Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Environment


Published on

Many organizations treat a crisis as a series of tactical issues affecting operational silos, rather than reviewing the needs of the crisis response at the organizational and strategic level.

Trying to fit a crisis response into existing organizational boundaries and operations can be like hammering a square peg into a round hole. Organizations need a strategic view of crisis management that encompasses the whole enterprise.

The authors of this white paper examine how to create that strategic view while reducing threats and deriving value from the distributed nature of the organization.

Topics include:
• Selling the program
• Organizing the structure
• Program Flexibility
• Making a Crisis Mundane

Published in: Business, Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Environment

  1. 1. Emergency Notification • Incident Management Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Organization Deriving value from the distributed nature of the organization while reducing the apparent threats Karen Dye Oakley and Malcolm Hafner
  2. 2. Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed OrganizationAbout the Authors IntroductionKaren Dye Oakley is the former Most organizations are diverse—by location, function, culture, dis-Director of Global Crisis Manage- ciplines, expertise, time zone, market and product. During normalment at Sun Microsystems. Sheis a well-respected authority and business operations these groups work together well because the in-presenter on business continuity terfaces are well defined and have workflow in place to transfer workand crisis management. Karen is a product. Yet, when an emergency strikes, the speed of the event andCBCP and MBCI, as well as a Busi- the chaos it causes to normal, well-defined operations take their toll.ness Continuity Maturity Model® Most organizations treat a crisis as a series of tactical issues affect-(BCMM) assessor. She has taken a ing operational silos rather than reviewing the needs of the crisisglobal organization from a BCMMmaturity of 2.8 to 4.5 (out of a pos- response at the organizational and strategic level. Trying to fit a crisissible 6). As an independent consul- response into existing organizational boundaries and operations istant, Karen continues to improve like the old adage of banging a square peg into a round hole.the resilience of organizations she Unfortunately, many professionals in the business continuity crisisworks with. management industry have a silo mentality. They incorrectly look atMalcolm Hafner is the President crisis management as a tactical rather than strategic endeavor. Thisand CEO of MissionMode Solutions. is true not only for the response, but the whole crisis management process. Unless there is a strategic view of crisis management across the whole organization, failures will occur when crises happen. Regulatory, compliance or performance reasons are making organiza-Table of Contents tions more procedural, operating within silos. This is a continuing1. Introduction trend that can affect the core resiliency of the enterprise. It’s only likely to get worse.2. Sell the Program Yet organizations need to become more resilient. Stakeholders de-3. Organize Yourself mand it. People naturally operate more in their silos yet effective4. Program Flexibility crisis management relies on the open and speedy exchange of knowl-5. Think Globally, Act Locally edge, information and decisions.6. Make a Crisis Mundane The prevailing attitude often is “This is my role and I won’t go out-7. Plans are Useless, but side it”. To integrate the members of your team, you need to break Planning is Indispensible down the silos. Take the above problems and multiply them by ten to understand the scale of the problem for distributed organizations. They are diverse by their very nature. The trick for distributed organizations is to re- duce the downside of being distributed and increase the benefit. Being distributed and diverse should make the organization more resilient. There are fewer single points of failure. However, complexities tend to take control; often it’s a lack of strate- gic thought beforehand, and communications during a crisis, which hold organizations back. Today, more than ever, resiliency is a basic requirement. A strategic view of crisis management is a key component of a resil- ient organization. To become a resilient organization, several keys© Copyright 2010-2012, MissionMode Solutions steps are required. These steps form the basis of this paper. Page 2
