Travel Risk Management: Are You Ready for a Crisis?

Introduction If you know that business travel is not without its risk and the potential for crisis, then you need to read this article. In this article we are going to talk about the management and containment of crisis as it relates to travellers and travel managers. The objective of this article is to share with you the collective knowledge on managing crisis and significantly improve your ability to identify and manage a crisis but also improve your business travel efficiency.During this article I am going to discuss travel risk myths, crisis management, plans and options so you can immediately compare or improve your own travel risk management system for your travellers or travel management department.Crisis by definition is something you didn’t have a plan for or something in which you are unprepared. Additionally, it can be a series of events that in concert create a crisis. Events or issues that occur, to which you have a plan and strategy, is merely an incident.Crisis Management/Leadership The first thing is to clarify what is the difference between crisis management and leadership. More importantly, which one is the more important?Crisis management relates to the response to event/s that threaten your business, travellers or travel activity. The event leads and you follow with plans, decisions and actions.Crisis leadership, on the other hand, is more about getting ahead of the events and issues to prevent, management and even contain the impact to your business or business travel activities. While management is a portion of the leadership demand, your actions and involvement lead the outcomes rather than a more passive wait and act approach with pure crisis management.Crisis leadership is the less practiced of the two, but the most significant in terms of results and reduction in risk and impact. If you take nothing else away from this session, it should be that your focus should always be on Crisis Leadership, not crisis management.Myths There are many myths and half-truths about crisis, disruption and threats within the travel management sector. Much of this misinformation has originated from travellers themselves, media, travel managers, friends and family or so called “experts”.For example, many travellers and planners are focused on terrorism. The reality is, you have a very, very small chance of being exposed or affected directly by a terrorist act. It doesn’t mean you should discount it as a threat altogether but it shouldn’t dominate your plans or processes if not a proportional threat to you and your travellers. Conversely, almost everyone overlooks motor vehicle accidents. Yet, they happen far more frequently, can have devastating affect on travellers and are the least common plan contained within company travel management departments.Travellers and travel managers must be prepared, educated and have supporting plans for any event that has the potential to delay, disrupt or harm the traveller or the business.The most common events include:
Motor vehicle accidents
Airline delays or cancellations
Airport closures or disruptions
Transport delays
Bad weather
Sickness and illness
Petty crimes
Hotel fires
Political disputes
Demonstrations and gatherings
Motor vehicle accidents within your own country can be stressful and dangerous but on an overseas business trip they can be 100 times more challenging and dangerous. Consider language, local authorities, first responder, standard of healthcare, families and support in your plans and initial response.Airline delays and cancelations. They happen all the time but they are not just an administrative response. You may need to consider safety, transport, quarantines, security threats, government response and wide spread suspension of services to overcome the issue and maintain safety of your travellers.Airport closures or disruptions. Failed systems, electrical problems, threats, weather, construction and so on can prevent you even getting to your flight. Consider the impact this has on your plans and how your traveller will need to possibly extend stay, move to alternate airport or find accommodation.All other transport delays and disruptions can create crisis when everyone no longer has access to trains, buses, key roads or even water transport. Have a plan and add it to your immediate decision making process.2010 and the commencement of 2011 has seen travel of all kind affected by natural disasters and weather. Weather and natural forces have and always will impact travellers. It does and will continue to occur. It is highly concerning how unprepared travellers and companies are for volcanic eruptions, typhoons, floods, earthquakes and general bad weather.People get sick or feel unwell all the time. This is compounded significantly when travelling. Standard of care, language, access, cost, complications, choice and numerous other location based concerns will determine just how at risk your traveller will be. A single, “one-size-fits-all” plan or solution will fail and you need to be aware of these issues immediately with the onset of an affected traveller.Crimes are a reality of any city in the world. However, travellers seldom know the risks and may be preyed upon by thieves and criminals. The loss of phones, money, and other items may seem less likely