Emergencies are attributed to the unexpected. Emergencies happen when things don't go as intended or have the desired results. We plan, we prepare, and we become comfortable with normal routines. Then, out of the blue, an emergency happens that changes everything. People panic, pressure mounts, and frantic response ensues. The proper response to an emergency is dictated by the cause.

Poor Planning

Don't panic, poor planning is not cause for an emergency. It merely means that it is time to review and adjust the plan. Change the plan, the timeline, the resources, or the expectations. There is an old adage that "people do not plan to fail, they only fail to plan". If you took the time to create a plan, establish goals, and identify the requirements to achieve your objectives, then you are already on the right track. If the plan is not progressing as expected, or is having different results than expected, it simply means that there are additional considerations that may not have been recognized during the initial planning phase. There may have been inaccurate expectations regarding resources. There may have been incorrect expectations regarding external factors, input, or unknown circumstances.

Do not abandon the plan. Rather, investigate and understand the reasons that your plan is not progressing as desired and use this knowledge to adjust the plan accordingly. Revise and renew your plan with a proper perspective based on your improved knowledge and experience. Communicate the updated objectives with confidence and monitor the progress of your modified plan. Enhancing your plan is a sign of continuous improvement. Adjusting to unexpected conditions is a display of versatility and flexibility. Never be afraid to adjust your plans and thereby demonstrate your personal commitment to quality.

Poor Execution

Don't panic and definitely do not waste time pointing fingers. Looking for blame takes time and attention away from looking for results. It is possible to look for the cause of poor execution without personalizing the problem by placing blame. If the current resources are not achieving the desired goals then it may be necessary to improve support to the personnel, or reassign the critical requirements to someone else. Rather than blame the person, consider the reasons that the individual contributors are not succeeding according to plan.

Is the problem due to equipment, funding, access, experience, time, or incorrect expectations of the capacity of the personnel? Placing blame will not resolve the dilemma. However, addressing the reasons for inadequate results will help to revise the plan or the resources in a manner that can achieve the objectives. Reassigning personnel will only be an effective response if the reasons for roadblocks have been identified and removed. Increase support, adjust the resources, or reassign personnel in accordance with the requirements of the plan. Every person has talent, experience, and personal capability. It is important to match the personal capabilities with the responsibilities and to empower personnel to succeed. Never be afraid to adjust resources or personnel as necessary to overcome obstacles and fully utilize individual contributions for a common goal.

Poor Communication

Don't panic if you have a plan but nobody understands it or follows it. Quite often the root cause of poor execution can be attributed to poor communication. Before making significant adjustments to personnel, make sure that the plan is properly communicated, understood, and that there is "buy in" commitment from the individuals contributing to the plan. This means creating milestones with defined objectives to measure progress. Measurements can be related to time, completion, numerical values, dollars, or dates. Measurements should not be subjective or based on opinion, but rather must be objective with quantitative or qualitative metrics. Publish the measurements, timeline, and the related personnel with documentation that is clearly defined and easily interpreted.

Share this documentation with all of the contributors to the plan and ask for confirmation that the plan and the objectives are reasonable. Then, measure performance and report the progress to the entire group contributing to the plan. Typically the cure for poor execution is good communication. Never be afraid to communicate progress, good or bad, as long as it is based on committed measurements. Share scheduled and frequent updates with all contributors to the plan for overall awareness.

Poor Follow-up

Don't panic. Rather, but that energy into diligence. Use specific and defined metrics to measure progress, even after the initial objectives are accomplished. If there is lack of follow-up, determine if this is due to lack of understanding, lack of resources, or lack of commitment. It is possible for a plan to go awry even after proper communication and excellent execution. Complacency and lack of attention can cause great accomplishments to wither with age. Even the best plans of today may become outdated with the passage of time. Make sure that your plan includes metrics for continuous accountability, including measurements to identify exceptions and the corresponding plans for rapid response. Diligent follow-up can become the basis for good habits. Create lasting results by including the ongoing metrics in your plan.

Poor Consistency

Don't panic. Panic is not going to fix the problem. Poor consistency may be the result of external factors, internal resources, or attributes that were not properly accounted for in the plan. If the root cause of inconsistent results is due to external factors, then identify those factors and include them in a revised plan. Are the external factors adversely impacting your objectives? If so, then adjust the plan to address these factors and a response to them. If the external factors do not adversely affect your objectives, then document them and the allowable thresholds. If the cause of the poor consistency is due to internal resources, rely on your metrics and communication to identify the issues and resolve them accordingly. Never be afraid to adjust the plan to accommodate external factors, or to adjust the internal resources to achieve consistent results. Achieving objectives will only yield reliable results if the performance is consistent and repeatable.

Poor Response to Change

Don't panic, adjust. When creating a plan, do your best to identify the possible external factors that could positively or adversely affect your results. Your plan should include measurements for other related activities, affected processes, or aspects of your business that will be impacted by the results of achieving your objectives. Similarly, identify the impact of failing to achieve your objectives, achieving your goals behind schedule, or partially attaining your targeted objectives. For each instance identify countermeasures and allowable thresholds of success. Create a schedule to measure the progress of your plan and a corresponding schedule for measuring the impact of the level of your success. Communicate the impact with the milestones achieved, and be prepared to adjust the plan if necessary. Never be afraid to be as flexible as your environment. Change happens.

Poor Me

Don't panic, don't place blame, and don't waste time concentrating on anything other than your response. The best response to an emergency will often be realized with calm reflection and analysis of the situation. Quickly gather facts and metrics that pertain specifically to the objectives. Review the plan, communication, and performance. Review the communication, consistency, and follow-up. Adjust the plan or the resources required to attain the objectives. Gather the ideas, input, and suggestions of the other participants to collect alternative opportunities to succeed. The collective cooperation of all participants in the solution are key to the accomplishment of the group goals. Share the development and adjustment of the plan. Share the commitment and communication. Share the excitement of reaching your goals. A perceive emergency merely indicates that something is not going according to plan, so, return to step one and revise your plan to accommodate the new circumstances.

Share the phone booth and the cape. Enable your fellow colleagues and contributors to become the heroes of change. Emergencies create opportunities for new and often enhanced objectives. Use the new knowledge to identify additional measurements of success. Recognizing that the objectives have improved, the goals are greater, and you are surrounded with heroes, then who needs to panic? Not you.


Words of Wisdom

"Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important."
- Natalie Goldberg

"Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and co-operation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

"No emergency is insurmountable once it is understood.”
- John Mehrmann, The Trusted Advocate: Accelerate Success with Authenticity and Integrity


Author's Bio: 

John Mehrmann is author of The Trusted Advocate: Accelerate Success with Authenticity and Integrity, the fundamental guide to achieve extraordinary sales and sustain loyal customers. John Mehrmann contributed to 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Volume 3, a compilation of stories by such other notable authors as Byron Katie, Ken Blanchard, Les Brown, and Marc Victor Hansen. John is a freelance writer and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital.

ExecutiveBlueprints.com provides resource materials for trainers, sample Case Studies, and educational articles.

InstituteforAdvancedLeadership.com provides self-paced tutorials for personal development and tools for trainers. Presentation materials, reference guides and exercises are available for continuous development.