Category Archives: Leadership

Contingency Planning – At The Highest Level

Well, here we are. In the USA, we are at the beginning of an unprecedented event in our lives: the pandemic COVID-19.

A key phrase I heard (which is definitely ringing true): Life as we know it will change.

Again, it has only begun!

Next, the country will move more towards ensuring critical services (emergency response, healthcare workers, grocery stores and gas stations) remain available, while at the same time a complete lockdown is considered.

If this isn’t real to you yet, it is about to become VERY real.

At this juncture, there is no time for, or benefit from, spending ANY energy laying blame or politicizing this situation as nearly the entire planet is in the same boat.

Instead, let’s do what we can (which is a LOT) to minimize the spread of the virus and the socioeconomic impact that WILL be felt far beyond the event itself.

I shan’t cover what has been said repeatedly during White House briefings and other communications about personal hygiene and social distancing. And, if you haven’t been watching the White House briefings, (hearing things from the horse’s mouth) you are getting critical information 3rd hand, spun by the media, resulting in confusion (even panic) as to the true state of affairs.

The next scheduled White House briefing is at 3:30pm Eastern. Tune in!

A critical resource I’d highly recommend staying on top of is the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which you can view by clicking here. This is sound guidance for all of us to heed – as individuals.

Now, to business. And, I’m not sharing this to ensure companies remain profitable. I am sharing this to ensure companies remain VIABLE.

Said another way, if drastic measures are not taken NOW there are companies which will not make it, resulting in shuttered employees as well as the loss of the important products and services manufactured and/or distributed by these firms.

The most critically important are those companies which provide products and services CRUCIAL to society, to ensure they continue to do just that (as the TOP PRIORITY) ahead of any other initiatives.

To achieve the above, there is a key guiding principle that must be adhered to:

Production MUST Prevail

This, to the exclusion of ALL other / non-essential activities.

To support this, a very clear message must be delivered “from the top” that the number one priority is to ensure all resources understand the importance of this mission critical goal (production must prevail) and that any activity that would impact this should take a back seat.

So, what is a company / leader to do?

Following are practical steps that can be taken to plan, prepare and execute accordingly.

  • Identify mission critical:
    • Processes – What are the key processes needed for Production to Prevail?
    • Personnel – Who are the key personnel?
    • Resources – What are the key resources?
      • Tools of collaboration for a remote workforce (email, Webex, etc.)
      • The manufacturing facilities which produce, and distribution centers which move, critical products
      • What about key partners and suppliers?
  • Identify activities which can be paused or de-prioritized
    • Example: All companies will likely experience disruption in their supply chain. Those that produce a critical product for healthcare need to ensure existing customers continue to receive life-sustaining product. To do so, it is worth considering ceasing all NEW customer acquisition so that ALL production and inventory can be allocated towards fulfilling demand of existing customers to ensure they don’t run short.
  • Command and Control / Communications Protocol
    • Define a management / communications structure to ensure the upwards and downwards flow of information, solely focused on the status of critical operations.
      • Who is responsible for monitoring updates from the government and health-related authorities?
      • Who is responsible for interpreting the above as relates to the impact to critical operations?
    • Conduct daily (or more, as necessary) status checkpoints with critical operations
    • Provide daily (or more, as necessary) company-wide updates.
      • Via email, Webex, etc.
      • Include contractors and consultants who may be on the fringe.
  • Determine backfill strategy
    • If (when?) critical personnel are impacted by the event, who will backfill to perform their crucial role? Better to leverage existing / internal resources who are already oriented and trained (to a degree) vs. attempting to hire in this environment.
  • Identify and fill gaps that materialize with a near-fully remote workforce
    • Example: How do signature approvals take place? Yes, email approvals “can” work in the interim. However, in highly regulated environments these email approvals are often required to be followed-up with “real” signatures. This will create a backlog of work (and potentially loss of “official” approval-related documentation). If something like DocuSign hasn’t been implemented, it may be time to do so – now!

The above is meant to provide some “initial”, practical advice for business leaders to consider in responding to this unprecedented event. The failure to consider the above could very well mean failure: failure of the firm you represent.

We are Americans: Failure is NOT an option!

In closing, the above guidance results from decades of experience including, but not limited to, preparing for and executing numerous disaster recovery / contingency planning-related activities and scenarios (both real and imagined).

I hope you find this helpful for you / your firm!

Be safe, healthy and practical!

