How are you with disruption?
As our industry begins recovery in earnest, we run the risk of slowly emerging from our bunkers and checking the temperatures in our’ how we’ve always done it’ tide pools.
The panelists I spoke with for this week’s blog would like to ask us (perhaps even implore us) not to do that. Consider your comfort level with change and disruption as a sliding scale – not something you either possess or don’t possess. Like anything, it’s a muscle, and it takes practice.
It is possible to become more comfortable with change.
John Paxton, CEO, Material Handling Industry (MHI), relied on personal experience when he moderated the Focus on Industry Disruptors panel at CEIR Predict. He quickly admits he’s learned by doing (like most of our industry) through MHI’s response to the pandemic shutting down its annual event.
“It’s about asking what we’ve learned, not just going back. How can we learn more? How can we learn from others?” shared Paxton. “As leaders, we need to be willing to finance these learnings, and we have to create a culture that encourages piloting new ideas and remove the fear of failure. We should all encourage our leaders to provide their teams with time, space, and resources to develop an innovative mindset.”
A learning mindset may call to mind teams in Silicon Valley hard-at-play in their idea bubbles, but what Paxton is describing is more of a disciplined process. He asks his team to pilot, plan and then implement the learnings from the digital experience and apply them to the live events.
It’s the idea of ‘enhancement’ rather than ‘events vs. digital.’ It isn’t a zero-sum game.
How can you help prepare your teams?
Investment in our people:
Between COVID-19 and Social Justice, change was an absolute constant during 2020-2021. People ended up liking working from home and given a choice; many would prefer to stay that way. Not wanting to return to the office creates unique challenges for leaders trying to keep their teams happy and engaged. It also created opportunities for leaders to react with flexibility, empathy, and deeper conversation.
Anzio Williams, SVP, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, NBCUniversal Local believes, “Leadership is critical in these troubled times. Leadership is what you do in the worst times. We need to view our staff as our work family – our most precious resource – and focus on their needs, expectations.”
Williams describes the idea of constructive conversation as one that “creates a community without all the distractions with an open mind and respect.” He believes support should manifest both in showing up for your remote teams and in the longer-term play of building diverse organizations. “We as leaders need to reach out for those who look different than us.”
Paxton echoed the importance of the commitment coming from the top. It’s about being intentional, developing a diversity, equity and inclusion plan, and taking action to implement it. He shared MHI’s plans to actively recruit Supply Chain talent through The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and The Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
He added that MHI’s affiliated Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc. offers scholarships to students in these communities and other students and educators seeking pathways to quality educational programs and fulfilling careers in the material handling and supply chain industries.
Safety & Security:
“If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.”
-Dr. Jennifer Hesterman
Dr. Jennifer Hesterman, Vice President, Education Services, Watermark Risk Management, knows what it is like to be in the room where it happens. Dr. Hesterman retired as a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force and has spent her time in the private sector studying international and domestic terrorist organizations, organized crime, and the terrorist and criminal exploitation of the Internet.
“Crime is escalating in all major cities. There is no ‘one size fits all’ security anymore,” shared Dr. Hesterman with the audience at CEIR Predict. “Organizers need to plan for a crisis in the short-term and long-term. The economy, technology, environment, and society in general are key factors for scenario planning. It begins with risk prioritization – the process of determining your risks and which to act on first.”
Note: When Dr. Hesterman says that, it sounds like she may have a secret decoder ring in her pocket she’s about to lend you so you can simplify your life.
Where do I begin?
Here’s Dr. Hesterman’s decoder ring.
Step one: Adopt a process. Dr. Hesterman works with both an impact assessment and a risk management framework.
Here you can picture an X/Y axis with ‘most likely to happen’ on the X and ‘brings the most damage’ on the Y.
Step Two: Identify threats and assign each a numerical value. Data-oriented assessment removes the emotion from the rating system. Pay extra attention to your organization’s Achilles heel. (The one thing that would bring the most damage / your org to its knees?)
Step Three: Review and determine what risks you can mitigate and what you need to accept.
And there may be risks you have to accept. For that, Dr. Hesterman still has your back. She suggests:
- Practice crisis communications in advance – what to say, how to stick to the message, and have the right people deliver it.
- Learn how to de-escalate a crisis before a crisis occurs.
On a personal note, any chance you use one password for all of your online accounts?
No? 10 points, you.
Yes? You may want to change that.
Dr. Hesterman points out, “Human behavior is the weakest link in the security chain. During the pandemic, there was so much focus on physical safety. It left us open to exploitation with cyber security. It was the perfect storm. People felt disconnected. They wanted access to each other and to accurate information, but there were vulnerabilities, and hackers had a field day with ransomware.”
