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Barry Zweibel, MCC
Master Certified Coach
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"Hindsight is 20/20 - and That's Good News!"

by Barry K. Zweibel

A lot has been written about crisis management. And generally speaking, crises - especially IT crises - get a bum rap. Where just about everyone sees a crisis as a bad thing, I've found that if it's handled correctly, a crisis is a great way to boost your credibility and reputation - REGARDLESS of the impact of the event itself. Not that I'm condoning anyone purposefully creating a crisis, of course. But when crises DO occur, they come with seeds of equivalent benefits for you and your career if you know how to handle them properly. Through the use of Hindsight Learning, our education is simplified.

For those of you who don't the term, Hindsight Learning includes all those after-the-fact realizations that we somehow come to understand in a deep and meaningful way. And the power behind Hindsight Learning comes when we apply these Lessons Learned to improve our future efforts, thus using the 20/20 nature of hindsight as an effective planning tool. Using the present as a series of mini-history lessons, if you will.

Generally speaking, Hindsight Learning typically falls into one of three categories:

  1. Lessons Learned from mistakes made

  2. Lessons Learned from opportunities missed

  3. Lessons Learned from opportunities realized

In my days running the telecommunications shop at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, I had the opportunity to gather all sorts of Hindsight Learning. Crises, it seemed, were never in short supply - not that your world is any different, I suspect. So for your reading pleasure and perhaps a knowing smile, or two, here's a sampling of my Lessons Learned and those of my staff and vendor personnel. You can decide what category they fit best:

  • FULLY EXPECT THE ACTUAL OUTAGE TO BE THE SHORTEST PART OF THE CRISIS 'EVENT' - I found that every minute of downtime requires approximately an hour of cleanup. If not more.

  • DISASTERS TEND TO STRIKE WHEN YOUR VENDOR RELATIONS ARE AT THEIR WORST - Consider the amazing predictive power this can gives you!

  • WHEN THE 'BIG ONE' HITS, YOU AND/OR YOUR KEY PEOPLE WILL BE OUT OF THE OFFICE - So make sure everyone knows who's whose backup and that they know what to do. (It's an obvious point, but quite often overlooked.)

  • POWER IS OFTEN THE CULPRIT - So look there early. (Aren't you glad you didn't have to work in California with all of their power problems?)

  • THE PEOPLE YOU FORGOT TO INCLUDE IN THE PLANNING PROCESS WILL BE THE ONES MOST NEEDED IN THE RECOVERY PROCESS - Learn to get them involved on the front end so you can avoid the embarrassment of having to ask for their help anyway, later on.

  • GIVEN A CRISIS, THOSE WHO WANT TO HELP WILL HELP, BUT THEY MAY BE WAITING FOR YOU TO ASK - So ask. There's an art to getting busy people to stop what they're working on to do something for you. If you haven't already learned how to do it, now's as good a time as any to figure it out.

  • HOW A CRISIS IS REMEMBERED IS A DIRECT RESULT OF HOW YOU HANDLED IT - As counter-intuitive as it seems, it's really true. Just watch as your users shift from an angry "I blame YOU" to a fun-filled "I wouldn't want your job for the world."

  • OUR PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY WILL BE A FUNCTION OF HOW WELL OUR 'PLANNED SOLUTIONS' RESPOND TO 'UNPLANNED DISASTERS' - This you can count on, my friends, so think broadly and preach flexibility.

  • People are counting on YOU to keep your calm, to have a plan and to be in control - So act like you are even if you're not.

  • people will base their own reactions on how YOU react to both their questions and the pressure of the situation. - Never underestimate the importance of 'grace under pressure.'

  • don't waste others' time by asking unfocused questions - Know what you need to know before you open your mouth.

  • provide "unsolicited updates" to support staff, users and bosses alike - Don't wait for them to ask you. That disrupts the tempo. Instead, whenever something new happens or something new is learned, tell them before they ask. Say, "Here's what we know. Here's what we don't know yet. Here's what we're doing next. Here's what we hope happens." Then walk away. Briskly.

  • assign someone the job of keeping the people who are affected by the problem away from the people who are working to fix it - It's not a trivial task to keep the Acutely Inquisitive at bay. But every interruption delays progress a little bit more.

According to Vernon Sanders Law, "Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards." And she keeps testing until the lessons are ultimately learned. So what's important in all of this is seeing the opportunity to learn things sooner, rather than later. Or worse yet, never at all. Because face it, unless you purposefully take the time to capture your own Hindsight Learning, the moment will pass, you'll get busy with something else and the lessons will be forever lost.

But then again, some new crisis will probably re-test you soon enough. #

©June 2003, Barry Zweibel, GottaGettaCoach!, Incorporated. All rights reserved.


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 LeadershipTraction is a Division of GottaGettaCoach! » Executive Coaching | Mentoring | Leadership Development | Career Acceleration.