  3. 3. Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Organization Sell the Program The fact that crises are happening more often in today’s chaoticEmployees... need to know what’s world is a double-edged sword. On the one hand the business isin it for them and their customers. more under threat. On the other hand people recognize that bad stuff happens; there’s an openness to change. However, it is still true that everyone needs to see the benefit. Employees, for instance, need to know what’s in it for them and their customers. This should be communicated to suit the culture of the organization. It has been expressed as succinctly as: “If you want the company to survive so that it can employ you tomorrow, you needHaving a high-level to get on the program today!”, through to more subtle callings onchampion is key. people’s benevolent nature. Having a high-level champion is key. The CEO, COO or CFO are the obvious targets. Each has something critical to lose if the busi- ness suffers an economic or reputational event. You’ll also get a good understanding of their risk tolerance and can adapt the strategic view of crisis management to fit. With a little bit of investigation there are always events that have tak- en the company, or others in the market, to the brink. Find those and use them as cases of what might happen. Fortunately compliance, enterprise risk management (ERM) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are C-level topics. Understand how they’ll affect your organization and you’ll be well on your way to addressing a key concern at the top of the corporate pyra- mid. Beyond the C-suite are a host of “influencers” that guide strategy and direction within the company. Is your company a sales-led company, a marketing-led company or a product-led company? Find the answer to that question and you’ll know who the influenc- ers are. These folk need to be working with you to sell the program. They also have a lot to lose if they’re not resilient—they consider themselves to be the lifeblood of the company. But how do you reach out to all levels of the business? When you sell your crisis management program to your employees, you needYou need to speak their language, to communicate how they and their departments will benefit. Other-put everything in context of what’s wise you could get resistance to get involved for a variety of reasonsin it for them, and make them including: “it’s yet another task”, “it will never happen”, “what’s in itaware of the consequences of not for me?”getting with the program. You need to speak their language, put everything in context of what’s in it for them, and make them aware of the consequences of not get- ting with the program. Page 3
  4. 4. Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Organization When they get affected, they pay attention. And it needn’t be the once in a lifetime scenario. More and more organizations are being affected by smaller more fre- quent crises; supply chain malfunctions are a good example. Sometimes people are only convinced when they see your passion. Traveling to the location to convince people is likely to be more suc- cessful. This removes the “lecturing from head office” syndrome that often affects the success of centrally defined initiatives. Organize YourselfThe daily operational structure of There are some basics that need to be clearly understood here. This isthe organization is unlikely to be why a strategic view is so important.suited to crisis management. The daily operational structure of the organization is unlikely to be suited to crisis management. As mentioned before, operating in silos causes problems. The speed at which an organization needs to share information disrupts the normal communication channels and inter- faces. Priorities also change. In a hi-tech manufacturing company, the product group might nor- mally be king. In a crisis, the customer support team is more likely to be king. In a financial services organization, traders might normally be king. In a crisis, ensuring liquidity is king. In a government regulator, regulation is king. In a crisis, ensuring survival of the marketplace it regulates is king.Key to creating an effective crisismanagement team are the roles So, to ensure the best results from a crisis response a different struc-that need to be filled. ture and process is required. This is likely to cut across existing departmental boundaries and functions. Never mind. This is good news. As you exercise and familiarize the team you’ll find that they create new relationships and improve the way they work on at a normal operational level. Key to creating an effective crisis management team are the roles that need to be filled during a crisis. Define the roles and not the people. Unfortunately, instead of choosing team members for their ability to fulfill specific roles at time of disaster, crisis managers often choose individuals who embody certain qualities, such as organizational skills. Your team is comprised of individuals, and their roles are what they do. Your CEO might be better suited to a role which interacts with the media rather than sifts through the detail of a crisis. The CEO might not even be the right person in the crisis team at all! Page 4
  5. 5. Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Organization A distributed organization is helped here. You may well have many similar functions delivered around the world by different people. Some of these people are well suited to the roles in a crisis and should be used shamelessly for that purpose. Being able to respond in different time zones also provides a signifi- cant advantage. Distributed or not, building a matrix of roles and resources is very useful and will provide you with flexibility to react whatever the circumstances. The result of this work should be a crisis management organization which has a defined set of roles and resources and is flexible to meet the short and intense challenges that a crisis provides.The crisis management programneeds to be flexible to suit the localconditions where the crisis is to bemanaged from. Program Flexibility Having a good plan in place to suit local circumstances is key. As much pre-thinking that can be done should be incorporated into the plan. This is particularly true for the first few hours where time is precious, information is often poor, and consequences of actions can be huge. To work, the crisis management program needs to be flexible to suit the local conditions where the crisis is to be managed from. Processes that will work in North America might not be effective in other loca- tions. The operational heads of each territory need to have sway over how the plans are locally implemented. It may well be that in a smaller territory some roles need to be filled by the same person. Page 5
