How cold has it been recently. It looks like it’s about to warm up now but there was one point where it was around -9 in some places and that was during the day and not even on the side of a mountain. It’s held for a while as well and we all know what that means…

…slipping on your arse more and pipes freezing and cracking. More incidents, more leaks, more repairs. It presents a big challenge for water companies in and amongst the busy Xmas period as well.

Escalations and emergency meetings

One thing that I have noticed seems to be a staple part of how we think about these situations is the emergence of extra meet ups. These tend to be formed of groups of senior people, skilled professionals, people that may not normally come together but do so in the extreme circumstances. Whenever this comes around though, which is normally at least once a year, the same few thoughts run through my head and as this is the Xmas issue of what has been a full year of writing this now, I thought I’d lay some of it down here to hopefully get you all thinking.

Why do we only do this when it’s critical?

I’m not for a minute thinking that more meetings upon meetings are the way to go but if the level of collaboration and co-operation across usual siloes goes up during these stressful periods doesn’t it beg the question around why can’t we do more of it at other times. There as a lot to be learned around this and its right there in operational reality.

When things aren’t in crisis mode what do people do with their time to develop the habits and behaviours required to seamlessly deal with these scenarios when they come around?

Do some leaders like the fire-fighting?

Having worked with a number of leaders, some have been self admitting that they really like the intensity of critical periods and the idea that they can rescue, achieve, recover the given situation. This is a trait that is within a fair few of us. It’s almost like we kick into action to save the day and the rest of the time it can be a but boring.

If you have a preference to operating in a good crisis it’s possible that more of this mentality might actually get in the way of us preparing the ground prior so that its not that much of a crisis at all.

How do you feel when these situations come around and does that fuel your desire for operating within them and keeping them ‘as is’?

Is it a special situation if it’s now common place?

The more I’ve seen of these scenario’s over the years they often get talked about a special situations. The temperature has dropped, the reservoirs are drying up, a huge storm is coming in. These are all weather related and all become more common. All of these will probably happen within a given year these days and so they aren’t that special anymore are they?

Given we have 52 weeks in a year and that we may have quite a few of these weeks dealing with these situations, it would surely make sense to review how we deal with these in more of a BAU sense rather than waiting for the ‘special’ nature of these to show up. How we understand demand across the year and its variety at different times should surely involve these scenarios.

How much of the ways of working brought in to deal with difficult situations have been well thought through upfront and are easy to move in and out of, dependent on demand?

Do typical mgt structures restrict flexibility and dynamic responses?

I believe they do. If you organise people into different teams within teams, with specific roles and targets it makes it harder to flex this resource when you actually need it. Crisis points are better served when you have more flexibility in how operations can understand and react to the given situation. If you’ve hard coded people with very specific roles, skills and targets it is more difficult to then ‘flex’ to the demand.

When the pipes are cracking how optimum is your response when thinking about the different roles involved? For example, are your leakage, customer, network, analysts and managers all working towards the same collective goals and communicating effectively? 

How effective are your escalation meetings, really?

It’s easy to pull meetings, it’s harder to honestly assess them to understand if they are achieving the purpose they set out to from everyone’s perspective. There’s been lots written and published about what an effective meeting looks and sounds like. I think we often forget this and fall into the trap of having meetings for meetings sake. Critical situations are an opportunity to have more and more pointless meeting time if we are not careful.

When was the last time you aligned everyone to your meetings, agreed the structure, determined what great looks, sounds and feels like and consistently reviewed for learning and improvement? If these meetings are for making key decisions, how good were those decisions in hindsight and how can that help inform how we run these discussions?

Hopefully, these have got you thinking. You may already consider these and more in how you are going about these situations. I’d personally love to learn more around how we see and are acting on these instances into 2023/24, so please get in touch if it’s a topic close to your heart.