More to possibly come…

On Critical Thinking – Town Politics

Recently, a well-meaning neighbor and new friend of ours handed us a flyer which shared the importance of VOTING NO ON ARTICLE # 5, at the upcoming Town Meeting. The article was prepared by another neighbor, who I don’t think we’ve met, yet…

In summary, the article proposes a change to the appeals process related to the Town Planning Board.

The information presented in the flyer made it seemingly obvious that a vote of NO was the ONLY way to go for a good resident of our fine town.

In fact, I actually scanned the flyer and was preparing to distribute it (hard and soft copy) myself.

Until…I said to myself: “Self, while it does seem that a vote of NO is the obvious choice, based on the information presented in the flyer, I wonder why this change is being proposed.

At this point, I turned to our town’s website, located the board of selectmen, and launched an email, to ALL of them (individually) which went something like:

Hi [Board of Selectmen],

We haven’t met yet. My wife and I recently moved to the area.

I understand there is going to be an article presented for a vote at next week’s town meeting, regarding changing the process of appeals such that…

On the surface (which is all I know at this point) this seems like we are…

As such, given the limited information I have, I’d be voting NO.

That said, do you know the reasoning behind why this change is being proposed and why it benefits the town and its residents?

At the moment, the benefits are not clear, while the drawbacks are quite clear.

Thanks, and I hope that you have a nice weekend!

Notice that I didn’t go after them with a scathing note about how they are about to destroy our town 🙂

That is exactly the response that someone “could” have after reading the flyer promoting a vote of NO on this change.

To my surprise, not long after I sent the above messages, I received a call from the chair of the Board of selectmen!

He graciously spent 15 minutes with me explaining the reasoning behind the proposed change and why there really is no (negative) impact on the community. In fact, it simply removes a step in the appeals process that is typically unnecessary (and creates negative impact) in the first place.

After I summarized my understanding of his explanation and he confirmed that I “got it” I realized I had “almost” gotten all wound up, and taken action on, something that doesn’t really matter…

I’m absolutely certain that a heated debate will break out at the upcoming Town Meeting over this misunderstanding (as to the true nature and impact of the proposed change).

I shan’t be attending THAT meeting 🙂

Note: If anyone from our fine town is reading this, and would like to learn of my new found understanding of the situation, feel free to let me know. You know where I live 🙂

This is not unlike what I’ve written on media surfing.

As humans, we are too attracted to eye candy in the form of images and headlines that seem to purport a reality and solicit an emotional response, which is either a half truth or a falsehood, spun-up to support somebody’s agenda (or, more innocently, a mistaken understanding of the situation at hand).

In closing, let’s use our noggin. That is, we must do the necessary critical thinking to come to our own intelligent conclusion about the decisions (voting or otherwise) that we are about to make.

Gotta go for now. We need to get some hay for the horses, as they are kicking at the barn door 🙂

Have a great day!

On Guns – Seems We Are In VIOLENT Agreement!

Like so many things, we are often in such VIOLENT agreement that we don’t listen to each other in a way that will allow for forward progress.

This week Obama has put forth an executive order which is summarized as follows, on

The White House is seeking to expand background checks for buyers [of guns]. The measure clarifies that individuals “in the business of selling firearms” register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.

Opponents of gun control are freaking.

On the other hand, we hear Wayne Lapierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association, share some startling facts about the “existing” background check system. Facts that the mainstream media simply does not share with us. In summary:

The existing database used for background checks does NOT include the names of millions of violent felons and others who are legally prohibited from owning firearms. In fact, many recent gun-related killings on US soil were carried out by culprits who actually PASSED the background check. Their names were not in the system.

Click here to view the above mentioned video (The Truth About Background Checks).

Bottom-line: Any system is ONLY as good as the information placed within it. And, the information that is missing from the background check database is ONLY provided if our politicians DEMAND it, which they apparently have not been willing to do.

“If” the above facts are true then it would seem to me there is a worthwhile compromise (actually, some forward progress) that can be made.

This assumes we are in VIOLENT agreement that we should tighten who has the ability to own guns. More specifically, let’s take all necessary steps to prevent ownership by “known” felons and those legally prohibited from owning firearms.

This would involve:

  • Expanding the requirement for background checks to be performed by ALL who sell guns.
  • Making our government accountable to place the identities of ALL known felons and others who are legally prohibited from owning firearms in the background check database.

If we are going to make forward progress we need to look at the big picture (coming from both sides of the aisle) and stop chucking rocks at each other in violent agreement.

But, do we dare to do so? That is, actually listen to all sides of the conversation? Or, do we simply allow ourselves to get all wound-up by the messaging that is “spun” only from our side of the aisle.

Gotta go now and shoot a squirrel that is gorging himself at our bird feeder.