I don't have many colleagues who react with joy when management announces strategic planning meetings. Do you? After all,
it means hours, nay days, of discussion and debate while your day-to-day obligations lag woefully behind. Still, these meetings
of the minds serve their purpose. Planning provides your company with a destination and a navigational route to reach it.
Whether we look forward to planning or not, ignoring the exercise can yield dire consequences. Depending on one's field of
endeavor, it can be downright fatal, as we witnessed last month when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hammered — and in some instances,
re-hammered — major sections of the US Gulf Coast. Houston, TX was ready when disaster struck, evacuating two million people
in 36 hours, between 3,000 and 10,000 of those by air, according to those in command. Texas Judge Robert Eckels, who oversaw
both evacuations (to and from Houston), said that besides having a plan in place, conducting 150 drills since the plan's inception
(after September 11, 2001) thoroughly prepared their first responders when the time came to act. The lesson? Don't underestimate
the importance of planning.
The hurricanes also showed us the value of partnering well. Judge Eckels pointed to the cooperation among his state's mayors,
the governor, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and how well it served the rescue effort. The lesson? The time and
effort you invest in your partnerships are well worth it.
Finally, be proactive in creating your image and defining your product, your company and the industry — before someone else
does it for you, and does it to your detriment. Before it even stopped raining in New Orleans, some elements of the American
press and society quickly painted the federal government as uncaring when it came to the cities most affected by the storms.
Had the government been proactive in reporting its true efforts before, during and after Katrina hit, including facts generally
unknown to the public such as a President cannot "trump" a governor until a certain point during an emergency, the President
wouldn't be fighting an uphill battle now in the public opinion polls. The lesson? Don't let the press and the public beat
you to the punch when it comes to your image.
http://www.usafreedomcorps.com/ to offer your special talents — not just dollars — to the hurricane relief effort.)
Carol L. Fisher, Editor in Chief