Wednesday, September 7, 2011


The power of people


Risk management - under any name - should never be performed in a vacuum.

A proposal might be written by one person acting alone, but as a former proposal writer, I can tell you that is far less than optimal. Perhaps one person in 1,000 can catch their own typos and grammatical faux pas. Spell check helps, but spell check can't determine which "to/too/two" or "there/their" is appropriate or that "no" should be "now", or even that a negative needs to be inserted to convey what is meant, not what is not meant.

The Statement of Work and Project Plan need input from the client, be the practitioner internal or external - in-house or out-house? Input and approval.

Everyone from Most Senior Management to Newest Mailroom Intern should be involved in ferreting out threats to the organization. Each person has his or her own perspective of the job and of the organization.

Likewise everyone should be involved in searching for ways to avoid or mitigate a threat.

At one time a person in the U.S. or Canada was employed at one job all their working days. I once had a manager who got his job on an uncle's recommendation and when I met the man, he was already into his 30th years with the company. But he is - or was - the exception.

Most people today bring a potpourri of experience to their current job.

Sadly, most resumes, once the person is hired, are filed away and all experience relating to anything but the current job is ignored. I once worked a business continuity job for a city. The guy two offices down from my temporary home had business continuity experience, but no one asked for his help (until I "discovered" the resource).

Today's entry is prompted by several things.

One is the massive fires in Texas; another is a communications thread on LinkedIn.

Texas fire - more than flames

The fires currently raging in Texas - the tv talking head just told me the acreage is about the same as the size of Connecticut - boggles the mind, but I am certain the Emergency Management people have a handle on what can be done and what is being done.

But think for a moment of the organizations who depend upon the people whose homes - or the homes of their kin - are endangered. Think about the organization's facility.

What can be done to support the staff, an organization's most important asset? If staff are worried about their homes - or finding a new home if theirs was burned - they won't work at peak efficiency.

Assume for a moment that the facility is safely out of the fire's path. What about the highways and byways lading to the facility? Can people get to the building? Can vendors deliver? What are the options.

The practitioner can think of some, perhaps many, but there always is "another way to meet the threat." That's why "all hands" sessions are important.

Sanhedrin approach - an aside

Several thousand years ago - give or take a century - when Jewish kings ruled Israel, there was a "supreme court" of 71 elders. This court was called the Great Sanhedrin to set it apart from smaller courts consisting of 23 judges.

As with most courts, the sanhedrins had junior members, members, and senior members.

Unlike some courts, the sanhedrins had an interesting rule: When it came time to decide an issue, the most junior member spoke first. The next-most-junior member gave his opinion next and so on until the court's president - the most senior member - gave his opinion.


The reasoning was that if the president gave his opinion first, those of "lesser rank" would feel obliged to agree with the president.

This normally is a good rule to follow when looking for threats and ways to avoid or mitigate them. Sometimes, however, the practitioner needs a senior member to "prime the pump," to get people talking.

I used this approach with some success when working on a plan for my favorite state's government.

Communication options

The LinkedIn poster started off with a general question:

"Many Blue Chips rely on the Cell network or VPN as a BC option. Given that government agencies can throttle or switch off the networks during a MI, is it still a good idea?"

The query generated a number of responses - 17 as this is prepared.

There were those who suggested cell phones were perhaps less than optimal; some folks noted that Hurricane Irene proved that, while others reminded that on 9/11 (2001) the circuits were jammed and the cell phones were useless.

Others promoted satellite phones - expensive to own and operate, but almost guaranteed to work - almost guaranteed.

One person was pitching a self-contained product that he promised could connect to everything.

Several were concerned with government control of the airwaves; could communications be "throttled down" to make frequencies available for government agencies.

Two-way radio was suggested. Someone thought towers were needed for antennae - they are not; handheld radios include antennas and even shortwave sets can work effectively with slant-wire aerials. Two-way radios can even be networked.

No one suggested two tin cans and a string, semaphore flags, or strong lights. Obviously the first option is facetious, but the flags and lights are legitimate; the only problem being people at both ends need to understand the code.

The LinkedIn exchanges are a worldwide version of an all-hands meeting. You get some off-the-wall suggestions that need to be considered, and you get information about things that have been tried and either succeeded or failed - and why.

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