Monday, March 9, 2009

Communication During A Crisis - "No Comment" Is Not An Option

Richard Moreau, Vice-President, Director Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness

An important part of leadership during a crisis is to be an effective communicator. A leader must communicate to both internal and external audiences. To the internal audience, the leader must communicate: Why you are asking them to act a certain way; What is it that your are asking them to do; How you want them to carry out what you are asking them to do; Who is responsible for what; Where you need them to be or to accomplish what you ask them to do; and finally, When you want them to do it. The answers to all these questions pulled together form a concept of operations – which is essential for a smooth running team.

External communication is also very important. During a crisis the media is looking for “the story” and if you won’t give it to them, they will find it somewhere. You may not know everything but it is important to tell the media what you do know and how you are reacting to that information. This allows you to manage expectations about what information is available and to get your message across to your external audience. It is imperative for the leader during an incident to lead by being the face of the organization to its' external audience.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crisis Leadership vs. Crisis Management.

Richard Moreau, Vice-President, Director Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness

Does your organization practice Crisis Leadership or Crisis Management? Understanding the difference between the two is essential for generating the organizational leadership environment required for success during an emergency and for the daily operation of any organization.

What kind of leadership prevails today in your organization?

Organizations with a strong leadership, risk taking and pre-established delegation of authority to the lowest level of the organization tend to adapt more quickly in the face of unforeseen events. Organization with pre-established procedures, processes, structures and plans combined with the right leadership culture fare better than those who entered the crisis with nothing in place or with leaders totally unfamiliar with the existing processes. Exercising the roles and responsibilities of the various groups contributing to their EP/EM and response plans are better equip to face the unknown than those who fail to do so.

For many organizations the change in operating environment from routine to crisis is extremely difficult to make. The fast tempo of operations and increased flow of information requires leaders to make decision more rapidly, assume greater risks all this based on incomplete and sometimes conflicting information. This obviously contrast with the slower pace of policy making, where time is on your side, risks are avoided by building consensus, conducting studies and where decisions tend to be taken by committees. Unless your organization’s leadership is adequately prepared to make the mind shift from routine to crisis mode your organization will face increase risks of failure.

By the Leader, with the Leader and for the Leader….

Richard Moreau, Vice-President, Director Emergency Preparedness & Public Safety
Effective leadership is essential for any organization to be effective in times of crisis. In order to achieve this any organizations EP and EM framework must be developed by the leaders, with the leaders, and for the leaders. The effectiveness, quality and relevance of an organization’s EM/EP framework are directly proportional to the level of engagement of the leaders. It is no longer sufficient for leaders to view EP/EM with the attitude of “break glass in case of emergency” . Leaders need to be fully involved in shaping the processes, procedures, structures and tools aimed at supporting their decision making process. The time to kick the tires on your EP/EM framework is not during a crisis. Leaders play a key role in setting the environment and conditions for success.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Leaders are Key...

Richard Moreau, Vice-President, Director Emergency Preparedness & Public Safety
Many conferences and workshops on Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Management and Crisis tend to focus on very narrow segments of what is in fact a very complex and multi-facetted issue. We have a propensity to talk about technology, lessons learned in a broad sense, the need to exchange more information but we pay very little attention to the human factor and more precisely the place of leaders before, during and after a crisis. Despite all the technological solutions currently available, it is my firm belief that effective crisis management and response is first and foremost a human endeavour supported, facilitated or enabled by technology.

A handful of conferences that I have attended did provide fine examples of leadership during a crisis. However, in most instances, the common theme that emerges was that these leaders all found themselves in situations where the corporate or organizational processes, procedures and structures in place where not optimized to effectively support their decision making requirements during a crisis. This situation forced them to improvise and adapt on the fly with mixed results. I believe that in order to avoid repeating past errors the EP/EM community needs to place leaders at the centre of their respective EP/EM frameworks. Clearly no amount of preparation will totally eliminate the risk of having to improvise during a crisis. However, there is a fundamental difference between having to improvise process, procedures and structures on the fly while attempting to generate solutions and improvising solutions inside a stable framework of processes, procedures and structures.

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.