  6. 6. Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Organization Think also about redundancy of people, roles and operations around your sites. These resources could be made available for the division suffering the crisis. At the end of the day it is the operational division that is responsible for its resilience. From a strategic viewpoint, the saying “Think glob- ally, act locally” is very true. The crisis plans are critical. Producing flexible impact-based plansWhen developing the plans, think rather than a multitude of cause based plans helps.about the culture and location ofthose affected. If the impact of an incident is that your site is not operational, it doesn’t matter whether it was caused by a fire, flood, earthquake or terrorism, you don’t have a site and that’s the issue that needs addressing. When developing the plans, think about the culture and location of those affected. For instance, in the operations division of an aviation company pro- cesses are highly proceduralized and people work best in this way (that is an aptitude for which they are recruited). However, in the corporate communications group of the same compa- ny having a plan that is very process driven would be inappropriate and counterproductive. Also, there are perfectly adequate plans that fit on one sheet of paper and are not much more than a meeting agenda. This works well if the crisis teams are well practiced and the company has a culture of rapidHaving open and flexible channels response.of communication will allow yourcrisis team to be similarly flexible. In order to be flexible, it is important to be able to communicate freely to those that need to know what’s happening. Being dynamic dur- ing a crisis can make you take control of the crisis rather than forever behind it. Having open and flexible channels of communication will allow your crisis team to be similarly flexible. In a distributed organization there is a need to adopt technology suited to urgent communications. Escalation should be flexible and communication between teams is of paramount importance. Finally, having the flexibility for the crisis team to make decisions outside the scope of the plan is crucial. There are cases where slavish adherence to a plan has caused more harm than good. You selected the people for the roles with care, now you need to trust them to make the right decisions. Page 6
  7. 7. Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Organization Think Globally, Act Locally When a disaster strikes, all company employees and ancillary staff need to know their roles, no matter where they’re located. It is essen- tial to inform those employees who will have no role to play, and are therefore not part of the team. In one sense, everyone has a role to play, even if it is just pointing media requests to the correct person. As mentioned before, each location must have the ability to act in- dependently for things that solely affect it. However, these actions must be put in a global context. Crisis teams trying to manage issues locally that should have been escalated have exacerbated the impact of many crises. There are many reasons for this, including over-optimism and a cul- ture of fear. Only when it is patently clear that the crisis is out of con- trol is the problem escalated. Keeping management and peers around the globe informed of what is happening is good way of managing escalation. They are often the best judges of when to escalate since they tend to be more objective than those close to the crisis. Having clear escala- tion criteria helps, as does distributed communications. Allied to this is the fact that those elsewhere in the organization canBeing able to anticipate require- provide additional resources unknown to the crisis team.ments across the globe is a hugeadvantage in a crisis response. Being able to anticipate requirements across the globe is a huge ad- vantage in a crisis response. Having a communication platform to be able to do this makes the job much easier and in reach of most organi- zations. Do this well and you’re taking advantage of the distributed nature of the organization.You need to define a list of criticalsites that are crucial to the short- First, though, you need to put some priority on different locations andterm value of the organization. assets. You need to define a list of critical sites that are crucial to the short-term value of the organization. These are the ones that you’ll find it hard to recover from an incident. Once defined, you can assess their state of readiness by employing something like the Business Continuity Maturity Model (BCMM®) to define strengths and weaknesses. You can use this measurement to define the priority and actions necessary for the crisis management deployment. Make a Crisis Mundane A crisis by definition is unusual. What would be a crisis to one organi- zation might be daily operations for another organization. It depends on the market, the culture and the location where the organization operates. Page 7
