For many of us, lessons learned are a very familiar concept and one that is the sequential step following an incident. Usually, these lessons take us down a path of identifying events and circumstances within itself that leads us to classify our response as successful, failure, or somewhere in between. As we watch the worldwide cases of COVID-19 grow in both numbers and severity, we as Crisis Management Practitioners are already thinking about our after-action reports and how we will make our pandemic plans and, therefore, our pandemic crisis readiness, “better.” These are responsible steps to take in the growth and maturity of an organization’s crisis ready program.
Still however, we rarely think of how our communities, organizations, employees, and colleagues will mature as a result of this and many other events. Sadly, we often go from event to event and find ways to mainly look at the tactical side of crisis management, while overlooking the key pillars that ensure that our ecosystem is not only resilient but one that focuses on operational learning and improvement, as well as strengthening our stakeholder connections and relationships.
Your crisis readiness and resiliency starts with people
Many different components make up your “Resilient Ecosystem,” and it starts with people. At the centre of every group dynamic, some great individuals shine both at a personal and a team level. The combined set of values, attitudes, competencies, and behaviors of these groups are what make up the organization’s culture and also define how the organization will respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions to survive and prosper. During my time in the Health & Safety field, I collaborated with many great minds on Human and Organizational Performance (HOP). I quickly realized that a similar transformation was necessary in the Business Continuity and Crisis Management worlds, which we now refer to as “Resilience”.
Transformation sounds like a long and drawn out daunting task. Still, the change I am referring to is about having guiding principles that ensure that practitioners and organizations have a common understanding of the operational environment and how our values, attitudes, competencies, and behaviors not only drive outcomes but influence performance at the individual level.
A Principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or a chain of reasoning (source, Lexico Dictionary). These serve as the roadmap for the organization to learn from itself and travel down a path of continuous improvement, which, in essence, is the best form of operational excellence.
These principles are not new; they’re not proprietary; they’re not unique; they are merely common-sense actions that allow the organization to truthfully look at its systems and processes in order to learn and improve.
These principles are, in significant part, taken from HOP concepts and applied to the work, we as Business Continuity and Crisis Management experts carry out every day. They also align perfectly with the Crisis Ready mindset and values (go figure!).
- Learning & improving is vital.
- Context drives behaviors.
- Blame is the enemy of understanding.
- Capacity is what’s important.
- There is no such thing as perfection.
- Being resilient does not prevent “bad” things from happening; instead, it ensures “good” things happen while we operate in complex and adaptive environments.
- How leadership responds to events matters.
Let this sink in for a moment, reread them.
Reread them again.
Now we can move forward with a closer look.
Learning & improving is vital: Every incident, near-miss, exercise, and discussion is an opportunity to learn and grow. This not only applies at the personal level, but also for our programs and, most important of all, our organizations.
Context drives behavior: The environment in which we operate drives our behavior. Most of the “decisions” we make, our environment encourages every day. We, as resilience experts, must understand this and ensure that during times of crisis, our ecosystems are conducive to our success.
Blame is the enemy of understanding: Blaming does not “fix” anything. Nor does it help anything in a positive way. We can either understand, learn, and improve, or we are sure to experience the same hardships over and over again.
Capacity is what’s important: Is a vehicle without seatbelts, airbags and brakes safer because it hasn’t had an accident? Or is the vehicle that can withstand an accident safer, even if it has experienced a crash? Think about this, which car would you rather drive? Which vehicle would you rather your children be in on their way to school? These are the same kind of thoughts needed around building a resilient ecosystem within and around our organizations.
There is no such thing as perfection: No person, process, system, or piece of equipment is perfect. Just because a system or method has been in place for a while, does not mean that it’s the best way to accomplish a task. Don’t fall in love with mistakes because you spent too much time making them.
Being resilient does not prevent “bad” things from happening; instead, it ensures “good” things happen while we operate in complex and adaptive environments: This takes us back to capacity. We now, more than ever know that it’s not “if” but “when”, and must have crisis ready systems in place that are adaptable and flexible enough to withstand sudden disruptions.
How Leadership responds to events matters: EVERYONE and I do mean EVERYONE—this means all of your stakeholders, both internal and external—will know what your organization’s values are and how your organizational culture operates, by merely observing leadership’s actions during and following an incident.
I view these principles as an organization’s roadmap to crisis ready success, and I know that even though it may seem harsh at times, they will guide you down a path of learning, openness, and improvement. Take this and apply them to your current handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the particular impacts it is presenting to your team, your operations, your stakeholders and your brand.
Lead with the right mindset; lead with strategic foresight; lead with compassion; and lead with the ability to adapt resiliency to your brand. Lead in these ways and you will be all the stronger and more successful for it.