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					Resilience, Communications and The Talking Dog Living in Florida, I am used to the
spring and summertime ritual of hurricane preparedness. Plywood for your windows,
three days of food per person and fill your bathtub with water. Being an overachiever all
of my life, I of course have a pantry full of food (okay, so I shop at Costco), I share a
commercial generator with my mother who lives next door and I even have a 40,000-
gallon bathtub. In Florida we call it a swimming pool. My 40,000-gallon bathtub is a
beautiful thing. It is a gathering place for the family, our own little oasis in the southern
heat. It is chlorinated so it stores well and when we have to use it as our emergency water
reserve we even have a small filtration and de-chlorination device that keeps the water
safe to drink. But all of this physical preparation is just one small aspect of resilience and
resilience is how we all get through life’s little and not so little disasters. Now before
we can really discuss resilience we have to understand a few simple definitions. First
what is a disaster? A disaster is when your needs exceed your resources. During the
holiday shopping season we all run into our own little mini-disasters, it is not uncommon
for our wants to exceed our wallets. Resilience is the opposite of a disaster. Resilience is
when your resources exceed your needs. When we are out shopping for the holidays and
the cash is low we all have the same call of resilience, “Charge it!” But even this
leaves the majority of resilience unaccounted for. Resilience is far more than physical or
even financial resource management. Resilience begs the question how big is the bathtub
in your soul? What exactly, what is "resilience" and how do you build a 40,000 gallon
bathtub in your soul? If resilience is when your resources exceed your needs, then the key
to resilience is to always have more resources than you need. In life, these resources fall
into four broad categories. The first is simple physical resources: food and water, shelter
and, yes, money. The second is relationships, friends and family; those people who count
on us and those people on whom we can count for support. The third is emotional.
Although this may seem the same as relationships, it is far ifferent. This is the "inner
strength," that reserve that we each possess that allows us to go on when we are alone,
when we cannot tap into our relationships directly, when that lifeline is just not available.
The fourth is spiritual resilience. Contrary to what many believe, both scientific and
theological research has proven that it is not the "what" of your belief, but the fact
“that you believe” which provides spiritual resilience. In short, it is the simple act
of believing that provides you a renewing source of spiritual strength. If our total
resilience is a 40,000 gallon bathtub, then each of these four categories of resilience is a
canteen. They are our portable water supply carried with us at every moment. Ideally,
when adversity strikes, it finds us with four full canteens. Through planning, we have all
of the physical resources that we need to respond to any physical threat to our safety or
security. This includes knowledge as well as tangible objects and financial support.
Through our presence with family an friends, our relationship canteen is filled with those
we love; people who will lend a helping hand or shoulder on which to cry. Through our
life’s experiences, our emotional canteen is filled with the high self esteem born of
happy memories. A child's first steps, a parent's encouraging words, the camaraderie of
friends, the gentle "I love you" of that person most dear to us. Through our beliefs, our
spiritual canteen is filled with the philosophy of the ages. The beliefs that were passed on
to us and those that we choose to pass on to those who will come after us. But what does
all this have to do with business strategic planning?
When adversity strikes it is resilience that helps the group, the individual and ultimately
the business survive. There are recurring themes in the disaster field office. The first is
the use of an “all hazards” approach. This approach involves preparing not for
individual adverse events, but rather the ways by which an event most greatly impact the
individual, the community, or in this case, the business. Resilience in its four forms
ensures that we are “all hazards” ready. The second theme is that adversity is as
unpredictable as it is varied. One can no more predict when adversity will occur than
what the adversity will be. On the other hand there are limited number of ways that
adversity can impact an individual or a business. In these circumstances it is through
resilience, maintaining resources in excess of needs, that these limited points of
vulnerability are best mitigated. When an adversity strikes, we will sip or even gulp from
each of these canteens. If we have prepared well, our 40,000 gallon bathtub is full. At the
end of each day, at a moment of repose, we refill each of these canteens from that 40,000
gallon reserve. We are resilient. So what are the two most important business choke
points? Management & Communications One of the lessons learned early on in the
disaster field office is referred to as “span of control”. Span of control is a two-
dimensional concept of personnel and project management. Span of control dictates both
the breadth and depth that an individual leader may effectively exert control and
leadership. Decades of experience have taught us that even the most experienced project
manager, leader, CEO or company president can only effectively lead a breadth of three
to seven subordinate divisions and ideally the number is five. That same experience has
also taught us that a leader becomes detached if the organization they oversee grows
greater than five to seven layers deep with, again, the ideal number being five for
efficacy. But why does this occur? Why should your organization be no more divisions
wide under any one leader than the number of fingers on their hand and no more layers
deep in that organization than the number of toes on one foot? The answer in part lies in
the functioning of the human brain. Immediate memory, that portion of the brain capable
of receiving information almost instantaneously, less than .037 milliseconds, and
maintaining it until it can be written into permanent memory is only seven blocks wide;
this is why your telephone number (excluding the area code) is seven digits long.
