Friday, November 23, 2012

Are You Ready For A Workstoppage or Strike?

Are you ready to manage a labor dispute, whether your employees are unionized or not?

Labor disruptions have been few and far between in recent years. In 1990, according to the annual ICM Crisis Report, just over 10-percent of crises that year involved labor disputes and strikes.
The most recent annual ICM Crisis Report for 2011 indicated 8-percent of all crises were labor related and that number was the same in 2009 and 2010.

Union work stoppages of 1,000 employees or more hit an all time low in 2009 with just five work stoppages.  The first 10 months of this year, there were 13 significant work stoppages.

Walmart was the focus of major work disruptions approaching the "Black Friday" holiday shopping period.  Our Walmart which has been trying to unionize Walmart employees claimed there would be demonstrations at 1,000 North American Walmart stores, but late Friday a company spokesman claimed there were only small demonstrations at 26 of the company's 4,000 US stores, and an estimated 50 employees participating.

At mid-November nurses were striking at hospitals operated by Sutter Health in California, and several thousand employees at Hostess Brands had triggered a shutdown of the maker of Twinkies.

American Airline pilots have been disrupting that airline's flights for weeks.

Every company with more than a handful of employees should have a section in their crisis plan to help if/when a work stoppage or slow-down hits.  The plan should spell out:

           1.  At what point management and supervisors can no long keep the business operating
           2.  Who will speak for the organization
           3.  What steps the company will take to deal with violence
           4.  What and how to communicate with vendors and customers
           5.  And, a commitment to maintain calm during the strike or work stoppage, never forgetting that most strikes end and you will want to be able to resume reasonable working relationships with everyone involved

A wildcat walkout can be more disruptive and damaging than an anticipated every three year contract renewal dispute.  Working cooperatively to resolve disagreements and new contracts should always be the goal, but when something goes wrong with that idea, having a plan is essential

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not All Hospitals & Police Departments Are Ready for a Crisis

Yes, I know, hospital administrators and police chiefs will react strongly to the title of today's blog.

The problem is, we're not talking about the same kind of "ready."

Most hospitals have disaster plans. That is a plan or plans to cope with a disaster in the community they serve.  Just like many police departments that have plans for disasters, demonstrations and other disruptions in their communities.

BUT, most do NOT have a crisis plan for a crisis that strikes their facility or department.

We have worked with some very good hospitals, big and small, since the Institute for Crisis Management was born in 1989.  Most of them could rise to the challenge when disaster struck the communities they served.

Disasters like tornadoes, flooding, a major airplane crash, a mass shooting, and a bus crash with many victims, usually bring out the best in the staff and leadership of hospitals and the leadership and beat cops of police departments.

But, what if the crisis is within the hospital or department?  Then they are not so prepared.

Hurricane Sandy hammered that lesson home in New York City. New York University Hospital and Bellevue Hospital could not take care of their patients when their power and back-up power systems failed.

A few years ago flash flooding closed a regional hospital in Columbus, Indiana and forced the evacuation of hundreds of patients.  The hospital administrators had plans for many of the things that could go wrong in the community they served, but had never stepped back and examined all of the things that could go wrong in their own facility.

Their medical records, the hospital lab, the pharmacy were all in the lowest part of the facility and below the level of a nearby creek.  Heavy rains led to flash flooding around and in the medical center.

It was months before the hospital was back in full operation.

The leaders of every kind of organization should regularly step back and consider what could go wrong and what "must" be done to prevent that, or at least minimize the recovery time.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

ATTENTION: University/College Presidents and Leaders of Other Organizations

The other shoe dropped today, with the indictments of the former President, Vice-President and Athletic Director of Penn State University, charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and endangering the welfare of children abused by the school's former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Pennsylvania state prosecutors, led by State Attorney General Linda Kelly, accused the trio of using their positions to conceal and cover-up the actions of a child predator.  Kelly said, "This was not a mistake, an oversight or a misjudgement.  This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials at Penn State, working to conceal the truth with total disregard for the suffering of children."

Graham Spanier, former President of Penn State for 16-years, was fired nearly a year ago, when the Board was faced with evidence he had covered up what he had been told about Sandusky's involvement with young boys.

Spanier now faces eight criminal charges, including five felonies, each of which carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

Here at the Institute for Crisis Management we constantly preach the concept of "doing the right thing."   When you do the right thing to begin with you narrow the range of "what else can go wrong."  And, when you take responsibility quickly for things that go wrong, you take the "gotcha" out of the "news coverage" and significantly reduce the backlash from friends and foes.

And, in this case, you don't have to worry about getting caught breaking the law. 

There are two lessons in today's news out of Harrisburg, PA.  Doing the right thing, or in this case the results of NOT doing the right thing is very clear. 

The other valuable lesson is admitting in e-mail and other written documents, that you know what you are doing is wrong. Prosecutors revealed an e-mail exchange between former President Spanier and former AD Tim Curley in which Spanier wrote:  "The only downside for us ...we then become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road."