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Lessons from Hurricane Dorian-Anticipating & Handling Disruption

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

Watching a weak tropical wave thousands of miles away evolve into the now menacing Hurricane Dorian on CNN and The Weather Channel (TWC), I realized I had a front-row seat to watch a time-lapsed version of what a business disruption looks like from its inception through how others react and respond. In the spirit of brevity and timing, I want to share three lessons I learned.

Monitoring Weak and Distant Signals. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) and The Weather Channel began tracking a tropical wave a week ago. A few of us paid attention knowing it was wise to track and monitor. Many others ignored or dismissed these early signals. Seemingly suddenly today, what seemed to be minor suddenly evolved into a life-threatening hurricane aimed at Florida. Now there are only a few days to prepare.

We as leaders in our organizations often miss or knowingly ignore #weak #signals? Maybe it’s because we just did not see them (or even look), they seemed inconsequential, or because we felt invulnerable. Yet, we feign surprise when the monster appears at our door. Look at what happened to #Blockbuster and #Kodak. If we are aware of signals early, track them, pay attention sooner, and monitor their development (or death), we will be in a better position to honestly assess risks and take actions. What would doing this be worth to your business?

Use the Tools and Resources Available to Watch For and Monitor Disruptions (Dorian), Forecast/Consider Possible Outcomes, and Plan/Take Appropriate Responses. The NHC has and fully utilizes many tools in its arsenal from satellite imagery, data from weather buoys, and instrument packed planes that are flown into the storm to get real-time data. They just don’t do this once, but regularly through the course of the storm. In fact, satellite pictures are monitored 24/7.

We as organizational leaders often do not realize we have and can make use of tools, information, and resources at our disposal to identify and monitor signals and potential disruptions. These include our ERP and online analytical tools, online research (industry, customer, market, investor, etc.), sending people to mix, monitor, and learn at industry conferences, listening socially and otherwise to customers, competitors and other ecosystem players, and paying attention to the feedback the frontline is sharing with us from their own observations.

Why don’t we do these things? We think we know better, based on our past knowledge and experience. However, this past knowledge and experience often prevent us from truly looking for and seeing the very things we need to find, monitor, and understand.

Be Prepared, Ready and Able to Act. While far from perfect, our federal, state and local governments have learned the importance of readiness, preparedness, and maintaining an ability to act. Playbooks have been established to address a variety of situations based on lessons learned from past natural disasters. They can quickly request and access local, state, and federal emergency management funding to set up command centers and emergency response locations, collaborate and coordinate activities across various agencies and departments to not only prepare for the storm but also respond to and address the realities afterward. Companies like #HomeDepot and #Publix get ready days before positioning stocks of necessary supplies to help customers prepare and get ready. Many other organizations and businesses like #RedCross, #DeltaAirlines, and #UPS all have pre- and post- plans prepared and ready to implement as storms approach and for afterward to ensure they can do their jobs, serve their customers, and help those most affected.

While because of regulation, most companies have disaster recovery plans and back up systems so they can continue to operate and serve their customers. They run drills and test these periodically. Shockingly though, when it comes to business, competitive, market and ecosystem disruptions, regardless of the source or cause, most companies are not prepared, ready and able to act on or better yet adapt their operating plans or strategy.

Why? Because of several things including, but not limited to a lack of clarity and understanding of the organization’s purpose, values, and strategy, legacy organizational and leadership structures that no longer fit, and much more. While many of these might have been perfect in the past, it is unlikely they (all) are for where the organization wants to go and the context it will operate in.

It’s vital for organizations to assess their preparedness, readiness, and ability to act so they know where they stand. Next determine such things as what capabilities, information, leadership, management practices, systems, and tools are necessary to become prepared, ready, and able to act. Finally, it is important to begin acting to close these identified gaps. This should not be a one-time effort, but one that is ongoing. on.

This is only a partial list and I invite you to add other lessons you have learned through other similar natural occurrences. The bottom line is to take these and other lessons to heart, to live them and to act on them. Help your business See Differently, Think Differently, and Do Differently so it is sustainably prepared, ready, and able to act and adapt.To discuss this further and learn more, contact me at

Copyright, Jay Weiser and Weiser Strategy Group, 2019.

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