The Problem With Crisis Preparedness and How To Fix It.

Rethinking Risk: Transforming Complacency into Competitive Advantage through Emergency Preparedness

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Dear reader,

In this week’s Wag The Dog edition, I am taking a critical look at the “problem with preparedness.”. I have this feeling that there’s a kind of complacency settling in now that many organisations return to “business as usual.”

Also, next week, I am happy to announce that we will have our first guest writer for this newsletter.

Amanda Coleman, a colleague crisis communication consultant from the United Kingdom, will write about the need for communication and emergency planning teams to come together and collaborate more. She writes her own newsletter called “Under Pressure”. Go check it out in the meantime.

And finally, I have not forgotten about the webinar to demo an AI-agent-driven crisis simulation platform. We’re getting ready to organise this in March, and you will all receive an invitation to attend.

Thank you for taking part in the poll. It was exciting to see so many people interested.

Happy reading, and don’t hesitate to provide feedback and comments!

Kind regards, Philippe

PS: 71 new readers joined Wag The Dog in the last 4 weeks! Thank you for referring the newsletter to your colleagues and friends. 🙏 

The problem with preparedness

Companies today operate in an increasingly complex and interconnected world where risks seem to come from every corner. Yet, despite the growing threats, many companies continue to underestimate the importance of emergency preparedness.

Complacency has set in, and crisis preparedness has taken a back seat to more pressing business priorities. This lack of vigilance comes at a high price, both financially and in human terms, as disasters around the world have shown.

It's time for a cultural change in the corporate world. Instead of seeing preparedness as a bothersome task, we should view it as an invisible shield against unexpected crises.

Resilience must be anchored in the company's DNA and woven into daily processes. If every employee is trained and prepared to react effectively in an emergency, this creates a strong competitive advantage.

This culture of preparedness is not created through a single training seminar, but through continuous reinforcement, that makes preparedness an intuitive way of corporate life.

It starts with leaders setting the tone and leading by example. However, the protective shield is only complete when all employees embrace their role as active guardians of organisational resilience.

By sharing responsibility and vigilance across departments, companies can create a stronger bond of unity and trust.

The counterintuitive approach to emergency preparedness: understanding human behavior in crisis situations.

Most organisations still rely on traditional emergency preparedness, which focuses on memorising policies and procedures.

However, study after study has shown that this type of training has its limitations in real-life crisis scenarios. The stress and panic of a real emergency lead to cognitive overload, which causes employees to forget their assigned tasks and freeze up.

During evacuation drills, for example, employees can usually recite the correct emergency exits and protocols. However, if an alarm is triggered unexpectedly, the simulated scenarios are forgotten, and panic breaks out.

The discrepancy between training conditions and reality means that many companies are far less prepared than they think.

To be effective, emergency training must be consistent with the findings of behavioural psychology about how people actually behave under extreme stress.

Methods such as stress inoculation expose employees to increasingly anxiety-provoking scenarios to improve their resilience over time. Narratives and immersive simulations also help to imprint preparedness into the subconscious so that it is easier to recall in a crisis.

Leading technology companies have used these counter-intuitive approaches with great success.

The exercises take a practical approach that acknowledges the unpredictability of the real world, encouraging employees to actively apply their knowledge instead of simply repeating memorised responses.

Building preparedness into the company's DNA

For an organization's shield of resilience to remain strong, emergency preparedness must not be limited to a single annual training session.

Instead, it must permeate all aspects of organisational life and become an intuitive part of daily work, rather than an easily forgotten add-on.

There are many ways to subtly but effectively integrate emergency preparedness into the DNA of the organisation.

For example:

  • Emergency protocols can be discussed at team meetings just as naturally as quarterly financial results.

  • Digital learning platforms can offer on-demand training modules to strengthen crisis preparedness.

  • Readiness abilities can be evaluated in employee performance assessments with the same rigour as other critical business skills.

Real cultural change starts at the top.

Leaders and managers need to lead by example when it comes to preparedness and show by their own actions how important it is.

They should actively participate in drills, emphasise preparedness in company communications, and support the unobtrusive integration of emergency protocols into workflows.

This signal from the top-down helps to reinforce preparedness as a collective responsibility throughout the organisation.

Creating unity through shared responsibility

As well as embedding preparedness into day-to-day work, companies can also build greater resilience by spreading responsibility across multiple teams. Instead of isolated crisis protocols, collective preparedness activities promote social cohesion and demonstrate that preparedness is everyone's duty.

When it comes to emergency vigilance, we are strong together. When all employees are involved in preparedness as a common goal, they have a sense of control and commitment.

Regular joint exercises build trust and unity between departments and ensure that employees work better together in an emergency.

Decentralising aspects of emergency authority also reduces the risk of centralised failure in the event of a disaster.

Leading manufacturing companies, for example, train not only specialised safety teams, but all employees in the plants so that they can respond dynamically to incidents.

Tech giants are taking a creative approach with hackathons to identify security vulnerabilities. Joint early warning systems use the findings from across the company to identify potential crises before they escalate.

In all cases, collective preparation activities are designed to strengthen collective responsibility for preparedness. This strengthens social resilience alongside practical preparedness and aligns the organisation as a unified shield against turbulence.

To recap.

Today's global business environment is complex and unpredictable. Organisations must be prepared for crises and cannot be complacent.

The financial and reputational costs quickly mount if a company is unprepared. However, routine annual training is not enough to develop true resilience.

Instead, leaders must champion a cultural shift that embeds preparedness into the DNA of the organisation. Preparedness no longer needs to be just a box to check, it needs to become an intuitive way of corporate life.

Stress inoculations, immersive simulations and decentralised authority will help embed preparedness into the muscle memory of the workforce. When emergency protocols are developed collaboratively and vigilance is shared across departments, unity and trust are strengthened alongside practical skills.

Being prepared is like having an invisible shield that helps organisations stay calm and confident during crises. It takes time and constant practice to make preparedness a natural instinct.

Responsibility begins at the top, where managers lead by example. But real preparedness is only achieved when all employees act together as active guardians of organisational resilience.

By cultivating a culture of collective preparedness, companies empower their employees to overcome uncertainty and thrive in an unpredictable world.

So tell me, how are you integrating the concept of preparedness in your organisation?

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