Posts Tagged ‘readiness’

by Richard Martin

I facilitated a business continuity planning meeting last week with one of my clients, a mid-sized life insurance company. One of our objectives was to examine scenarios with business continuity impacts.

Upon consideration, it was apparent that several departments in the company had already encountered similar situations and developed informal processes and procedures to deal with them. However, it was also apparent that much of this valuable experience was dormant within these groups, and there was no ready way to extract the knowledge and share it throughout the company.

© faithie | 123RF Stock Photo

Such information is typical of what I call “unknown knowns.” This is knowledge that exists somewhere in the organization, usually informally and in the experiences of individuals or small teams, but that remains unknown by senior management and the wider organization. I developed this idea as a result of extending former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s musing about known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.

If you build a two-by-two matrix you end up with a fourth quadrant, the unknown knowns. This is potentially highly valuable knowledge that is partially dormant and inaccessible to the whole organization. It can be useful for readiness, risk management, and business continuity preparation. But even more, there can be a treasure trove of client information, competitive intelligence, and operational know how that goes unexploited and unimproved, simply because there are no active means of accessing it and sharing it, much less improving it and exploiting it in a systematic manner.

As a military leader commanding peacekeeping forces, I found that the best information was often resident right within my unit. I had only to ask my troops what they had seen in their patrols and by talking with the local populace and I could generate enormous quantities of grassroots intelligence. That’s why military commanders prize ground truth so much.

There is a lot of knowledge and information resident in the minds of employees and managers in a company. There are salespeople visiting customers and prospects. Others are constantly interacting with suppliers, distributors, retailers, and even competitors. There is a lot of knowledge that goes unexploited simply because company leaders are unaware of everything that is known within their respective organizations.

Are there things you or your organization/team may know, but that you are not already aware of? What can you do to find out, or to promote this kind of sharing and awareness?

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

By Richard Martin

© Alexskopje | 123RF Stock Photo

The recent spate of natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes) have shown once again the need for readiness and resiliency for operational and business continuity. I’ve also been working with a client organization to review and upgrade its continuity programme. Here are some basic principles to keep in mind.

  • Readiness for business continuity is a leadership responsibility. It is a strategic concern and must be led by senior leadership and executed by the entire organization and its “chain of command.”
  • Business continuity is part of contingency planning and preparedness to respond and recover after prevention has failed. In other words, it’s part of your risk/threat mitigation strategy.
  • Insurance is needed to help recover and rebuild after a disaster or a crisis, but it can neither prevent nor mitigate the impacts as they unfold. That is where the entire preparedness and readiness programme come into play.
  • There are three phases to business continuity planning and management: preparation, response, and recovery. The preparation phase should always be in effect, and not just an afterthought.
  • Business continuity planning (BCP) must be conducted on a cyclical basis, for instance every year. It must be aligned with other normal management processes such as annual budgeting and capital planning so any required investments can be identified and adequately resourced.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin

Copyright: Tomas Griger

After the magnitude 8.3 earthquake in Mexico last week, an acquaintance of mine was fretting about how these natural disasters couldn’t be a simple coincidence.

Of course, that acquaintance was referring to the apparently large number of violent systems in the South Atlantic this hurricane season in combination with an earthquake. I’m not sure what these phenomena have to do with each other. How are weather and geology supposed to be connected? Perhaps in the very long term, on the scale of eons. But over days or hours? Not likely.

Humans have a propensity to see causality and correlations where there is just coincidence. Most things happen for no reason at all. It’s easy to see patterns where there are none, especially in nature. If you see linkages where there are none, you can drive yourself crazy with anxiety and paranoia. Things happen. Sometimes they bunch up in time and place. Other times they are more or less spread out.

The trick to being prepared isn’t so much to predict specific causes or events, it’s to prepare for generic outcomes and effects. If you’re in a hurricane or seismic zone, you can’t predict when or where events will occur, but you know that they will occur with a certain frequency and power. For instance, every decade or two, there is a major hurricane in your zone. Every year there is at least a major tropical storm. Geological risks are much harder to characterize, but if you are in high-risk seismic region, then you have to prepare for the worst case.

