Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ERM-BC-COOP: Vindication!

I just received an invitation to sign up for a Continuity insights Management Conference in Chandler AZ April 27-29. (As the temperature dips into the single digits where I currently hang my hat, the warmth of Phoenix seems pretty good.)

The post card promo I received tells me, in big, bold letters, that

    Research indicates that an effective manager is not inherently an effective leader in a crisis.
Do I hear an echo?

I have been preaching, in at least three of the 200-plus articles on my URL (, that the people in day-to-day management roles may not be the ideal candidates for a crisis management role.

The first article I found during a quick search dates back to January 2002 and is, funny enough, titled "Crisis management."

The Continuity insights keynoter is Dr. Robert Chandler (apropos for a conference in Chandler AZ) who is to present "Predictive Knowledge: Skills, Abilities, and Traits for Effective Crisis Leadership."

The promotional material goes on to state that this address will consider

  • The key traits, skills, abilities, and task competencies of effective crisis leaders
  • How to select and develop crisis leaders by using trait characteristic measures.

I suppose there is something in that, but based on personal experience over more years than I care to admit, I think the best way to identify both crisis leaders and managers who should be given go-fer tasks is a high-level crisis simulation.

The problem I have with templates for personalities is that they are subject to failure.

The templates may overlook some excellent leadership candidates and they likewise may find acceptable candidates who, when faced with The Real Thing, will fall apart like facial tissue under a strong stream of water.

There are people who seem born to manage during a crisis. There are others - notably in the ERM-BC-COOP world - who are excellent planners but disasters as responders, managers or otherwise.

The problem for us - ERM-BC-COOP practitioners - is to identify who will keep their head when everything seems to be coming apart, and who will panic. There is a second part to this search effort, and it demands of the practitioner a high degree of diplomacy and stratospheric management support: convincing a "day-to-day" manager to take a supporting role and let someone else, perhaps a person who reports to that manager, take the lead.

That may be what separates a so-so manager from a great manager - the ability to step aside for the good of the whole.

I'm told that some American Indian tribes had chiefs for different functions.

The US government, although it has the president as The Final Authority, depends on various "chiefs" - cabinet secretaries - for its operations. In theory, in the event of a national disaster, Homeland Security becomes the senior manager for response operations.

It is not, then, unheard of that a junior assumes leadership from a senior, if only for "the duration."

It would not be wise or politic for a practitioner to advise a Very Senior Manager that the manager might be less than suitable for a crisis management role.

But the wise practitioner might be able to convince said manager by conducting realistic exercises. (Such exercises also can be useful in showing demanding personalities that their ranting and raving and "I want it NOW" demands are counter-productive.)

While I am certain Chandler's keynote address will be worthwhile, I think that the better approach is to put the candidates under as much stress as can be realistically applied and see how they react.

The articles:

January 2002: Crisis management ( - footnote
January 2, 2006: Testing 1, 2, 3 (
August 29, 2006: Primary and secondary jobs (

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
Planner @

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