Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance

Business Leaders: Take a Page Out of the Emergency Management Playbook

In a crisis, the nuances of a situation change quickly. Emergency managers operate in a constantly evolving landscape, always trying to anticipate, identify, understand, and solve problems before they become untenable. They rely on people who are distributed across the region and only loosely connected to see and solve the problems they are facing.


This is the same dynamic corporate leaders are experiencing today. The business landscape is changing rapidly—employee concerns are shifting, customer purchase intent is fluctuating, unexpected supply chain gaps are emerging, competitors are making unforeseen moves, and the people who have insights into the changes are working remotely.

Business leaders are taking a page out of the emergency management playbook to manage evolving crises.

Situational Awareness Is Critical

Emergency managers gain situational awareness by extracting insights from people in the field in the form of real-time data so their extended team knows exactly what’s happening as it unfolds. This practice of collecting real-time data from your extended team can be applied to any area of business. For example:

  • HR leaders extract real-time employee insights from frontline managers to understand how work environment concerns are changing in real time. They capture employee concerns every time they are raised, remote work challenges every time they emerge, and positive employee quotes to get a glimpse of what is working. 
  • Sales leaders extract real-time insights from account managers after every customer call to understand how the pandemic might impact consumer behavior and spending.

When data are captured in the moment, with a few quick taps, they deliver added benefits. Employees can stop writing weekly status reports. Leaders can stop spending precious meeting time to get reports and use that time instead to focus on solving high-priority problems or tackling important opportunities.

Most importantly, situational awareness gives team members the opportunity to step up in the moment to help deliver results.

The Struggle for Situational Awareness

Traditional strategies and technologies don’t deliver situational awareness. Effective situational awareness in the enterprise requires an easy way to get real-time insights from the extended team, real-time direction so people know exactly what to report, real-time data collection so insights are easy to share, and real-time visibility so everyone knows what’s happening as it happens.

Here are five steps business leaders should take from the emergency manager playbook to  stay ahead and lead through crises:

  1. Form an extended team. Enlist the people closest to the problem so you can tap into their valuable insights in real time. Bring them together into a dedicated, mission-focused online workplace.
  2. Identify problems with real-time data. Decide which problems you need visibility into, and ask employees to surface them immediately. Don’t make your team decide when to escalate an issue or how to write an e-mail about it or choose who needs to know. Instead, make it easy for the extended team to capture data about a challenge and flag the type of problem, the location, and the urgency as soon as it emerges.
  3. Look for progress. Make sure not to narrow your focus to just the problems at hand. Ask the extended team to look for what is working by surfacing positive employee or customer quotes, a best practice, a redesigned business flow, or an activity that is important. You define what counts as progress, and by asking people to report that progress consistently, the extended team will start to see what yields results.
  4. Make the data immediately visible to the extended team. Don’t collect the information behind the scenes in a survey; put data in a shared spreadsheet or an e-mail. Make sure as much data as possible is immediately visible so extended team members can instantaneously step up to offer their own observations, solutions, and encouragement along the way.
  5. Build a contribution habit. As the work environment evolves, leaders will want to accelerate their understanding across different topics. Don’t create a new process. Instead, create a repeatable process for employee insights, and use it time and time again to build a habit of contribution. This capability will allow you to deep dive into any topic with the extended team and get the real-time data needed in the moment.

It’s time for business leaders to take a page out of the emergency management playbook in order to quickly solve problems amid crises. Employees sharing real-time insights and crowdsolving as you go will help your business not only survive but also thrive.

Tammy Savage is the CEO of Groopit and has decades of experience leading extended teams at Microsoft. She studied some of the world’s most complex problems, including crime and terrorism prevention, crisis recovery, and infectious disease outbreaks. She is an expert in the breakdown of extended teams and what keeps us from doing our best work in some of the most challenging situations. Groopit, an enterprise crowdsolving solution, was founded on the idea that extended teams are essential to solving our most complex problems and bringing our biggest ideas to life.

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