Standards, best/good practices, rubrics and operational audit formats seem to be reproducing at an alarming and staggering rate. ISO 22301 is now released, but it remains to be seen how this will converge with NFPA 1600, EMAP and the other professional practices formats out there competing for our attention. Local agency techniques, business continuity management and social sector approaches all tend to take slightly different directions. The old timers are experts at SEMS, NIMS, ICS and so on, which assumes a specific scale, level of preparation, access to resources, management style, electricity, (now internet), and organizational context. These entities generally have a functioning EOC, lots of practice, trained first responders and outside mutual aid potential (and pre-existing agreements).
NFPA 1600, EMAP and the various professional organizations generate helpful, commendable and applicable tools … but they yet remain on the journey to understanding why academe is so fundamentally different, and therefore how its crisis management tools should be reconsidered.
Standard protocol dictates that we apply currently acceptable benchmarks like NFPA 1600 to these organizations and end up with a NIMS/ICS plan that will work. The good news is that the NFPA tool leaves no stone unturned – more challenging is the time, staff, energy, collaboration, organizational complexities, expertise and unique approach required for an educational institution to use this tool. (Also problematic is the apparent absence of actual rubrics for these tools – lt me know if you find some.)
If you’ve spent any time in emergency management, especially in traditional settings like business, state or local government, the knowledge available is extensive and thorough. We identify potential hazards and rank them to make the task more manageable, then plug on through the planning process until thoughtful and well-exercised plans are in place.
But have you noticed that the hazard part is getting trickier? Earthquakes, fires, hazmat incidents and even terrorism are certainly better understood than they were ten years ago. But what are we missing? What are the hazards yet to be comprehended which will create unpleasant surprises? [Read more...]
A smoothly-running EOC is a work of art. (Just finished a gig as an observer at UCSD’s annual disaster exercise where one of the world’s best – Phillip Van Saun – ran the show). This EOC turned a sprawling University into a synthetic organization for a few hours.)
Jim Collins said that “social sector leaders need both executive skills, the exercise of direct power, and legislative skills, the ability to influence people through motivation and persuasion—the latter being more nuanced and more difficult to learn.” Change and crisis automatically push the organization from legislative leadership back toward the executive leadership pole of the continuum. [Read more...]
Executive leadership morphs toward legislative leadership as complex governance and diffuse decision making emerge, according to Jim Collins. Many organizations plod along with some effectiveness as homes for legislative leadership – the ultimate example may be the U.S. Senate or a Quaker college where essentially any individual can stop the show. [Read more...]
We should all be looking for the “M-spot” to answer the perpetual question of how much mitigation is enough? Whether managing change or crisis we should hope to mitigate vulnerabilty. Some not-so-scientific thoughts follow… [Read more...]
The Jesuits have thrived for nearly 500 years. Surely there is a sustainability loop here somewhere. [Read more...]
While at Cambridge University several generations ago, I researched an historical management case study focused on sustainable organizations. An innovative clergyman, Charles Simeon, created a 5-step cycle that fixed a minority group in English ecclesiastical society “to the remotest ages” through a strategy that generated a balancing loop, which offset an existing reinforcing loop. Reinforcing loops are cycles that build momentum each time a loop is completed. They can work like virtuous circles or like death spirals. (The former are preferable, btw.) To counter a death spiral, you need a balancing loop. (But if it’s an airplane were talking about, better use the parachute.) [Read more...]
On September 10, 2001, I delivered a presentation on terrorism and interagency coordination to an audience of American and Mexican military and government officials in Mexico City. My slide-deck, as it is known in military parlance, included images of the World Trade Towers and details of the 1993 truck-bomb attack, as well as open-source information on Osama Bin Laden. I had no special insight into the prophetic timing of my presentation, or of the magnitude of the events that would prove the resolve of both the perpetrators and targets of this infamous attack. There was, however, a foreshadowing regarding problems leading up to September 11th and which are present in most crisis events: the factors of trust and its impact on effective communication and coordination. I look back with a mix of emotions on the events of the following morning, because lack of unity and the silo-effect were contributing factors that plagued U.S. efforts to effectively develop a collaborative strategy of threat mitigation.
