Weekly Read Chapter 4

Photo courtesy of Alfons Morales

Photo courtesy of Alfons Morales

Alright Ladies & Gentleman this will be the final read for 2018. The book itself is progressing quite well, I’ll be moving into the editing phase starting at the top of 2019 and looking to set a release date in late Q1 or early Q2. For those of you who prefer audiobooks I’ve got a treat in store for you as well. This week’s read is from Chapter 4 “Competent teams cannot be created after emergencies occur” - we’re talking about being prepared so that your team can respond efficiently & effectively even in your absence.


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 “bigger” 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 plan 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.

Dean McKinney