Greetings! This is my first blog for iSixSigma. By way of introduction, I’m on the outreach faculty of Auburn University where I support local industry with leadership coaching and lean implementation services. I look forward to sharing the common goal of continuous improvement and daily learning!

Storm Damaga in Lawrence County, AL

As most of you know, Alabama was hit with severe tornado damage on 4/27/11. Many people have volunteered in disaster relief centers, helping with food, supplies, and cleanup.

In the case of tornadoes, disaster preparedness takes many forms. The local Emergency Management Agency has plans, equipment, and command posts prepared for quick response. Homeowners have shelters and supplies. Relief organizations like the Red Cross have national systems ready to deploy in response to emergencies.

These techniques are effective for responding AFTER the event. Notice that none of these groups has an effective method to prevent tornadoes.

In business organizations, we often have the opportunity to create preventative measures for typical problems we encounter. Because we can’t anticipate every situation, we still encounter problems every day.

The challenge for leadership is to create effective techniques for handling these daily problems while developing the organization’s culture. We frequently see leaders jump into lean implementations only to fall back to firefighting behaviors at the first sign of trouble.

We need to realize that problems (hopefully small problems) are a daily occurrence. If we want our lean activities to sustain, leaders need to set the example with responses consistent with the culture we are trying to create. If you want a firefighting culture, then set the example by running around with your hair on fire at every small issue. If you want to create a problem solving culture, managers need to learn to respond with problem solving behaviors, even in the face of disaster.

How are your disaster preparedness skills? Do you plan to be an excellent firefighter or a culture changing problem solver?


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