Training for Trouble

Rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals. Its the mantra of the instructors as we prepared a training operation. We would walk through our mission, our job roles and every possible thing we could think of that might happen to us. You always feel ready, until the moment for action comes.

No plan survives first contact with the enemy” German Field Marshal Moltke,

So there we would be stacked up outside a building after everything had gone wrong in the first 5 min, out of order, and making up a new plan, on the fly, to get us in the building while the training instructors were setting off firecrackers at our feet to keep us motivated. What happened to all those rehearsals and what can we do next time so we don’t have to respond to everything like an emergency?

So often employees are left with the “deer in the headlights” stare as good plans fall apart and situations change. The client raises an objection or stops taking the calls, a machine breaks down, supplies run out or people just don’t show up. How can you possibly be ready for it all?

When devising your plans, leave some time for talking through all the contingencies you can think of with the team, then if you can actually conduct rehearsals and walk your team through the solution, do it! Ask your self “what should we be doing when X happens?” Contingency planning for a known problem allows you to train your team to be ready for things that are likely to go wrong.

But what about the stuff you never saw coming?

Crisis planning is where really good teams can make their money. You can’t possibly think of every possible thing that could go wrong but you can teach your teams how to communicate and respond to emergencies. While gearing up for urban combat, units will practice what to do if they get attacked from a specific direction like “the right side.” They know the details of an attack are going to change every time but they rehearse what the basic roles and responsibilities will be in a more general way. What critical tasks need to be accomplished? Providing first aid, fire suppression, counter attack? Having a general framework to operate within allows team members to anticipate each others movements and actions, allowing the entire team to think and move without having to stop and issue more orders, losing momentum.

A leaders role is to think through what the basic requirements will be that apply to most situations and walk your team through those tasks, redundancy never hurts either. Once they are assigned, practice! In sales its role playing answering objections, in operations your practicing where people go to keep things moving while you patch up a solution. Getting teams to rehearse is going to take supervision it is work, but that’s what leadership is all about.

Laying down the basic responsibilities you know need to be addressed will give you a starting point for crisis response. We know that the business world is going to throw us curves, set up your Immediate Action (IA) drills with your team so you can adjust with confidence when it happens and not spend your days creating new solutions for every problem. Lead smarter.