Priorities

By Guy Higgins

I recently read an article in Air Force Times, Air Force: Pilot’s checklist distraction led to Reaper crash. The article discusses the crash of a Reaper unmanned air vehicle and attributes the crash to the pilot’s focusing on his checklist rather than flying the airplane.

Here’s some background for folks who might not be familiar with Reapers and the surrounding processes. A Reaper is an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) built by General Atomics of La Jolla, CA. It is the armed variant of the Predator surveillance UAV. The process used to get a Reaper up and on its mission is to have one pilot conduct the takeoff and climb to operational altitude at which time the takeoff pilot transitions the Reaper to a mission pilot who will fly the Reaper throughout its mission. Continue reading

War Games Part II

By Guy Higgins

Last week, we published a post re-emphasizing a 2014 blog on war gaming/exercising emergency response plans, and I promised that this week I would continue with thoughts on crisis management.

Crisis management, unlike emergency response, is focused on controlling the unfolding crisis after (and even during) the emergency response team’s activity to protect people and then property. The Crisis Management Team (CMT) is a very different group of people and they’re seldom actually at the location of the actual emergency. They’re people with the authority to allocate resources to resolve the crisis and get the organization back to normal operations. Continue reading

Preparedness in the Cyber World

By Guy Higgins

Verizon recently published their 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR). The report analyzed just under 80,000 cyber-security incidents that resulted in 2,122 actual data breaches as reported by 70 different law-enforcement and cyber-security agencies. At first blush, it might seem that there were relatively few data breaches, but the rough odds of experiencing an actual data breach are one in forty – not very good odds when the cost of a data breach is high in both dollars and reputation. Continue reading

Small- and Medium-size Businesses: What is Your Cyber Risk?

By Guy Higgins

With the massive data breach created by the recent hack into the sensitive records of the Federal Government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), cyber risks are receiving significant media attention. The question for small- and medium sized businesses is, “Am I vulnerable?”

In a word, yes. Small- and medium-sized businesses are right in the sweet spot for malicious hackers, and perhaps even more at risk for IT system “glitches” and “employee-caused” data breaches. These are three very different categories of problems: Continue reading

Communicating in a Crisis – Tarnishing Or Burnishing Your Brand

By Guy Higgins

On December 28th, AirAsia flight 8501 was flying from Surabaya to Singapore when it disappeared from radar.  The disappearance of AirAsia 8501 immediately brought to mind Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which disappeared on March 8th of last year.  While there has been no resolution of the fate of Malaysia Airlines 370, we now know that AirAsia flight 8501 crashed and all aboard were killed.

Both of these losses were immediate crises for the respective airlines, both affected over one hundred families and both drew enormous public attention.  However, the effectiveness with which the two airlines responded to these crises and communicated with the public, the families of passengers and the authorities differed enormously. Continue reading

Coming In Out of the Rain

By Guy Higgins

Storm coming - freeThis photo is an actual photo – no Photoshop involved.  The amazing thing is the people who remain standing on the beach as this ominous storm approaches.  The question is, “Why aren’t they getting out of the way of the storm?”  In a similar vein, on July 11th, my two partners, Rob and Jennifer Freedman, were driving through Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) on their way to the annual Hot Air Balloon Rodeo in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the Rockies this time of year, and locals (defined as folks familiar with living in and around the mountains) try very hard to avoid being out in the open up in the mountains after, roughly, noon.

Rob and Jennifer found themselves stuck in a traffic jam that lasted two hours.  The traffic jam was caused by emergency responders reacting to lightning striking a group of hikers.  Unlike the people on the beach, these hikers had seen the thunderstorm building and were hurrying back down the hiking trail to get out of danger.  They had gotten nearly to the trailhead when the group was struck.  Unfortunately, one woman was killed and several other members of the group sustained serious injuries, including broken bones.

This tragic event has frightening similarities to many business and operations scenarios.  Organizational leaders know that disruptions happen – just as the people on the beach know there is a storm on the horizon.  Like the people on the beach, some leaders do not take action to “get out of the rain.”  They appear to take the position that the storm won’t hit them.