to constitute a crisis but when overseas, injured or not able to speak the local language, all these simple events can create a major concern for your business travellers. This can be amplified if you have a senior executive or a group of executives affected.Hotel fires and emergencies are more common than most people think. The immediate threat to an individual is fairly obvious but the impact that the lack of accommodation choices can create from the temporary or permanent closure of a hotel is a much bigger concern. This was graphically displayed during the Mumbai terror attacks (as extra ordinary as the event was) when most of the best/preferred hotels were now unavailable in a key part of the city. This removed thousands of rooms for business travellers and forced many to cancel or significantly alter travel plans just because there were a lack of suitable accommodation options, whether affected by the events or not.Any event that alters the political stability of a location or region or results in thousands of people out on the streets constitutes a risk to your business travel plans and travellers. They can happen spontaneously or take time to develop. The immediate dangers and the ongoing disruption can have a major impact on your business or traveller.Again, plans, preparation and thought to these issues will greatly reduce the impact and improve your business too.Now that we have removed the most common misconceptions, let’s focus on the management and containment of a crisis.Crisis management The key to successful crisis management is planning, training, plans, decision-making and adaptability.Planning Given the issues previously covered, you now have a better insight into how and why planning is important to remove the more emotive issues from the realities of real business threats and events.Planning needs to include multiple departments and perspectives to be truly effective. One of the greatest weaknesses I see regularly is that departments continue to manage the risk of travel through multiple departments with multiple plans. The input and plan needs to be unified. Depending on the company, it may include travel managers, security, HR, finance, marketing, C-suite and operations.All plans need to be continuously updated, location specific, aide in the decision-making process and modular enough have elements extracted quickly and effectively. Modern, effective plans embrace technology. Rapid, efficient access to information, along with running updates is the hallmarks of a modern sustainable plan, regardless of the size of the issue or the company.Training No plan is effective without training and rehearsal. Training, whether through simulations, drills or live, full-scale exercises are vital to the success of any crisis situation. Such sessions don’t need to be boring or overly complicated but must include travel managers and planners along with the more common crisis and emergency managers.Increasingly, training is becoming a mandatory requirement for key positions and roles. It can be linked to internal HR processes but must support the business objectives and measurable on how it reduces the risk to people, business, brand and travel demands.While the plan creates the framework for crisis decision-making, teams can learn a lot from training on how and when to adapt their plans. How the team interacts, strength, weakness, leaders, followers, limitations, tools and many more planned and surprise outcomes are possible with effective training.Adaptations No plan will completely script all the events, issues and options available for every plausible travel delay, disruption or crisis. You need to be able to adapt and evolve from the original plan and intention. This can only be achieved with planning, plans and training.Solutions So what do I need in my plan?Here is the best travel risk management content for your plan:
Objective(the single most important part of any travel policy)
Management Authority/ies
Procedure will likely cover:
Executive Decision making
Pre-trip admin
Ground Transport
Safety and Security
Health and wellness
SOP/Actions on
Travel Monitoring /tracking
Threat/risk levels
Shelter in Place
Management Authority
Don’t forget your risk assessment will need to include the key elements:
ConclusionThere you have it. Now you know what is required, how do you rate your current plans and preparedness?You now have the most relevant issues and areas to focus upon that will reduce or contain the majority of incidents you may face your travellers will be safer, your business more profitable and your costs will be contained by reducing your exposure to expensive crisis events.We have debunked popular travel threat myths, identified the difference between crisis management and leadership, outlined plans and options so you can immediately compare or improve your own travel risk management system for your travellers or travel management department. Review your plans and make the immediate improvements.You will know when you have an effective crisis management system for your travel risk management strategy when you have little to no crisis.You may have numerous events or incidents but you have a plan, you’re prepared and your decision making is fast and consistent. If not, you have failed and you will run from crisis to crisis on a regular basis.

