Weekly Read Chapter 5
Good morning everyone, we’re counting down to the end of 2018 - which means you still have a few weeks to take those necessary steps to complete those goals you set for yourself. Don’t let the year run out without having made at least one significant step towards your goals. Today we’re going to jump in to Chapter 5 “Competent Teams cannot be created after emergencies.” In this Chapter we look at the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the lessons learned by the Federal Government in relation to catastrophe preparedness and response.
Let’s start with the problem of scale.
Hurricane Katrina was bigger than most people expected, but surprisingly, not larger than predicted. You could argue that the storm’s footprint was so far beyond anything that the Federal Government had prepared for in recent times, it’s not completely surprising that they were unable to provide enough aid, resources, and manpower when it came to the immediate recovery. If we accept that argument, then the problems that arose after the storm can primarily be tied to an inability to plan for something larger than most people were able to conceive. I would argue that is more indicative of a failure in people, instead of a systems failure as most people would see it.
When developed and deployed properly systems can be scaled to meet the needs of all sizes, locations, and intensities. And the disaster recovery model that everyone counted on was rooted in common sense approaches: evacuate people in dangerous areas | bring first aid to the injured | establish lines of communication | deploy resources appropriately. However, when a system or model is never tested beyond its typical limits, there is zero insight into what will happen once it comes under unusual or high demand. This was the Achilles heel during Katrina, failure to see and plan for the “biggest” picture.
For your team to be the one that succeeds when others fail, you will want to account for scenarios that others deem as unlikely or not possible. If it’s standard practice to drill for a scenario where there is a 25% loss of power, have your team run the drill with a 50% or 85% loss of power. Once you reach that critical level of power loss, are you able to identify the systems that will go offline in their respective order? Will those systems be permanently damaged or repairable?
If your IT support staff has created back-up or emergency storage for one day’s worth of work - push the system out to three days and see what happens both internally and externally. Is the staff still clear headed and focused on Day 3 when those storage limits are being reached or exceeded? Will you have to dump less important information to allow for the long-term storage of more important information and if so, what does that process look like? Who will need to authorize it?
These are all examples of decisions that could have to be made in the heat of the moment. Decisions that can affect business on a micro and possibly a macro level. As the leader, your ability to plan for what exists unseen over the horizon is a key component to creating a competent team that can address emergencies in real time. It is a key component in helping your team establish a confidence level that will allow them to perform at a consistently higher level during times of confusion and chaos because they are prepared and ready to handle the difficult tasks.
Partnerships - As we will discuss in a later chapter, rarely is anything of significance done without support from other people. In the case of Katrina, the mutual aid agreements that allowed cities and states to access additional resources were of no use because each jurisdiction was overwhelmed with its own disaster response. Similar to the issue of scale and ineffective planning, your partnerships can fall victim to the same type of issue. Can you point to a time in the last 18 months or less where you held strategy sessions with your partners or vendors to ensure that their capabilities are still in line with the needs of your team, division or company? If you did, great job you should be commended, but did you take it a step further and determine with that partner what happens when their capacity is exceeded?
Do they have partnerships that can be executed in short order to shore up their resources should the need arise? Who will lead those additional resources? Will they expect payment before beginning work? These may seem like small items now, but these are the types of concerns that can get in the way and should be worked through ahead of time, so when the need arises - there’s no time loss. This particular aspect could present itself in other ways as well, such as the loss of a partner due to contract issues or that partner simply going out of business. Have you considered that eventuality, have you devised a plan or framework of steps to implement in case this happens?
One suggestion here would be to have members of your team cross train with partner teams for unplanned occurrences. The goal shouldn’t be to have your team members become 100% knowledgeable about your partners' work functions, but for them to have enough of an understanding so that they close the gap in real time if the need occurs. This may also require you to purchase and store materials that your partners/vendors use when they execute a task. Have you ever heard the following phrase: “Two is one, one is none”? In essence, it means redundancy is paramount. Having two of an item is just like having one and having one of an item is equivalent to having none of an item. I’d challenge you to make this motto part of the fabric of your team if success under trying times is a must for you.