One of the most important learnings in the after action review re: last month's tornado in Bridgeport, Connecticut was the importance of clarity around direction, leadership and roles. Or, in other words, the importance of sticking with the basics. Our partner Harry Kangis continually reminds us about the importance of clarifying these three things in physical crises, business crises and day-to-day management, and probably in this order.
The people working on the crisis in Bridgeport accomplished almost everything they set out to accomplish largely because they were all aligned around what was important – providing relief to the victims of the disaster. When we work with leaders in new jobs or new roles, one of the very first things we do is get them and their teams aligned around a shared purpose and imperative.
There was a lot of confusion during the Bridgeport response. At first people thought it was a breakdown in leadership. Upon closer examination, we determined that was not the case. The Incident Command System worked. There was always a "pilot-in-charge". And there was always someone making key decisions around the different pieces of the effort. This is important stuff in a crisis and in all business situations.
One of the main opportunities for improvement in the Bridgeport response was more clarity around roles. The response team got flooded with volunteers. There was a fair amount of confusion around who could be doing what, when. This is why milestone management systems and role sorts are so important in both crises and other business situations.
At the risk of sounding like Maslow's hammer running around the world looking for nails to hit, we do keep learning that you can make an impact in most crisis or normal business situations by aligning people, plans and practices around a shared purpose.