Firestorm: Plan. Predict. Perform. with General Honoré

Yesterday I had the honor to participate in a hurricane and disaster preparedness Webinar with (client) Firestorm and the distinguished Lt. General Honoré.

Katie live-blogged the Predict Plan Perform webinar on the Schipul blog here:

Families trump business – you must have a plan in place to make sure all of your employees are covered at home. More than 95% of polled employees do not have a plan for their families, or just focus on a single risk and do not take into account more than one potential disaster or occurrence.

Almost 2/3 of companies that have gone through a disaster have lost business. 40% of those businesses never re-open and 25% fail within 2 years after a disaster.

Read the emergency response blog post recap on the schipul blog here.

Yammer – can we have an emergency preparedness option?

I posted previously on Yammer. That it was a big help for us during Hurricane Ike in 2008 in Houston. During the hurricane the ONLY thing that worked was text on the cell phone. sailboat on a truckNo voice. No data plans on the cell. No land lines. Certainly no cable or dish or regular TV. Radio worked, but that is listening only. The only way to communicate person to person is by texting. Or I suppose HAM radio, but we don’t use those.

Yammer is a new company, so we thought it “broke” when the SMS portion stopped working. But then I realized they moved the “SMS feature” to a paid plan for $1 per employee per month. OK, I rolled with that. I signed up, with 25 employees that means I am spending $300 a year to have an emergency back channel to all of my employees. I’ll pay that. And I do.

Of course using a service like yammer for emergency response is problematic – because you want the emergency communication to be SIGNAL it means we can’t use the service for regular conversations as that becomes NOISE. Employees won’t tolerate 50 text messages on their cell from their coworkers. Filtering by a list, and only that list, to automatically text using a prefix like “ice:” adds complexity. And in a crisis you want things dirt simple. So our implementation of yammer is that

  1. Everyone gets text messages from any other employee.
  2. We test it once a month.
  3. We Pay yammer $25 a month to have this as a backup plan.
  4. And are quiet but confident in case an emergency comes along.

I am sure this implementation puzzles yammer. “These guys in Houston pay monthly, but never use it. What’s up with that?” So the first thing Yammer should do is have an “emergency mode” so that when turned on by an administrator EVERYTHING is sent by SMS until turned off regardless of all other settings, time of day, carrier, etc. Any messages is texted to all in this mode. If this were done we might be able to use other features of yammer.

And ahhh, about those other features. They added a bunch including now “Directory Integration” and “Priority Customer Support”. Alas, with all of these features they insisted on bundling SMS with them. And raised the price 300% from $1 to $3 per employee. No go. While their product might be worth $3 per employee for firms that use it for communication, it is NOT worth $3 per employee for a dormant backup communication system.

If anyone from Yammer is reading this, how about it? Can we have a lower cost “emergency communication” only option at the $1 price? I’d rather not change at the onset of hurricane season but I can’t justify $900 a year when there are other options on the market.  And can we stop adding features that complicate the interface?

What other solutions are out there for emergency text broadcasting to a restricted list of people?

Tribal Citizenship Behavior

When a crisis occurs, like a hurricane hits your city or the country freaks out about the swine flu, part of a leaders job is to protect the tribe. To do that, the people have to be prepared. The first priority must then be to make sure every member of the tribe is prepared to take care of their family. Katrina made this concept clear:

The New Orleans police chief says some of his officers may still be trapped in their homes and he’s not sure how many walked off the job.

Walk off the job? Police!? Obviously family comes first. Or people won’t show up to work no matter how critical their job is because no job is more important than your family. Step one is to have everyone develop an “in case of emergency preparedness family plan“.

Assuming someone is prepared as best they can be, then what makes them a “team player” as they say. Well, as usual, “they” is wrong in that the phrase “team player” is like comparing the word “violin” to “Stradivarius”. What you REALLY want from your tribe members, peers, friends, etc, whether you know it or not, is far more nuanced that the phrase “team player” suggests. You want someone who is “cool with the tribe” and supports you ALL!

caroline-tribeA bit of research led me to the Distributive, Procedural and Interactive Justice scales by Niehoff & Moorman. If they weren’t academics they would call it a way to quantify employee satisfaction. But that isn’t really what I am after. More digging made me realize that the academics call what I am after, perhaps theirs is more narrow in scope, but they call it “Organizational Citizenship Behavior.” This criticism of Organizational Citizenship Behavior questions if good OCB is in fact in the best interest of the organization! But I’ll leave that to another day. For now OCB is comprised of four elements (from the above link):

OCB has four separate, but related behavior elements that differ in their target and direct objective.  It is believed that the indirect objective of all OCB is the benefit of organizational goals (Organ, 1988).  In a theoretical typology developed by Graham (1989; Moorman & Blakely, 1995; Moorman, Blakely, Niehoff, 1998) OCB categorizes into four types:

  1. personal industry,
    1. (the extent to which an individual performs tasks beyond the call of duty.  Employees who spontaneously work overtime, put in extra hours on a project, or volunteer to take on new projects are engaging in personal industry.)
  2. loyal boosterism,
    1. (the promotion of firm image to outsiders.  An employee that spontaneously compliments his employer to a member of another firm, a friend, or any stakeholder displays loyal boosterism behavior.)
  3. individual initiative,
    1. (communicating with others in the organization to improve individual and group performance) and
  4. inter-personal helping.
    1. (An employee, recognizing that a co-worker might benefit from possession of a piece of information, such as a sales contact, technical information, or market tip, and passing on such information without the other asking for it)


To summarize, OCB consist of non-obligatory, informally influenced behaviors.