In Software Project Management, Size Doesn’t Matter

Several months ago, I was discussing project management with someone from the financial sector. This person, who is rather good at his own line of work, admitted he didn’t know much about project management (but had some clients who did). We were talking about some new ways of looking at project management, particularly, the domain specific approach that I often advocate. Wanting to test my theories, he picked up the phone and proceeded to call one of his clients, whom he knew to be a real top-notch expert in project management. What is interesting is that this project manager client of his was perceived to be an expert not because of any particularly extraordinary skills he had displayed, or even a long list of stellar accomplishments but rather, because he managed really BIG projects – like 4 years, 200 people, $50 million projects. Big ones.At first, I didn’t even think twice. Of course, I thought, I suppose you would have to be really good to handle those kinds of projects. I mean, if coordinating 10 people is tough, 200 must be about 20 times tougher. A lot of people would certainly reason this way. After meeting this manager, which was a rather familiar experience, it triggered a line of thinking:It is often far more difficult to manage a 10 person project than a 200 person project.
Let me explain. I’m not saying that the person managing the 10 person team is more important that the person managing 200 people on a $50 million project. I’m not equating difficulty with importance – and by difficulty, I’m talking about the project management responsibilities, not other duties they may have to perform.Speaking with this project manager in particular gave me a sense of deja vu. It was more like speaking with a CEO than a project manager.In chatting with any “project manager” with a team size of 100 or so people, what you quickly realize is that they’re not project managing anymore at all. They’re more like a CEO involved at the capital allocation level, for multi-year operations. They are running an organization. They’re tuned in to major technological shifts and trends, like “If we bet the farm on Lotus Notes, will it still be the platform of choice when we finish in 4 years?” Heh heh. Oops. When you’re talking about a project that big, the head honcho is managing managers who possibly manage other managers, who have team leads, who lead the people actually producing the work. They are more like mentors to the managers who are actually managing. The organization is large enough then, that it becomes really difficult to see the direct impact that the top decision maker is having on the success or failure of the project. I liken it to riding (or steering) the wave, rather than causing it directly. How many debates have you heard after some political or fortune 500 scandal where hoards of people say things like, “Well, you can’t blame the top dog for something that some underling in another office did. It’s not his fault.” There you have it, by popular opinion, less direct accountability for managers of large teams. If you can’t blame the top dog for failures, then how can you attribute success to him?Life in a small team however (say 10 people), is much more likely to give you a heart attack. There’s nowhere to hide. The pace is way faster. It’s very easy to see the direct impact (good or bad) that each person is having on a daily basis. When you’re managing a software team of less than 10 people, chances are, you’re not just the manager, but one of the developers as well (or at least a designer or architect). The dynamic of a 10 person software team is much more clear – one person managing, and 9 people producing. I think it’s at about 10 to 15 people, where it is no longer practical for a manager to even touch the source code – in fact, it can be dangerous. Coding is not something you should dabble in. Either let it consume you and be really good at it, or don’t touch it. After 15 or more team members, it’s quite likely that there will be a lot more delegation. At 15, you may have 1 manager and 1 technical team lead. At 35, you probably have a Director or a couple managers and a couple technical team leads. At 100, well, you get the picture. With each round of delegation (which IS necessary by the way), some amount of pressure, and direct accountability is taken away from the top dog. I’m not just theorizing here, I’ve actually experienced it. While I haven’t managed a 100 person team yet, I can already see the difference between 10 and 35 developers, team sizes I have managed. To manage 35 developers you really need to break them up into teams of 5 to 7, with technical team leads, and a manager or two. So even at 35, there’s a couple degrees of separation between the top policy maker, and the folks actually producing code.In that awkward team size of about 10 developers, you’re likely to be as much a producer as a manager. It’s really tough to be great at both. Just like you shouldn’t dabble at coding, dabbling at managing just makes you a manager with a disadvantage. It’s at the point in time where it is clear to everyone around you that it is no longer practical for you do be doing any producing, but that you should be managing full time, that your project management life actually starts to get a bit easier. When you have managers reporting to you, your project management worries get lighter still (though you probably have new responsibilities keeping you up at nights).All this to say, over that last 13 years of managing software teams, I haven’t seen convincing evidence that project management difficulty increases linearly with team size. There’s a breaking point at which the project management difficulty actually decreases. Project management worries then get replaced by other worries (like what the heck should we be betting the farm on… ’cause if I’m wrong, we go out of business – easy stuff like that).