Prepare like an emergency responder

Emergency medical professionals are trained not only to respond to unforeseen circumstances, but also to prepare for the unimaginable. As such, they become experts in anticipating, preparing for and mitigating risks.
Disaster planning
As a health care executive, I had the pleasure of observing leaders, employees, physicians and emergency responders from within hospitals and throughout the community as they simulated unannounced disasters.
Imagine that a tractor trailer carrying hazardous waste overturns on the interstate, or an airplane crashes with mass casualties. Regardless of the simulated situation, the word “competitor” vanished and was immediately replaced by a collaborative call to function as a team.
Participants from diverse organizations concurrently activated their respective emergency response plans. They followed the protocols they had practiced in responding to the mock disasters. Team members were given specific assignments with clear instructions on the roles to be fulfilled.
Following each event, the leaders of the teams held comprehensive debriefings to determine what had gone well and what process improvements could be implemented.
Such experiences prepared health care providers and community responders to have definitive plans for how they would organize, activate, collaborate and manage their emergency responses. This preparation yielded a keen sense of confidence that they were ready for the unimaginable. The goal, of course, was to minimize the adverse impact of unknown risks.
How does your company stack up?
Enterprise risk management across all industries has now taken center stage in the C-suite and in the boardroom. Does your company have a clearly articulated ERM strategy? If so, is this plan mere words on paper, or does it require your organization to prepare actively and systematically for unforeseen risks?
What would your organization do if your customers’ data were breached? How would your team manage the message in responding to a reputational crisis if an executive were accused of wrongdoing? How would your organization respond if, God forbid, an active shooter entered your facility and killed innocent people?
How are your C-suite executives and board of directors involved in discerning the most significant risks that could impair your company’s ability to perform at peak? What grade would you give your team’s current performance for proactively mitigating risks? How can you improve your leadership in guiding your team to anticipate and to prepare proper responses for organizational risks?
There is no better time than now to be purposeful in activating an ERM strategy for your company. Consider simulating your most significant vulnerabilities. Be sure to involve your leaders, employees, board members, vendors and community partners, as applicable, in crafting your optimal response plan.

Just as emergency responders practice how they would react to unforeseen circumstances, so also should your organization prepare and practice for unforeseen events that may occur only in your worst nightmares. While practice may not make perfect, it certainly can provide a solid game plan and team confidence as you seek to mitigate organizational risk.

Janet Meeks is Co-founder and CEO of Healthcare Alignment Advisors LLC. With 40 years of experience in finance and health care along with extensive service in the boardroom, Janet is a sought-after adviser to CEOs and other C-suite executives across a variety of industries. She is also the author of the book “Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before,” which was released in early 2018.