Applying a Business Strategic Planning Process to the Individual

Earlier this year, Corner Alliance put key consulting practices – facilitation, meeting design, and strategic planning – to use with two extraordinary high school students. Corner Alliance did this in collaboration with Teamesteem, a local non-profit organization, which helps teenagers become entrepreneurs. To facilitate, Corner Alliance applied our unique strategic planning methodology, often used with public and private organizations, to guide the rising high school seniors through a personal planning exercise. Both the teens and facilitators were inspired by the exercise, and it proved how valuable Corner Alliance’s basic strategic planning methodology can be for identifying short- and long-term personal goals. At Corner Alliance, we view strategic planning as a collaborative effort with clients to identify future goals, initiatives to achieve them, and barriers that might impede success. During a strategic planning session, Corner Alliance’s goal is to facilitate a conversation with the client that helps them clarify their existing ideas and generate new ideas. To do this we ask specific questions about how each step will be achieved, and what resources will be needed for each stage of the journey.  We know that the hardest part of strategic planning is the follow through, or individual accountability. It’s too easy to get involved in the daily “fire drills” and forget to dedicate time toward your goals. For this reason, we advocate individual accountability through regular check-ins and adjustments to ensure success. We adjusted our strategic planning method to help two hard-charging teens map their paths forward. Corner Alliance facilitators brainstormed targeted questions before the meeting to address the teens’ current state, future goals, action items, and how each could maintain accountability. It was important to develop questions that would not only get the teens thinking but also keep them engaged in the conversation. We wanted this session to be valuable to the teens, one critical step toward reaching their goals and a new skill for their tool box to access when goal planning in the future. The teens’ goals included going to college, getting good grades, and continuing to run their own businesses. These are not ordinary teens – both are entrepreneurs, with uncanny drive for continued success. Each has already started a company, and one was even featured in Inc Magazine.  During the next year, one of the teens would like to get into the real-estate business while also applying to college. The other participating teen, a young woman who moved to the United States during elementary school, has focused her natural artistic abilities through her self-designed clothing line and photography work. They both have big aspirations and the drive to accomplish them; they just need a little support getting there. That’s where the Corner Alliance strategic planning...

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Prepared for 72 hours. Is it enough?

Most preparedness campaigns share the message that citizens need to be prepared for 72 hours or three days in an emergency—that you need to count on government resources not being able to make it to your household or location within that amount of time. These campaigns ask you to make a plan for reunification and evacuation with your loved ones who may be at work or at school. They also suggest that you prepare a preparedness kit with items such as food, water, flashlights, batteries and even items like a deck of cards. More recently in the current era of social media and the capability to send focused alerts to communities, emergency management partners are encouraging citizens to also get connected—sign up for alerts, join community facebook pages, and know your neighbors. This social connectedness is a strong thread to keep communities together when day-to- day infrastructure and services that we take for granted may not be available. A concerning observation about the 72 hour focus remains that year after year, despite dedicated preparedness campaign investments with tactful messages and delivery, citizens are still not prepared for 7 hours let alone the recommended 72 hours. When it snowed a few feet last year in the DC area (with accurate forecasting), I think 90% of residents went to the store within the first day of the storm to buy the essential items that they should have purchased prior to the storm. What’s even more concerning is that it’s widely recognized by honest public safety officials that in a major disaster (major earthquake, hurricane, blizzard, etc.) that planning for even 72 hours is likely not enough! If a true disaster strikes cities in the mid-Atlantic at a magnitude larger than our last Snowmaggedon, the big box stores, grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and banks will not be open. Electricity could be out for days or weeks. With this type of infrastructure down, all local, state, and even Federal government resources will be completely surged to capacity to try to maintain a basic level of public safety in our communities. They will not have the capacity to knock on doors to give people food, water, blankets, or fans. I am not trying to employ scare tactics by any means, but this is a reality that we need to face and an expectation that we need to communicate. I recommend the following tips to stay prepared beyond 72 hours: Plan to use your electronics but also plan for them to go down. Have backup chargers for your mobile devices charged and ready. Sign up for your local emergency management alert system and join your community Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to improve your...

