Monday, September 29, 2008

Situational Awareness – How much information is necessary?

Richard Moreau, Vice-President Emergency Preparedness

The need for relevant and timely Situational Awareness (SA) is widely recognized as a critical enabler for the successful management and response to emergencies, however, the task of generating and maintaining Situational Awareness is a difficult one. The difficulty begins with the very definition of Situational Awareness and what this requires in terms of information flow. As succinctly as possible, Situational Awareness is “What you need to know not to be surprised”.

In order to reach this goal, some individuals’ take the approach that all available information should be processed to all interested parties at all times (quantity over quality). This approach requires little if any framing at the front end. It is a “throw out the nets and see what we catch” kind of approach. In my own experience, particularly at the National Defense Command Centre (NDCC), this approach is a recipe for information overload. When you are processing up to 4000 pieces of information every 24 hours you must build your SA requirements on a different premise so that you can get the right information to the right people at the right time (quality, relevant and timely information).

With this much information in the stovepipe it is essential that the Leaders of the organization are involved up front in defining the questions to be asked and what type of packaging of the information will support their decision making process in a meaningful way. By creating a framework of questions, the individuals processing the information have a greater chance of providing meaningful Situation Awareness to enable the Leadership to make effective decisions.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Leadership is built on TRUST...Micromanaging is a symptom of NON-TRUST

Richard Moreau, VP Emergency Preparedness

The right leadership climate has TRUST as its’ foundational element. Trust must be earned and it is based on the qualities of professional competence, personal example and integrity. Trust is not a static commodity and can be lost quickly when competence or integrity is called into question by an individual’s actions.

Trust is a two way street. It must be given and earned. The oft quoted General George Patton, said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Micromanaging is a significant reflection on the lack of trust between leaders and subordinates. Leaders who micromanage are disconnected in their level of trust in those they lead and those leaders severely hamper their ability to move people and projects forward.

This inability to function appropriately comes into focus during the management of a crisis. Individuals who are not comfortable assuming the roles and responsibilities associated with their current position will fall back to their comfort zone. That comfort zone is often manning a work station or a similar post in the center of the action. The presence of the leader at this point in the crisis undermines the ability of the appropriate subordinates to effectively do their jobs. Effective training can ameliorate the tendency to fall back into comfort zones and is an important preparatory step in the growth of effective leaders.