Of course, preparedness and resiliency are largely a function of wealth. Storms, earthquakes and other natural events are a lot costlier in wealthy regions, but relatively less destructive of life and limb. In poor regions, the relationship is inverted; there are many more deaths and the destruction, although extensive, costs much less. However, the time to rebuild and recover are a direct function of wealth. The greater the capital resources, the faster and easier it is to absorb the costs of reconstruction and resiliency.

These factors also play into the perceptions of coincidence, causality and correlation. We must keep things in perspective when assessing probabilities and impacts. Human destruction is greater in poor countries and increases toward the past. Material destruction was less in the past and is continually increasing. This isn’t because of some connection between events. Rather, it comes from the increased investments in infrastructure, housing, and transportation networks. What was the damage along the Gulf Coast or in Florida prior to people building houses right on the water?

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin

Here is an easy to use four-step to help in readiness for anything, any time.

Step 1: Mobilize

  • Confirm situation and mission
  • Do time estimate
  • Activate team and support network
  • Prepare equipment, dress, “ammunition”
  • Inform “troops”

Step 2: Reconnaissance

  • Terrain (market)
  • Objective (client, goal)
  • Enemy (competitors)
  • Weather (context, conditions)

Step 3: Plan

  • Aim, factors, options, decision, plan
  • Tactics: frontal, flanking, bypass manoeuvres
  • Exploit/protect centre of gravity
  • Economize and mass for optimal impact
  • Pit strengths against weaknesses, exploit gaps

Step 4: Deploy

  • Brief team, supporters, colleagues
  • Initial and final rehearsals
  • Update plan, develop contingency plans
  • Final preparation – material and psychological
  • Morale – How is your will to win?

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

 

by Richard Martin
Readiness depends on gaining and refining as exact a picture of reality as possible. Without a realistic picture, we can’t know if our preparation is-literally-realistic. Our plans and readiness measures may be highly detailed and precise, but we may end up being precisely prepared for the wrong things.
Here are some principles to guide in developing and refining a realistic understanding of conditions:
Multiple Viewpoints: This is analogous to the triangulation technique in orienteering or navigation. You take a bearing on 3 or 4 known landmarks and then plot their reciprocal on a map. (Incidentally, this is how GPS works, but with satellites instead of landmarks.) If the multiple perspectives lead to similar results, that is a strong hint that you’re reading of the situation is realistic.
Converging Evidence: Analyze problems and conditions using different methodologies. Continuing with the analogy from navigation and orienteering, triangulation is one methodology to find your location. Analyzing topography and relating it to a position on a map is a second methodology. Calculating one’s position from dead reckoning-i.e., based on previous distances and orientations-is a third locating methodology. If all three methods converge on the same result, then you can be as close to certain as is reasonable about your actual exact location. If the results of the various methods diverge, this is an indication of a fundamental uncertainty in your assessment of actual conditions.
Independent Analysis: Ask different people or teams to analyze the problem or situation. Keep them separate during the analysis then compare their independent results to see what the commonalities and differences are. This gets around group think and uses the competitive spirit inherent in any cooperative or collaborative endeavour.
Dissenting Opinion: Analyzing dissenting opinions is exactly what Google DIDN’T do with the recent firing of a software engineer who openly questioned the company’s so-called “diversity” policies and practices. Whatever you think of the guy’s opinions, it’s rather ironic that an organization that boasts about its openness and innovativeness felt obliged to quell a clear example of reasoned dissent. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the dissent, but it surely deserves at least to be studied to see if it’s substantive before taking such a radical counter-action.
Skepticism: Skepticism is often equated with systematic disbelief and dissent. In actuality, it is an attitude of questioning inquiry beyond dogma, doctrine, and established truths. Just because you’re skeptical doesn’t mean you must reject accepted beliefs. But nor should you accept them blindly without considering the results of multiple viewpoints, convergence of evidence, independent analysis, and dissenting opinions.
Self-Doubt: This is probably the most important one of all. It’s okay to be confident and to believe in yourself, as long as it’s based on something substantive. The following quote by Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman says it all: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself-and you are the easiest person to fool.”
© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be forwarded and reproduced only for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

by Richard Martin

Back in March I put out a Strategic Readiness Bulletin titled “Is Canada Facing an Incipient Refugee Crisis?