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Traits of a Leader

One of our projects is running an Emerging Leaders program for up-and- coming Emergency Managers from across the country.  Sponsored by Target Corporation and ESRI, this program brings in leaders from each of these companies as well as Directors of Emergency Management from some of the largest cities and jurisdictions in the country to discuss leadership issues. Recently, I had the pleasure of facilitating a panel of such leaders. A question posed by a student was “what are the leadership traits that have made you successful?” Traits noted were:  “Say-do” ratio. If you say you are going to do it, then do it.  Persistence. Don’t give up even in the face of pushback.  Selflessness. It’s not about you. Focusing on your success does not provide success.  Focus on those around you.  Transparent. Don’t hide your thoughts or the situation.  Self awareness. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Know how you show up to others and how you show up in stressful situations.  Do you tend to make quick decisions or make no decisions at all? Do you tend to react with noticeable anger or appear too calm as though there are no issues at all?  Ask for help. This is a collaborative society. Don’t try to do it all and don’t try to do it all alone.  Be calm in a crisis. Leaders can cause chaos if they are not calm. Don’t let the disaster manage you. What was most amazing to me was the concurrence from senior public and private sector executives that this list is accurate. There was no differentiation based on if you’re part of a for profit business or if you’re a government employee. Do you have these traits? What are others you would add to this...

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Utilizing Prize Challenges In the Government

You may not associate prize challenges as a technique commonly used by the government to accelerate innovation. However, since 2010, over 690 prizes from 98 federal agencies have offered more than $220 million in prize awards. The concept of running prize challenges in the Federal government is not new. Some prizes stem back several centuries, such as England’s Longitude Prize of 1714. This was a time when maritime trade and exploration were unable to accurately navigate their ships. It was a clock maker by the name of John Harrison, who developed a marine chronometer – the winning solution. This unlikely suspect earned upwards of $2 million in today’s currency and revolutionized subsequent marine travel technology. Even the most unlikely individuals create innovative solutions to the world’s most difficult problems. A major benefit of running a prize challenge is being able to expand beyond your usual audience, and attract diverse talent from a variety of disciplines who come together and solve a problem. There, you can find the most unlikely suspects. Some of the other benefits to running prize challenges are: Running a prize challenge greatly accelerates the timeline of finding innovative solutions to the problem at hand. Rather than investing in one group’s ability to solve a problem, such as with a grant, prize challenges invite many different groups to solve the problem resulting in a wider range of innovative solutions. In addition, prize competitions allow agencies to only pay for winning solutions. Perhaps you award first, second, and third place winners, but you do not need to compensate other participants for their solutions. Prize challenges are cost effective in that agencies are presented with many solutions, and can pick and choose the ones that most closely meet their criteria. Prize challenges help stimulate the market and private sector investments. Depending on intellectual property provisions and the goal of the prize challenge, solutions can be further developed and implemented into the market after a prize challenge has ended. Additionally, winning solutions are not the only solutions that may be developed. Runner ups can also be developed further and create additional investment opportunities. Successful prize challenges thrive from cultivating a collaborative community dedicated to solving important issues. Crowdsourcing and open innovation allow for communities to come together regardless of competition. Teams are able to be formed through networking and community engagement opportunities. There are many benefits to running a prize challenge, however prize challenges are complex and involve much time and effort. They are not a “one-size-fits-all” to every problem out there. Running a successful prize competition requires a significant amount of research, planning, & resources. Unless your agency has an established prize competition team already, internal resources are not typically well-versed in prize...