Preparing future business leaders to make wise choices is the principal objective for institutions of higher education that confer degrees in business and management. However, given a lack of crisis management curricula in many university business- management programs, it would be unrealistic to expect good decision-making of these “leaders” during times of crisis. Not taking the time to actively engage in thinking about and planning for crises is a major contributing factor in the current crisis of leadership. Curricula should be training students to apply effective and proven methods of engaging potential or emerging threats. Just as lawyers should not ask a question in court for which they do not know the answer, business leaders should not plan a business venture without carefully considering, and planning for, inauspicious contingencies. In addition to building a diverse and manageable crisis-action team, future business leaders should be taught how best to implement the following crisis-management practices:
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.
Peter Drucker said that constituencies were different in business than in politics. Essentially they were single issue groups who did not always seek to make their company or organization successful, profitable or effective. (Sometimes whistleblowers start out this way and that’s not a bad thing. Why they operate and where they end up is the true test.)
If you want to lead you need a transformative crisis. This from Bill George and Andrew Maclean who write about transformative leadership passages. (By the way, the lack of one may contribute to what holds many “gap leaders” in the nonperformance zone. They simply never had the tears or scars required to move on.)
But the price is high.
A colleague once said that the MBA came with a mortgage. The awarding of the degree carried with it the obligation to contribute, a sort of “pay it forward” idea. He challenged every MBA student in his classes to decide how they would give back. He raised the challenge of the tithe or “first fruits” concept, familiar to Jews and Christians in many places. Because the tithe was usually understood to be a “tenth” of what was received as income, the newly-minted MBA could consider how she would give 10 per cent back somewhere. Maybe this is the interest rate on the mortgage …
In the nineteenth-century Peninsular Wars of Wellington vs. Napoleon, a tactic called the “Forlorn Hope” became a byword. In any particularly knotty situation, where “knotty” meant that lots of attackers would probably die, volunteers were solicited to join the “forlorn hope”. The benefits were compelling – promotion, wealth, honor, etc. But the odds were daunting. Like Las Vegas, the house [defenders] usually won. There were volunteers ready to take the challenge, but their numbers, for obvious reasons, declined dramatically by Waterloo.
The generals who called for “forlorn hope” fresh meat remind me of senior executives and boards who call for change agents. For the generals safe back at headquarters, the outcomes were straightforward – hand out rewards to the survivors and bury the losers. Sadly, many of the change-agent victims of a gutless or clueless CEO or board also get buried. [See young turks from yesterday]
[In the early nineties we created the HAVUC concept at the Simeon Institute while carrying out U.S. State Department-sponsored training of government officials, general officers and cabinet members of the former Soviet Union. It is a tidy way to characterize the Hazard - Vulnerability - Capacity loop for crisis mitigation.]
No organization planning for crisis management can afford to, prepare, respond, recover or mitigate every possible threat. Stephen Fink includes a list of nearly two hundred possible hazards that can destroy an organization if not handled properly. Lerbinger proposes several useful categories that quickly expand as the administrator’s imagination begins spinning out scenarios. The crisis definition used by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services leaves few stones unturned and has the same daunting effect on academic planners. No senior leader can approach a board with the kind of budget it would take to handle every possible threat. There has to be some process that narrows options and applies costs/benefits assessment.
Although crisis management and business continuity planning are becoming more prevalent across sectors, academe is sometimes overlooked by traditional government and consulting agencies and companies. In many communities, academic institutions are large employers and major stakeholders. Even when administrators have prepared responses for traditional, (generally natural) threats or hazards, they miss other threats just as dangerous to their continued existence or success, like a major cheating scandal, academic dishonesty among faculty members, or an inappropriate donation. A brief search of academic websites shows a number who make their crisis plans available online, presumably so their own constituencies have access to them, but invariably these plans appear superficial and untested.