Team Communication in Enterprise Emergencies

When disaster strikes, the more prepared organizations activate their disaster plans. Whether it's a fire, flood, chemical spill, hurricane, or database breach, we activate emergency management teams and search for solutions, while we figure out what to tell the public. All of this activity involves people working together under extreme pressure. The better those people are at communicating with each other under pressure, the better the outcome will be.

In a single day, you can witness the final hours of a brand that took ten years to build. Or you can see it re-emerge stronger than ever. From Tylenol to JetBlue — no brand is exempt. And the outcome depends not only on what you say to the public, but on how well you communicate internally — to each other.

Surviving the enterprise emergency requires teamwork at a level well beyond high performance. People who have never even met must form a group that functions and thinks as one. When they succeed, they do so because of their ability to build relationships with each other that transcend workplace politics and personal agendas. The bonds they form are often so strong that they last lifetimes.

The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo

The 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Volcanic eruptions are rare, but they're good examples of rare events that can affect any organization anywhere in the world. Even though each type of rare event is rare, there are so many different kinds of such events that the disruptions they cause aren't rare.

Foremost among the risks these teams face, perhaps, is the question of how well the Emergency Management Teams will work together. After all:

  • They're working on something that they don't know much about (yet)
  • They've trained for this, but not as much as they would have liked
  • They're under extreme pressure
  • After the first day, they're very tired or close to burnout
  • Some have concerns about loved ones
  • Some might be missing or injured
  • Some are worried about the future prospects of the company or their communities
  • Some have rarely worked with each other before
  • … and on and on and on

How do you train people to know how to do this? How do you create leaders who can make this happen? It seems an impossible task, and it is. But fortunately, you already have them — they already work in your organization. What keeps most organizations from succeeding in the enterprise emergency isn't a lack of training or a lack of leadership — it's that they're stuck in a business-as-usual frame of mind. To succeed in the enterprise emergency, all we have to do is stop pretending that the usual approaches can be bent just a little bit.

For example, when we do train our people in communication — and only a few organizations do that very well — we train for the routine environment. But the emergency environment is like no other. People of all professions must collaborate effectively — under extreme pressure — if they're going to find a path through the emergency. Yet, we do very little to prepare people to communicate in that environment.

This program shows teams how to talk to each other in the emergency environment. And an important factor in internal emergency communication involves learning to communicate across the technology divide. Techies must learn how to talk to and listen to non-techies, and vice versa. This program is available as a workshop or clinic.

101 Tips for Communication in EmergenciesTo get some idea of the kind of material this program covers, check out 101 Tips for Communication in Emergencies.In the modern organization, enterprise emergencies almost always entail complex technological issues. Some of us understand these issues, but most of us don't. And that creates a technology divide, which further complicates the already-complicated communication problem. This ebook discusses in depth the issues of internal communication across the technology divide:

  • How to successfully communicate within the emergency management team
  • What nontechnical leaders need
  • How to ask for what you need from technical leaders
  • How to prepare teams for the emergency environment
  • How to deal with teams that run off the rails
  • How to listen and how to manage your own responses
  • How to manage and accept uncertainty in others
  • How to manage the risks of metaphors

Learning model

We usually The one-day to two-day formats of this program include copies of 101 Tips for Communication in Emergencies for all participants. Ideal for those who like to supplement their learning by reading, or as a reference for later study. Morethink of project management skills as rather technical — free of emotional content. We hold this belief even though we know that our most difficult situations can be highly charged. Despite our most sincere beliefs, emergency performance does require learning to apply these skills even in situations of high emotional content. That's why this program uses a learning model that differs from the one often used for technical content.

Our learning model is partly experiential, which makes the material accessible even during moments of stress. Using a mix of presentation, simulation, group discussion, and metaphorical team problems, we make available to participants the resources they need to make new, more constructive choices even in tense situations.

Target audience

Leaders, sponsors, managers, and team members. Working with an entire team is best.

Program duration

Available formats range from one-hour teleseminars to half-day to two-day workshops. The longer formats allow for more coverage or more material, more experiential content and deeper understanding of issues specific to audience experience.

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