I translate that last part to say what OCB is referring to, is stuff you do to help the organization that isn’t in your job description. It’s the stuff that makes life pleasant, like buying a Nerf Gun refill pack for your unarmed co-worker to make cubicles-war “fair” again. That stuff.

I think what I’m looking for is really a Tribal Citizenship Behavior index. With the definition of tribe being more loosely defined than just the employees of a company. A tribe that has even low clustering coefficients – meaning loosely bound.

Anthropologist Michel Maffesoli appears to have coined the term Neo-Tribalism which Wikipedia defines as:

Neotribalism is the ideology that human beings have evolved to live in a tribal, as opposed to a modern, society, and thus cannot achieve genuine happiness until some semblance of tribal lifestyles has been re-created or re-embraced.

Tribes are not organizations, at least in the context of OCB as I understand it. An easy example; in tribes people have distinct roles including that of the cynic who provides constant creative tension. Yet the cynic DOES add value in times of crisis because they foresee the need for batteries, chain saws, and medical masks before a crisis. While not wildly popular perhaps, they fix the weakest link in a tribe at specific times. Maybe a score of 5/10 on a day-to-day basis on the OCB scale, but a 10/10 for Tribal Citizenship Behavior when the *&@#! hits the fan! This need to remain loosely joined (a clustering coefficient closer to zero) quickly snaps back into place during a crisis (a clustering coefficient closer to 1 – we ALL know the guy with the generator after a Hurricane!).

I’ll keep thinking about this (of course) but I wanted to highlight two other concepts from OCB that we can borrow for TCB are dominant coalitions and technological change as a tribe restructuring catalyst:

Dominant Coalitions

A dominant coalition consists of the network of individuals within and around an organization that most influence the mission and goals of the organization (Cyert & March, 1963).  In theory, the goals of an organization flow from the chief executive officer, board of directors, or top management team.  However, the dominant coalition maintains an influence on goals through informal, rather than formal, channels.

When it comes to social media, public relations and tribal behavior, you have a unique problem. It is considered “uncool” to call yourself a “Social Media Expert“. And indeed like any other trend that goes mainstream, every new kid on the block joins in when their last trendy business dries up and becomes an “expert”. I overheard a conversation the other day that was “I didn’t follow her back (on twitter) because her description said ‘social media expert’ and she only had 22 followers!”. I wouldn’t have followed back either so I am part of the problem in a way.

The point is the “cool kids find it cool to deny being cool.” Or, the dominant coalitions in tribal citizenship behavior deny being influencers in the first place.

which ties into technology as follows

A technological change within an organization may provide the impetus for power changes within the organization.  Burkhardt and Brass (1990) studied the introduction of a new computer technology into a governmental agency.  They found that early adopters of the technology gained a significant amount of informal power in the organization, which could be used to join or enhance one’s membership in the dominant coalition.  Thus, such changes in technology could result in altered membership in the dominant coalition.

Or “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth.” If this premise is true it not only changes the complexion of the dominant coalitions and the tribe itself, but it is a biased change. By that I mean tech people are more introverted than extroverted, more logical than mathematical, tend towards aspergers, etc… In other words a different personality type has joined the dominant coalition. Perhaps a good thing! But a change to be noted regardless.

In conclusion, Tribal Citizenship Behavior (TCB, heh) can borrow heavily from Organizational Citizenship Behavior. Like OCB we can borrow personal industry, loyalty, initiative, people helping people.  We can try to measure dominant coalitions in a tribe. Measure intention which is always critical. But these aren’t enough because a tribe may not have a stated goal like an organization, beyond preservation of the tribe. Which, again, is why we start by personal emergency planning.

More posts on the topic of Tribal Citizenship Behavior as my thoughts evolve. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic? to Build Infectious Disease Early Warning Systems

Rachel Weidinger of San Fran, a NWNB (Nerd With No Blog <grin>), sent me a link to this article on in Wired.

Brilliant’s Wish: Disease Alerts
Google’s newly appointed philanthropy chief is rallying industry support for an ambitious plan to create a global early-warning system to identify and prevent the spread of infectious diseases and other disasters.

It is possible that Rachel W is psychic, or that I babble about similar stuff, or perhaps she read my very first blog post ever which was on the need for emergency rss.  In fact what tipped me over the edge from being a NWNB myself was Katrina and the response here in Houston.

Yes I am definitely a proud capitalist.  Blame the person who gave me Atlas Shrugged.  But as far as putting action behind talk, since Katrina Tendenci (our software) has evolved to include a first responders module for organization response, a emergency social services module to manage intake at collection centers in a distributed environment and we will soon launch the CAPS module beta.  CAPS stands for Common Alerting Protocol (v1.1 link) and is the OASIS alert standard.  The OASIS News RSS Feed is here to keep up on some of the nerdy stuff related to emergency response (and hopefully prevention!)