When my kids were younger we went to one of those ‘laser tag’ venues for a friend’s birthday. My kids and I found our way on to the same team and as the referee was getting ready to start the game, I laid out the plan for us to all stick together and work as a group. My son exclaimed, “I’m a lone wolf!” and as the game started he ran off ahead without us. Within seconds, he came walking back the other direction with head down and lights flashing on his vest. As he sulked by, with infinite dad wisdom, I asked, “How’d that work out for you, lone wolf?”
As humorous as this story is, the lesson is absolutely applicable to organizational and community resilience. Simply put, we can’t do it alone.
I remember a particular tabletop exercise I attended in Washington DC in the mid-2000s where I was representing a large retailer. There were only a handful of us from the private sector, but an overwhelming number of participants from governmental and other support agencies and organizations.
As the exercise began, the expected agencies leapt to the forefront and started declaring their intended actions. However, as I listened and observed, I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of interaction between the public and private sector partners. In fact, there was little to none.
At one point in reading out their exercise actions, one of the leads from a government agency stated, “We are going to move food supplies to a forward location on 18-wheelers.”
I furled my brow, raised my hand and asked, “Whose food supplies are you moving on whose trucks?”
The lead looked surprised as he responded, “Food from YOUR distribution centers on YOUR trucks.”
My response of “Well then don’t you think you should talk to me first?” elicited a low chuckle from the other participants.
I share this story not as a slight against my governmental partners (as I’ve been guilty of this plenty of times myself), but to highlight the reality of assumptions that we often build our own plans upon.
Community resilience takes ALL OF US – government, business, infrastructure, academic, faith-based, volunteer, and non-profit partners – working together at a community level to break down barriers, remove assumptions and build effective, holistic platforms and frameworks that will work efficiently when the time comes.
And for my private sector friends – community resilience IS your business and is GOOD business. You have a vested interest in the wellbeing of the environment that surrounds, supports and sustains your business operations (e.g., workforce, infrastructure, etc.). Your active participation is necessary!
For some of you, this may be new and you’re wondering where you start. Here’s five key actions that have worked well for my teams and I:
- Find the right people. This isn’t always easy as people on all sides of this discussion have varying styles, interests, motivators, and beliefs about resilience and partnership. I’m a firm believer that local management should build local relationships – these are the people you see at the local chamber of commerce meeting, at the grocery store, or little league game. These will be the people you have on speed dial when things go wrong, but the time to build these relationships is not at the point of disaster, it’s long before that. Invest in and maintain these relationships.
- Speak honestly. This is tougher than it sounds as organizations often try to show strength in their ‘public face’ and shy away from showing any weakness or vulnerability. Planning with others requires a level of trust between partners where ‘reality’ can be discussed openly and honestly to produce the best possible outcomes.
- Eliminate assumptions. Assumptions are the enemy of good planning. Partners engaged in resilience planning should do everything they can to eliminate them by asking good questions and continuing to tackle areas of ambiguity together.
- Practice! It’s not unusual for organizations to conduct their own training and exercises to simulate and prepare for response to disasters and disruptions. The KEY however is to train TOGETHER. When’s the last time your community had a tabletop exercise that included public and private partners? You respond the way you practice. So, practice with your partners.
- Invite others. It’s great that you’ve expanded your thoughts relative to resilience, but this is an area that only improves with more participants. And you know people. Invite them into this conversation, introduce them, and encourage them to participate.
If you’re looking for further information, a major milestone was reached this last week as the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a guide on Building Private-Public Sector Partnerships (P3). This was a joint effort on the part of partners from across the spectrum to document framework, set the bar and move the conversation forward. You can download the executive summary or full document from FEMA’s website.
As we wrap up, my encouragement to you is not to be a lone wolf! Don’t let your organization go at it alone and prepare in a silo. Take partners. Listen and learn from each other. Plan and practice together.
Working together takes exactly that – work. But it’s work well worth it as we truly are better together!
More About The Author:
Jason Jackson is a highly respected executive and thought leader in security, safety and crisis management and is appreciated for his ability to bring people together when developing innovative, forward-thinking strategies. Jason’s experience includes leading Walmart’s global emergency management and business continuity teams, where he developed a vision for and launched forward leaning technology and operating platforms to improve the company’s ability to mitigate and manage crises. He most recently served as the Chief Security Officer for Bass Pro Shops family of companies with responsibility for security, safety and regulatory compliance to include cybersecurity, business continuity, and crisis management.
In his role as the Vice President of Customer Experience at Infinite Blue, Jason develops customer experience excellence by driving holistic thinking and making continual progress with customer alignment throughout Infinite Blue. Working closely with Product Management, Customer Success, and Account Management, he is the consistent voice of the customer throughout Infinite Blue.