Much of that is directly related to the speed at which today’s apps are coming to market – many solving an immediate, time-sensitive need and yet packed with security glitches. All the times you connect to Bluetooth to stream podcasts and music? Yep, it’s a hacker-favorite.
“Bad actors are creative, and they keep evolving. We need to do the same to stay ahead of them.” Dr. Hesterman brought up the importance of reviewing your organization’s policies.
While most orgs have revised policies to be more modern and inclusive of self-expression (goodbye, tattoo bans. adieu, pantyhose requirements) many private businesses haven’t evaluated the evolving security risks of employee-worn technology.
“The government had to update its policies for devices like Apple watches and other wearable operating systems,” Dr. Hesterman shared. “What about private organizations? Bluetooth looking at these types of risks? What about healthcare monitoring devices like bluetooth hearing aids, glucose monitors, pace-makers? It gets complicated because of personal privacy, but there are potential threats.”
If this is overwhelming you, Dr. Hesterman gets it. “It’s easy to do a risk assessment and then find it staggering. Everyone has limited resources and has to apply them effectively. It’s tempting to shut down, do nothing and wait for the storm to pass, but you have options and strategic choices – and that’s where scenario planning comes in.”
Dr. Hesterman believes in scenario planning for risk assessment, “Crisis communication and scenario planning go hand in hand. If you have a plan with multiple contingencies, and you rehearse these scenarios with your teams, you’re better prepared.”
Her advice for scenario planning may not be what you expect, “Many times we miss threats because of a lack of imagination on the teams assessing risk. Often we marginalize our most creative people, but when you’re doing scenario planning, you want to make sure your creative minds have a seat at the table. They will be the ones to think outside the box and leave you better prepared.”
This recognization of imagination appears at the highest levels of government. Dr. Hesterman shared the following quote from Chapter 11 of the 9/11 Commission Report.
“In this prescient essay, investigators cite a lack of imagination as a root cause of the two worst attacks in our country’s history: Pearl Harbor and the attack on 9/11. The authors state that “Imagination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies” and “It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of imagination.”
Of course, scenario planning goes beyond risk assessment and can be used to determine investments or organizational direction.
John Paxton relies on scenario planning as both a way to prepare for divergent futures and change management. He took me through an example of what this could look like during the early days of COVID-19 and why it is a valuable exercise:
Scenario 1: Everything goes back to normal, no further disruption to business or life as we know it.
Scenario 2: Life & business would have a short-term disruption. (Treated like the flu)
Scenario 3: Life wouldn’t return to normal per se, but we’d learn to live with COVID-19.
Scenario 4: Life as we know it is wholly changed.
Based on these scenarios, there are distinct and separate paths you may take for your business. Outlining these paths and the corresponding actions before facing the outcome gives you time to involve your teams and make deliberate decisions after considering the implications of each possible scenario.
Paxton underscored the importance of asking, “What would we do under those circumstances? What are the major buckets we’d have to plan for? Membership, education, revenue, etc. Are there concepts you could test through pilots today?”
This concept of pilot programs as stepping stones to the future is not a new one, and we’ll be discussing some of the best examples of this in next week’s blog on Focus on Emerging Models.
If you want to share any of this week’s concepts with your team, we’ve summarized the findings here.
- People are our most valuable resource. View staff as your work family – your most precious resource and focus on their needs and expectations.
- Diversity is much more challenging to accomplish than Inclusion. Creating an inclusive environment needs to be in the minds and hearts all the time. If an inclusive culture is missing, businesses will suffer in the long term. This means leaders need to reach out to those who look different than they do.
- Leaders need to live in three periods – past, present and future. Honoring the past is vital to employees, and they want to be a part of plotting the future. Leadership is critical in these troubled times – it is what leaders do in the worst times that set orgs apart.
- Human behavior is the weakest link in the security chain.
- Security guards need to watch for physical threats. There is a misuse of security personnel as “the mask police.” You can use staff or volunteers for mask policing.
- Organizers need to plan for a crisis in the short-term and long term.
- Economy, technology, environment, and society are critical factors for scenario planning.
- Practice crisis communications before a crisis.
Our panelists challenged leaders to start diversity and inclusion conversations at the top and not just ‘check the boxes.’ Events have a stage that goes beyond just the organization producing the event. Do you believe there is a significant opportunity for event organizers to advance diversity and inclusion? Have you seen great examples of this? If you haven’t yet checked out the work Robyn Duda is doing Change the Stage, it’s worth following.