Today, I drove my son to school. It was like every other trip to his school until the faint sirens behind us became loud enough to make us pull over. Sitting on the side of the road, my son asked me a question that inspired this conversation.
"Dad, why did we stop?”
I was about to give him a generic dad answer when the leader in me got thinking. His questions got me thinking. What do we do when there is an emergency in our organization? What do we do when the alarm goes off?
Here are a few thoughts I came up with:
1. Just as emergency vehicles travel faster than regular vehicles—and break all the traffic rules—emergencies in our organizations are going to move at a faster pace than regular processes. Destruction and loss happen at a quicker rate than development and gain.
Emergencies demand more attention than regular operations. They require key leaders to set other agendas aside and pay attention.
Emergencies will push other processes, meetings, decisions, resources around to make space for their growing influence and need for management. Emergencies leave a trail of displaced things and agendas in their wake.
In order to plan and make the necessary adjustments, care must first be taken to set up sirens and alarm systems. If these sirens are not turned on, other vehicles will delay the urgent response needed because no one will know something is wrong until it is too late.
Here are some adjustments I suggest we make when those sirens start blaring:
Make peace with pressing the pause button on surrounding processes, systems, projects and events to address the emergency.
Make peace with the energy, time and resources it takes to control the bleeding and restore.
Take an assessment of any shifts and damages that might have occurred. Repair what needs to be repaired. Replace what needs replacing. Don’t be too quick to get back to the regular routine that you don’t assess for the natural consequences of emergencies.
Develop systems and Standard Operating Procedures that position you to function optimally during emergencies (cue Emergency Vehicle Right of Way).
Don’t ignore the sirens. Don’t ignore the systems you have set up to alert your team of these emergencies. And finally, don’t forget that time is the only difference between an emergency and an urgency. Keep your eye on the urgent things that are currently flying beneath the radar.
How do you handle emergencies in the areas you lead?