Training To Be Prepared

The key is momentum. It’s easier to keep your balance on a bike that is moving. A wrong decision can be changed. No decision leaves you with the problem.

It’s too late for crisis training when a hurricane’s knocking at your door. What we’ve recently witnessed with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria reminds me of what I experienced with Hurricane Andrew.

I was in Fort Lauderdale to be the closing keynoter at a conference when Hurricane Andrew started moving toward the Bahamas and southern Florida. For the first day of the conference, it was business as usual. Andrew was 650 miles away and its course still unpredictable. But on day two, Andrew was 200 miles closer and the threat was real.

The local television station I watched did a fantastic job of keeping viewers informed of the storm’s progress. The station was in touch with people in the Broward and Dade county emergency centers and with the National Weather Service. The news staff also continually repeated advice about what residents should do to prepare to evacuate. The station had a plan; the people were trained and prepared.

At 7:30 in the morning of the conference’s final day, I got a call from the other speaker scheduled to be part of the closing session later that afternoon. We agreed to rent a car, drive inland, and fly out of Orlando instead Miami.

At 8 a.m., the remainder of the conference was canceled. By 8:45 a.m., we were heading down the hotel driveway. We had moved quickly to leave, but I still noticed the competence of the hotel staff. They made calm and clear announcements in several languages on the public address system about evacuation plans and routes. The front-desk staff checked people out quickly and showed others how to use the express and video checkout systems. The bell staff and valets packed cars and got people on the road quickly, but without panic. The staff pulled together to get customers out of danger even though they had to stay put to make that happen. It was obvious the hotel had a plan, and the people were trained and prepared.

On the road to Orlando, we stopped for a quick breakfast and gas at 10:10 a.m. We stood in line for 20 minutes, then, just before we ordered, watched the staff take down the “Breakfast Now Being Served” sign. Most of us in line—and there were dozens of us fleeing Andrew—wanted breakfast. We had been in line to order long before 10:30. But we couldn’t have breakfast here because it was after 10:30. They had a plan here, too. For normal times, for the status quo. There was no flexibility or preparation for dealing with unusual circumstances.


Crises of all sorts can hit our workplaces. Storms, product failures, sudden fluxes in the marketplace or political climate that demand drastic and immediate organizational change. What kind of training do we need to be prepared? There are storms on the horizon, and it’s usually too late to board up the windows when high winds have already torn the roof off the house. The people at the Marriott Ft. Lauderdale developed and executed the right plan. The staff of the large fast food hamburger chain (with world headquarters in Miami!) didn’t.

Here are the quick steps I’ve been using for clients during most of my career to help create plans and solve problems:

1. State the problem. Charles Kettering, head of research at General Motors for more than 20 years and holder of 186 patents, said, “A problem well defined is half solved.”

2. Analyze the problem. What’s causing the problem? There may be multiple factors.

3. Describe the ideal results from solving the problem.

4. Brainstorm possible solutions. The greater the quantity of solutions, the greater the chance for a high-quality solution (or solutions).

5. Choose and implement the best solution(s) most likely to get your ideal results.

6. Follow up, evaluate, and adjust as needed.

The key is momentum. It’s easier to keep your balance on a bike that is moving. A wrong decision can be changed. No decision leaves you with the problem. Until next time—continue to add value and make a difference!

P.S.: I received the final proof of this column days after the Las Vegas concert shooting. As I reviewed the article, I realize that everything I said here was mirrored by the events in Las Vegas. Some were prepared, but many weren’t. My thoughts and prayers are with anyone who is involved in a disaster— natural or otherwise. Keep your families close.

Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAESpeakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook” and his newest book, “The Master Trainer’s Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.

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