Friday, April 26, 2013

Dust off those binders and simplify your plans.

According to the World Health Organization, we are in monitoring mode with respect to the H7N9 virus that has been detected in China and Taiwan.  While government agencies may be tightening up their plans behind the scenes in case the virus turns into a pandemic, companies will most probably stay in idle mode for the time being.

But at this point I've been asked often enough about it that I'm providing the links here to my 2007 pandemic article, that provided a context for the financial sector to plan, then discussed specific add-on pandemic tweaks for existing disaster recovery plans.  A second article in 2008 looked at how much progress had been made by the financial sector a year later.  And there's this 2009 KING-TV interview I did on pandemic planning around H1N1:


What we do know these days is that overly-elaborate plans that reside in fat binders rarely get used.  Checklists, on the other hand, are easier to use in time of need, and allow us to see more easily and ask "what have we missed?  what else should be on this list?" 

We know that up to 40% of a workforce can be absent during a pandemic, but the business must continue to operate. So among the items we added to the regular checklist for pandemic were policies on cross-training our people, and on delegation of authority, and on how to pay our people if they were ill.  The entire senior management reviewed our most critical business processes and re-classified them for pandemic into "continue,"  "reduce," or "suspend" classifications. 

At the time, I called pandemic planning "worst case."  Of course there are other high impact/low probability events that could come along, but not many that allow a company to truly flex its strategic chops to figure out how it will continue to serve its customers in the midst of a phenomenon that could last several months.

It doesn't take long to pull those existing plans off the shelf and determine whether, with a bit of fine tuning, you'll be ready to go if necessary.  While you're looking at the plans, think also about how you could simplify them.  And if you need assistance, just give me a call.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Making a difference.

I've got a large network of current and former colleagues that match up well to my professional interests, but not so many of them are genuinely interested in cyber security and threat analysis.

So it's a special pleasure for me to be co-presenting with Mary Gardner at the Port of Seattle's Emergency Management Cyber Summit on April 30.

Mary was a key manager in my group early on at Washington Mutual, where she developed and led incident response, technical and vendor assessment security teams.  After a spell at the Port of Seattle, she moved to head information security for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Between the two of us, there's a lot of history, shared values and commitment to doing work that makes a difference.   On a day like today, where I've been glued to the television set while law enforcement closes in on a home-grown terrorist, it's good to acknowledge the parts of our life and work that come full circle.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Massacre 2013

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."-- Mahatma Gandhi 

The third Monday of April is Patriot's Day, that commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775.  This is a horrible day for all of us in this country.  Two bombs have gone off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing two and injuring  lower extremities of many spectators or runners, called "battlefield injuries" by a Boston ER doctor. A fire about the same time at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library may or may not be related. 

This is the type of incident we have come to expect in Bagdad, not Boston, especially in the historic home of our democracy.  These photos were taken less than a block from the explosions in January.

The Sciences, in front of Boston Public Library, established 1848, the first library to loan books.
The Arts, on the other side of front steps, Boston Public Library.
One of the great churches of America.

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External view of Trinity Church.  Wreathes on church parallel those on library.

The glory of architecture inside Trinity Church.
Now we wait to learn who would do something like this, and why.  Of all the horrors of the day, one of the most poignant is that the last mile of the marathon was dedicated to the children who died in Newtown, CT. in December; and that Newtown residents may have been in the spectator stands.

We thank all the first responders who so efficiently handled the situation, including shutting down cell phone service so that additional unexploded devices might not be triggered -- even though it causes inconvenience to those trying to reach runners to be sure they are okay.

We wait.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lean in, step up, take a position.

Baltimore setting sun, June 2011, from the train

Sheryl Sternberg's book, Lean In, has been the target of a great deal of criticism, mostly by women.  The points she is making in the book are not radical or earth-shattering.   There is one theme at the center of all her points:  set aside dithering; step up; and have confidence in yourself.

Why this is difficult for women in the workplace -- and the data she has in the book is pretty conclusive -- may stem from an earnest desire to be popular, or an interior critical voice that holds you back, or nervousness about stepping outside your comfort zone, or an inability to sort out what you actually want.

As I point out in the last chapter of Advice From A Risk Detective, the greatest risk for any one person, female or male, may be the failure to turn into a more interesting person if you're not willing to lean in, step up, even take a position.

What are you waiting for?