However, just like a telephone number, by grouping batches of numbers your brain treats
each group of numbers as one block. The area code becomes one block of information
rather than three discreet numbers. The prefix, another group of three numbers, is again
considered a single block of digits. Hence a ten-digit telephone number is now treated by
the brain as only six blocks of information—the area code, the prefix and each of the last
four individual digits. Similarly your Social Security number is divided into the same
sequence—three-digit prefix, a two-digit place code and the terminal four digits. Span of
control pays attention to this same basic brain limitation. You can most effectively pay
attention to five simultaneous branches within your chain of command without becoming
distracted because you have two “available” blocks of memory in which to store
“distractions.” Depth in any one branch works the same way. When you must pay
attention to one branch with any degree of specificity, your brain turns your memory
“sideways” and looks at the depth in blocks of information. Limiting depth to 5
layers leaves two “available” blocks for “distractions” or to share among the
other branches of your organization. But how does this impact actual management?
Taking these decades of experience from the disaster field office and combining them
with the neurophysiologic knowledge of how the human brain works, we discovered that
in any organization, the organization must be subdivided when the number of first-level
subordinates exceeds five. Therefore, if a CEO must run four divisions of a single
company, he can do so with four vice-presidents, but when that number exceeds seven,
the company must be in some fashion broken up, grouping each of those greater divisions
under individual presidents who then report to the CEO. Thus the company becomes one
layer deper, but the CEO has only 2 divisions under his span of control (each with a
president). Similarly, imagine we now have one CEO with two presidents, but the
organization becomes greater than seven layers deep with the seventh layer being the
customers. The CEO is in danger of losing touch with those customers. In this
circumstance, a new division in the company reporting directly to the CEO can be
established that provides for information to be disseminated directly by the CEO to
customers and feedback directly from customers back to CEO. Communications is
second “choke point” inherent to all businesses. Regardless of the type of
adversity, business communication, or the lack of communications, provides the
opportunity for adversity to become disaster. Business communications comes into two
forms, risk communications and communications technology. Risk communication, the
ability to communicate to the public through the mass media and direct contact the level
of risk inherent in an adverse event the impact upon both the business and the consumer
and the steps taken to litigate that risk. In the case of Tylenol contamination, Johnson &
Johnson became the epitome of good risk communication. Immediately upon determining
that their product had become implicated in an adverse event within the community, their
CEO and Chairman of the Board appeared in every media outlet available to announce
that Tylenol would be withdrawn from the market and that with full refunds for even
partial or empty bottles. When a similar product contamination event occurred for Taco
Bell in 2006, a two-week delay in communications resulted a significant fall in restaurant
patronage and in customer retention. When the CEO of Taco Bell finally appeared in the
media, he was ill prepared and communicated not risk in confidence, but ineptitude and
uncertainty. Communications technology encompasses all the physical means by which
businesses interact with their supplies, their colleagues and their customers. Business
communication requires multiple levels of redundancy in this day of wireless broadband
and inexpensive T1 lines, business Internet access through dual redundant systems
provides both voice communication and data relay. Off sight server redundancy as well
as data continuity systems allow for the resumption of business within seconds, if not
minutes, even if an entire brick and mortar site is devastated by an adverse event.
Telephonic communication, both by “POTS” (plain old telephone system), cellular
wireless and VOiP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) again provides multiple redundancies
for voice communication. Following Hurricane Katrina, even federal teams were
incapable of maintaining adequate voice and data communications despite satellite uplink
equipment, satellite phone, multiple brands and vendors of cellular service and the ability
to tap into existing POTS and hardwired Internet systems. In the first hours of operations
in the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, Louisiana, the business of
disaster response was carried out under local command temporarily disconnected from
central coordination. As a result, federal assets now travel with multiple redundant
communication systems. Businesses seeking survival in the 21st century must provide the
same types of redundancy for this most critical business pathway … communications.
Beyond the means of communications is the attitude of communications that must be
addressed. In the disaster field office, we learned long ago that business management
practices seldom insure the rapid and efficient movement of information. The process
that works best for eliminating gridlock and territorialism comes to us from a Harvard in
the early 1980’s. Gergen and Marcus described a concept in economics known as
'silozation'. In this groundbreaking theory the authors posit that traditional business
models allow for the progression of information from the base of the 'silo' up to the
highest levels of management at the top of the silo or the dissemination of information
from the top of the silo downward, but prevents communication between organizations
(silos) through the wall at any middle level of management. This prevents the
development of relationships between various levels of an organization or even divisions
within a single corporation. “Choke points” in communications develop between
organizations because information must funnel through the top to the bottom of the silo
before it could be disseminated to the other members of each organization. Gergen and
Marcus recommended that in business the silos be removed. By doing this, organizations
could communicate risk, benefit and opportunity, relying on their unique capability to
insure customer loyalty and market success. Dr. Maurice A. Ramirez is the founder and
president of the consulting firm High Alert, LLC.. He serves on expert panels for
pandemic preparedness and healthcare surge planning with Congressional and Cabinet
Members. Board certified in multiple specialties, Dr. Ramirez is Founding Chairperson of
the American Board of Disaster Medicine and serves the nation as a Senior Physician-
Federal Medical Officer in the National Disaster Medical System. Dr. Ramirez has a new
book: You Can Survive Anything, Anywhere, Every Time. His website is

Marijan Stefanovic Marijan Stefanovic Digital Imagery
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