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Information Sharing in the Public Safety Community

There is a lot of energy in the public safety sector today around the term information sharing. Information is everywhere and with the build out of the Internet of Things (IoT) our public safety friends will continue to be flooded with too much information.  Information, is great if it’s accurate, relevant and provided at the right time.  There are a lot of Federal initiatives that have been stood up to help the public safety community with this issue.  At the same time, many local departments are coordinating with other disciplines and jurisdictions in an attempt to improve information sharing at their level, but often invest in systems that only provide them part of the solution that is required. While we won’t solve public safety’s information sharing issues overnight (and that is part of the problem), here are four ideas to consider when standing up a public safety information sharing initiative: You must work out the governance first.  Who needs what data and when? Who has that data? Who else needs that data to make decisions? Locals want to own their data. They want to be able to turn it on and off, and the ability to share their data with others. You must then develop and operationalize standard operating procedures (SOPs).  Do you have standard operating procedures (SOPs)? Are the public safety partners that will be responding aware of the procedures, so they can show up and respond in alignment? Having SOPs is one thing. Having SOPs that you actually use is another. Documents that sit on a shelf and are only pulled for big incidents are essentially worthless. You must exercise and train. Would a big time athlete show up for a game not having practiced for many hours? Nope. And, if she did, she likely wouldn’t be at her best. Public safety needs to take the same approach to information sharing. Finally, if you’re not using your information sharing system/applications on a daily basis, then when the sh*t hits the fan you’re efforts to share information will likely fall short of expectations. Unlike a land mobile radio (LMR) system that is used for voice communications, there are normally many different systems that provide data for a more complete information-sharing environment. Think of this as a systems-of-systems. During the event or incident is not the time to think about the governance, determine who has the data you need or what systems are relevant, or write an SOP. Notice that I did not say anything about the technology used for information sharing. Technology will not solve the problem. There are tons and tons of technology vendors selling you the solution that will “solve all of your problems”.  If you don’t...

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Understanding the Role of Emergency Managers

I have had the pleasure of supporting Emergency Managers for a few years now and I’ve seen that they have a serious problem. Not many people understand their role. They are constantly selling their services to elected officials and the public they serve. It’s really easy to understand what Big Blue (law enforcement) does. They uphold our laws. They arrive in fast blue cars and carry guns and handcuffs. It’s also really easy to understand what Big Red (fire/rescue) does. They arrive in large red trucks, pull out hoses, and put out fires. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) also provide easy-to-understand support, to our communities. They provide triage and medical services until the patient(s) can get to the hospital.  All of these services are vital to our communities. What do Emergency Managers do? What do they drive, what do they carry, and what do they own? A video the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM) put together a few years ago does a great job of describing its role. The reality is that Emergency Managers don’t usually own anything and their job is to work the scene behind the scenes. They don’t have tactical teams protecting our citizens or big red trucks with flashy lights that put out fires. They don’t usually carry guns (unless you’re from Texas) and they don’t arrest people. They’re rarely needed in a response to a normal, everyday event or incident. Whether it is a house fire, a high speed chase, or a normal 911 call for a suspected heart attack, Emergency Managers don’t have a role. Emergency Managers are masters in planning, logistics, collaboration, communications, and coordination. They are vital to the success of any community handling large planned events, significant weather (think of the floods in Texas right now) and multi-agency/multi-jurisdictional incidents, etc. Their job is to coordinate and communicate across departments for senior leadership.  They anticipate what will be needed tomorrow, determine who has the resources, and advise senior leadership on the logical path forward absent cultural constraints of specific job functions. They promote Federal efforts such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command Structure (ICS) when other disciplines question these efforts because they know a level of consistency across operations will help everyone’s ability to provide mutual aid to their neighbor. As an Emergency Manager from a very large county mentioned to me recently, “In the world of Big Red and Big Blue…Emergency Managers are Big Purple. They’re Sweden.” Emergency Managers have an important role in the incident planning, response, and recovery cycle. They’re vital in the design, organization, and execution of cross discipline planning and exercise efforts. When it comes to large response and recovery efforts, their value is in finding...

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