Business & Change Management Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy
One week out, the impact of Hurricane Sandy is striking– millions are still without power, gas lines are long and the stresses and strains that the storm has wrought will linger for months. Estimated financial losses are close to $50 billion, but economists say that the national economy is unlikely to take a hit in the medium-term, since insurance and government aid will cover much of the rebuilding,
As I watched the storm unfold, I was struck by the collaborative spirit and resiliency of leaders, business, organizations, workers, neighbors, and every-day citizens- on so many levels. To survive, we needed to work together to realize shared goals. Government leaders moved from old style command & control to courageous collaborative leadership-holding themselves and other leaders accountable, reaching across party lines, and most importantly sharing knowledge, power and credit.
Here are a couple of lessons the crisis taught us that can be applied to your business model.
1. The Value of Collaboration
Collaboration isn’t new. Time and again, when a major disaster hits, we collectively put down our defenses and work collaboratively to see that shared goals are met. Government leaders put aside differences and politics to unify in help and support. Political rivals, NJ Governor Christy and President Obama touring severely damaged areas together. Long-standing mutual-aid packs, activated days before Sandy hit, drew an emergency team of more than 64,000 workers from 82 utility companies across the U.S. AT&T and T-Mobile teamed up to provide their networks to offer non-roaming calls and data on whichever network happens to be available in a given area of the Sandy-ravaged East Coast. Consumers did not notice a difference as AT&T and T-Mobile managed the service on the back end. Under pressure we find ways to work as a collective body and these partnerships could be a blueprint for how to handle future storms.
2. Build Business Change Management Capabilities into your Organization
Change is the new normal for many organizations. Doing things “the way we’ve always done” is just not going to cut it. Managing how people adapt and adopt change is something that many are seeing as a critical competency. While some are hesitant to blame the more intense storms on global warming, it’s clear that extreme weather is a new reality. Leaders, seeing a long string of changes ahead, are building internal change management competency and teams that can effectively handle the seemingly endless series of changes.
3. Resiliency and ability to Work from Anywhere
The storm tested our business as well as personal resiliency. After securing their homes and family, workers scrambled to alternative workplaces, including coffee shops, malls and temporary office space. Hurricane Sandy provided a “forced experiment” in remote work from home programs’ effectiveness to service customers, keep product flowing out the door and meet deadlines. Companies need to have the technology, infrastructure and processes in place to support work-at-home or work-from-anywhere programs. Many companies leveraged social collaboration tools and software to communicate and connect geographically dispersed workers- sharpening an organizations’ productivity and effectiveness.
Work Reliance, Personal Resilience, and the Common Good
Sandy has been recognized as the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, with winds spanning 1,100 miles. During the storm, differences were put aside for the common good. Can we continue to channel this level of creative cooperation to solving economic, political or social issues? Can we build “change muscles” into our organizations and help people get ready, willing and able to work in new ways that are required by change? Have you built a foundation of trust and guidelines to empower remote work? What changes do you see in your organization’s policies or guidelines as a result of the storm? My heart goes out to all those impacted by the storm and I pray for continued collaboration and innovation to achieve a full recovery.