The situation has evolved to the point where the Canadian Forces have been tasked to set up a temporary reception centre near the Quebec-US border. Asylum-seekers are being temporarily lodged in Olympic Stadium and the old Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and RCMP have sent reinforcements south of Montreal to help with the overflow of migrants arriving on foot at the border. Most are of Haitian origin, but it seems that other nationalities may also be arriving and that the mix could very well change quickly.

You can surmise from reading my bulletin, referenced above, that this situation was entirely predictable, if not in its specifics, then at least in outline. I don’t think we’re at a crisis point yet, but that could develop rapidly, as we saw when the same thing happened in Europe two summers ago.

A crisis occurs when you lose control of a situation, and you are constantly reacting to conditions rather than shaping them. If at any point border crossings or reception and housing facilities are overwhelmed, then it will be a crisis.

The question at this point is whether plans and actions can be undertaken now to prevent and/or mitigate these possibilities. Organisations must stay ahead of events by envisaging various scenarios and possibilities and implementing plans and measures to cater to them, before they occur.

And this isn’t just a federal or provincial government responsibility. Municipalities, private businesses and non-profits can be affected. Some small municipalities are already being stretched by the demands of reacting to the situation.

If you are running a business, can this affect you? What if you are near a border area, or have clients in the US, or depend on shipments to and from the US? Could you be affected. I talk more about this in the bulletin, so you should definitely check it out.

Also, here are some other articles I’ve written over the years that you may find of interest, especially for interagency cooperation and planning.

Five Myths About Crises: Why we’re surprised by unsurprising things.

Crisis? What Crisis?: The type of crisis we’re facing, and how it is likely to unfold.

Mobilizing for Readiness: What you need to do to mobilize your team or organization.

Proven Techniques for Crisis Leadership: Leading effectively before, during, and after a crisis.

Battle-Proven Principles for Disaster Leadership: The focus of this article was disaster management, but there is a lot of good information, especially for public agencies.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. Reproduction and sharing permitted for non-commercial reasons.

by Richard Martin

  1. Velocity: Action is a vector. You can get to your objectives earlier by combining the right direction of movement with fast speed of execution.
  2. Decisiveness: Don’t wait for perfection; move when you can act and generate results that contribute to your aim.
  3. Opportunism: Accelerate execution and results by exploiting favourable events and conditions.
  4. Momentum: Consider changes carefully, as it takes time and energy to change direction and speed.
  5. Preparation, planning, and logistics: Use time judiciously (or make it) to prepare for action; consider all relevant factors, conditions, scenarios, and risks; develop courses of action to achieve your aim and select the optimal one for detailed planning; balance resources and priorities accordingly.
  6. Initiative and creativity: Tell your people what outcomes they are responsible for, and let them find the optimal ways to achieve them; give them the requisite authority and resources in line with their needs and overall priorities; make them accountable for their actions and results.
  7. Security: Protect your flanks and lines of communication through 360-degree situational awareness; validate your assumptions.
  8. Surprise: Don’t advertise your intentions, unless you can be almost certain of the results beforehand.
  9. Depth: Act in waves and phases; don’t put all your eggs into one basket; reinforce success and stop doing what isn’t working; don’t expect success on the first try, but be ready for it nonetheless.
  10. Reserves: Always keep forces and resources in reserve, because you can never foresee everything beforehand.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. Reproduction and forwarding for non-commercial use are permitted.