Emergency Training Could Save Your Life

“They behaved in a manner that their training would prepare them for.”

“In an instant, Captain Shults found herself in a situation most pilots face only during training: having to land a plane after an engine goes out.”

“Those are two emergencies that flight crews train for and learn by memory what to do.”

Would media say the same about you if your company experienced a sudden, potentially catastrophic event? Do you and your leaders train for the worst when times are good and safe?

These three comments following the dramatic, safe landing of a crippled Soutwest Airlines flight point to the same idea: that it is training for emergencies and failures that prepares one to respond effectively and calmly in an actual emergency.

I’ve never heard a CEO of any company talk about how he or she leads management and employees to train for failures and disasters, have you? Over and over we hear and read about how CEOs and Owners prepare for success. Failure is to be avoided at any costs, yet it is recognizing the possibility of failure that could save a business the way emergency training saved lives on that flight.

Many Emergencies You Could Prepare For

What if companies prepared for the failure of:

  • One or many lines of products and services (New Coke; Kodak)
  • Executive behavior (Wells Fargo)
  • Employee behavior (e.g., Starbucks in Philadelphia)
  • Management (Brooks Brothers in 1990s)
  • Marketing campaigns (Pepsi Kendall Jenner ads)
  • Customer service (United Airlines removing a passenger by force)
  • Financial health (Sears, Toys R Us)
  • Technology (both poor quality IT and extremely poor management of IT development)
  • Reputation (Facebook, The Weinstein Companies)

Emergency Training

How would you prepare for failures like this? I think there are three ways every company can create and undergo failure training.

  1. Explore every possible worst case scenario in each of these areas. Using your typical measuring tools and planning processes, plug in data for the worst case. What would you do after seeing the spectacular fail of a new product, for example? Or after the embarrassing or possibly illegal behavior of the CEO that’s plastered all over the media?
  2. Engage outside experts to simulate internally these failures without warning to the executive team. Outsiders will be even more tenacious in testing you than you are testing yourselves. Have them record and evaluate the responses. Did they recover or crash?
  3. Repeat annually to keep responses sharp and in tune with the changes in the environment. Every compnay is subject to the forces– economic, political, demographic, social–that occur without warning or planning. Just as pilots repeat their training to respond to catastrophic situations, so too do companies need to repeat their training.

Your responses to these crises should be firm, calm and confident, just like the pilot who people described as having nerves of steel. In the midst of a life-threatening crisis, she kept her head and wits about her and executed the moves she’d been trained to do.

Who in your company is trained to respond to failures with this level of intensity? It’s your choice and planning that dictates whether your company will land safely or come apart at the seams.

If you’re wondering how to train to avoid failures, I’d like to talk with you. Give me a call, 703-790-1424.

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