their rather kludgy mission statement remains unchanged over the years, though Drucker claimed it should have been “to make citizens out of the rejected”.
Little known facts: they were the first to arrive on the scene at the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Building in a canteen service van, and fielded more than 200 helpers on 9/11 between the first and second airliner crashes into the two towers. In many situations their response in crisis equals or betters that of local first responders, all without lights or sirens.
Something I discovered in reading the book and talking with staffers involved their use of the incident command system for everyday operations. That was a new thought and an intriguing one. Their website shows twelve or so major mission areas of which Disaster Relief is only one. Yet ICS apparently runs this whole show, especially in the very decentralized local offices. They said that when a crisis hit like 9/11 it was a simple matter for them to shift seamlessly into a response. It is as close to a pure form of HAVUC that I have seen. Capacity is ramped up efficiently at a high level all the time, at little or no additional cost. Where local government must activate an emergency operations center, move staff to the location, fire up the radios, computers and telephones, shrug on colorful vests, open response binders, and so on, the Salvation Army is already humming away in their local office. I am told by firefighter friends that they operate similarly when a tactical unit shows up at a fire. Even the first-arriving firefighter is thinking ICS and expanding the modular organization in his head as the hoses are being reeled out.
Of course the pertinent question is can this work for anyone else? Someone should try (or maybe already are) running a business with ICS. CSTI in California and FEMA have training programs, resources are all over the web, and many local jurisdictions provide training also. And there’s probably a PhD student somewhere who wants to study this.
More each day, it seems like normal operations are the same as crisis operations – this might be an organizational solution worth considering.