  8. 8. Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Organization An oil company operating offshore is likely to have more incidents than an onshore company. However, operating offshore equips orga- nizations more effectively because issues happen more frequently. Also, it doesn’t take much insight to see why the UK has a mature business continuity industry—it has had terrorism related events since the 1970’s. So one would hope that UK companies would be better-prepared than others that have not had these events. Just because a crisis is unusual doesn’t mean that an organization should be unprepared. Many organizations prepare with exercises. This should be an important part of the crisis management implemen-Remember, you test the plan tation.and exercise the people. Remember, you test the plan and exercise the people. People don’t fail during exercises, plans do. Make sure your exercises are reasonable tests and test reasonable things. There is no point in testing something that doesn’t stretch the organization in some way. An obvious thing to test is the flow of information and communica- tions through the crisis management structure rather than the organi-Another way of working successful- zational silos. Or, test “follow the Sun” crisis responses so you knowly is to use your crisis management how the plans work when tasks are handed over from time zone tosystem’s automated tools for daily time zone.operations. Another way of working successfully is to use your crisis manage- ment system’s automated tools for daily operations. This makes the tools familiar to those that need to use them during a crisis. For example, corporate security could use the tool as a daily incident log. This has the added benefit of keeping an audit log where a real crisis or incident would first be reported. Information already cap- tured can be used in the first few minutes of the crisis. One benefit of the various pandemic concerns has been the ability of organizations to rehearse in slow time how they would react to a crisis. Use this to find out what would work and what would break if a crisis hit which needs a reaction a hundred times faster than a pan- demic. How would you cope? What would you do things differently? Plans are Useless, But Planning is Indispensible The history of business continuity and crisis management is littered with examples of organizations being content with producing plans. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, plans are use- less but planning is indispensable.” What’s important is the discipline of planning, and thinking about the possibilities. Then, exercising them to assure yourself. Page 8
  9. 9. Successfully Managing Emergency Operations in a Distributed Organization But when the battle commences, plans don’t last long, but the prepa- ration and discipline do. In the corporate context the discipline of planning and exercising is crucial to make the crisis team able to handle just about any situation. The distributed organization can pose additional problems. However, with preparation and automated tools to manage communication across the organization, it can take advantage of in-built redundancy of operations and geographic spread. Do this well, and your organization will be internally resilient. Beyond the boundaries of your organization is the extended enter- prise. Reaching out into customers, suppliers and partners to collabo- rate during a crisis should be the next phase. This can add another dimension to complexity, maturity and resilience. This white paper is brought to you byCrises are difficult. MissionMode’s web-based emergency notification and incident manage- ment solutions simplify your response to any type of incident, from routineCrisis management operational issues to major disasters. They reduce the time and cost ofsoftware shouldn’t be. returning to normal business operations. Incident Management SimplifiedContact us to learn more or The Situation Center™ provides the tools to remedy the incident better andschedule a demonstration faster. This simple-to-use virtual command center enables your team to information, monitor tasks, track people’s status, send alerts, access any type of file, and more. It provides an accurate common operating picture making informed decisions and ensuring that no detail is overlooked.North AmericaToll-free: 877.833.7763 Smarter Emergency NotificationPhone: +1 312.445.8811 The Notification Center™ eliminates the guesswork of what message to send, who to contact and how. Customized automation adapts to constantlyInternational changing situations, yet the system is so easy to use that accurate, targetedPhone: +44 1494 837198 alerts can be sent in as little as ten seconds.” Revolutionary Mobile Communications“With MissionMode, we feel like EarShot goes far beyond ordinary notification. It enables rich 2-waywe are their only customer.” communication using forms, photos, text, profiles and GPS location services.Director of Corporate Crisis EarShot combines a unique mobile app with an online control console andManagement complete emergency notification system. 101512 Page 9