Other organizational leaders, like the hikers in RMNP, see the storm coming and know that it could hit them, but they wait too long to react and move to “get out of the rain.”  Some organizations will survive their “lightning strike” by luck, as the uninjured hikers did.  Some organizations will sustain serious injuries from which they may or may not ever fully recover.  Some organizations, like the unfortunate woman on July 11th, will not survive.

It’s also important to recognize that had the hikers turned around sooner and safely gotten back to their vehicles on the 11th, they may still have been struck by lightning, and may have experienced fatalities – but those are not the odds.  Luck does favor the prepared, and hope is, in fact, neither a plan nor a strategy.

Just as it pays enormous dividends to be prepared when hiking in the Ricky Mountains, it pays those same kinds of dividends to be prepared in business.  Predict the likely threats, identify the impacts, develop plans to mitigate or respond to those threats, identify triggers to act in time, and perform – getting out of the rain without getting wet, or at worst with a plan to get into warm dry clothes.

This is all about leadership – whether it’s one person on the beach, a group hiking in the mountains, or an organizational leader seeing and responding to threats on the horizon.

 

Should the President Be Playing War Games?

By Guy Higgins

Okay, first, this is NOT a political blog, and I’m not going there, but on March 25th, I was watching Greta Van Susteren’s On the Record.  I normally enjoy watching Greta because she is pretty polite (by the standards of radio and TV talk shows, she is incredibly and unfailingly polite) but she doesn’t let guests get away with not answering questions.  They dodge and she presses.  Then she lets her guests actually answer – she doesn’t pontificate to them.

Anyway, on the 25th, she reported that President Obama, at the G-7 summit in Brussels, was engaging with the other G-7 heads of state in a war game aimed at possible Russian actions in Eastern Europe.  Greta appeared to be incensed that the President would be wasting his time (and our money) playing games!!  She asked her audience if we thought that the president should be playing games.  Well, I was incensed. Continue reading

Strategy and Planning vs. Responding

By Guy Higgins

In reading one of my newsletters recently, I encountered the following quote from Robert McNamara, “There is no longer such a thing as strategy; there is only crisis management.”

First, in the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I am not a fan of the late Secretary McNamara.  I think that he failed grossly as Secretary of Defense during the Viet Nam War in valuing the world’s perception of the U.S. over integrity.  I think that world perception was the driving force behind all his decisions.  He had not thought through what a strategy should be for U.S. national security and how fighting that war fit into that thinking.  He had no solid strategic framework on which to base his decisions.  Without considering the choices, options and consequences through developing a foundational strategy, he only responded to the exigencies of managing a series of crises.  Consequently, he made a lot of very questionable decisions. Continue reading

Decisions Under Stress

By Guy Higgins

I recently read a very disturbing book – Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.  The book recounts the story of several simultaneous expeditions climbing Mount Everest in 1996.  A little bit of background first.  Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at 29,028 feet, was first climbed in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, his Sherpa guide.  Since then, the mountain has been climbed numerous times, and starting in the late 1980’s commercial ventures have guided paying customers to the summit.

Krakauer’s story focuses on the expedition, led by Rob Hall, of which he was a part, as well as the expedition led by Scott Fischer.  He also discusses the interaction these two expeditions had with other groups climbing Everest at the same time (Taiwanese, Japanese, South African groups and one solo climber). Continue reading

Leadership in a Crisis: Professional or “Pick-up”?

By Guy Higgins

I was meeting with a potential client last year when I was challenged that planning to respond to emergency or crisis situations was an unnecessary effort and expense.  “As a leader that’s what I get paid for – to respond to situations out of the ordinary.  I don’t get paid my salary for running the daily operations; the staff does that.”

Needless to say, that was not quite the attitude that I expected.  Very few leaders to whom I have spoken have expressed the idea that they can handle, ad hoc, anything that comes their way.  I’m certain that most experienced leaders can handle the majority of the bumps, hiccups, glitches and SNAFUs that get dropped on their desks.  That ability is a good thing since we can’t have a plan for everything and we can’t take the time to put together detailed plans for responding to a sprained ankle in the lobby – we rely on our experience and many of the standard operating procedures we’ve put in place over time.  Sprained ankle?  Help the person to a chair and call the person on the first aid list.  No problem. Continue reading