Ev­ery busi­ness in ev­ery in­dus­try faces risk which, in turn, can lead to an emer­gency or cri­sis that needs to be man­aged. How a busi­ness pre­pares for that risk – and han­dles the in­evitable cri­sis – will help de­fine it through its en­tire fu­ture.

Business First - - PROFILE -

Tiger­tail Aus­tralia was es­tab­lished in 2010 by Rick Stone. It op­er­ates as a con­sul­tancy spe­cial­is­ing in risk, cri­sis and emer­gency man­age­ment – help­ing clients be­come re­silient and ca­pa­ble of with­stand­ing the de­mands of the mod­ern, volatile world.

“We think a re­silient or­gan­i­sa­tion is one that can cope with what­ever the world throws at it,” ex­plains Rick. “A re­silient or­gan­i­sa­tion can bounce back be­cause its peo­ple feel em­pow­ered and trusted, and be­cause they’re able to innovate and fix the prob­lem.”

This phi­los­o­phy comes from a wealth of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. Fol­low­ing some 10 years in the Navy, Rick joined the State Emer­gency Ser­vice in New South Wales as the train­ing man­ager, where he suc­cess­fully rein­vented the en­tire train­ing sys­tem and was heav­ily in­volved in strate­gic re­sponse man­age­ment to sig­nif­i­cant floods and storm events across New South Wales.

“It was a re­ally in­ter­est­ing pe­riod,” he says. “I worked ex­ten­sively across New South Wales as the head of the train­ing sys­tem bring­ing it up to Aus­tralian Na­tional Stan­dards and be­ing a large part of the de­vel­op­ment of the na­tional Pub­lic Safety Train­ing Pack­age, emer­gency risk man­age­ment train­ing pro­grams and more.”

From there, Rick moved into the po­si­tion of Prin­ci­pal Plan­ning Of­fi­cer for the New South Wales gov­ern­ment, tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the State Dis­as­ter Plan, state-level spe­cific hazard plans, pro­vid­ing guid­ance and in­put into na­tional emer­gency plans, and high-level ad­vice to emer­gency ser­vices and the gov­ern­ment.

Po­si­tions in train­ing and strat­egy de­vel­op­ment helped Rick un­der­stand the true na­ture of emer­gency man­age­ment and who car­ries out the work when a prob­lem arises. It has helped shape the way that Tiger­tail ap­proaches its work.

“It’s the same in busi­ness. The chief ex­ec­u­tive or man­ag­ing di­rec­tor rarely fix the prob­lem – the peo­ple who ac­tu­ally do the work are the ones who fix the prob­lem. If they feel trusted and able to be flex­i­ble and they un­der­stand where they fit in the big pic­ture of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, then they’ll fix it for you.”

Im­por­tantly, Rick says that it can’t be a case of sim­ply dic­tat­ing what peo­ple should do in an emer­gency with a check­list.

“It starts with get­ting the cul­ture right,” he says. “You work on cre­at­ing a cul­ture where peo­ple know where they fit in. You work on build­ing ro­bust sys­tems that are able to deal with un­ex­pected changes. You work on plan­ning for stuff that can go wrong and prac­tic­ing those plans. When you get that right you’re on the path to a re­silient or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

Of course, build­ing the right cul­ture and plans are based on un­der­stand­ing what risk your or­gan­i­sa­tion faces. Many busi­nesses fo­cus on po­ten­tial global events which – as Rick points out – are in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to pre­dict and ac­tu­ally not very com­mon.

With Tiger­tail, or­gan­i­sa­tions are en­cour­aged to fo­cus on lo­cal is­sues and build re­silience that will cope with is­sues of an in­ter­na­tional na­ture as they arise.

“We can’t pre­dict what the next ma­jor shock is go­ing to be,” he says. “If some­one was to ask you what the price of oil will be in six months – and the ef­fect that will have on your op­er­a­tion – you can’t say with any cer­tainty. We can take an ed­u­cated guess, but re­ally an in­formed bet. But if you have a re­silient and ag­ile or­gan­i­sa­tion then you will deal with that as it oc­curs.

“So we work with clients to help them un­der­stand their risks and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties – and just do­ing that builds re­silience. For ex­am­ple, we all know that key peo­ple will leave the or­gan­i­sa­tion at some point, so it’s good to be pre­pared for the con­se­quences to the or­gan­i­sa­tion. You know that you might have in­dus­trial is­sues; you might have is­sues of mis­con­duct or ma­li­cious con­duct; you might have ill­ness; an epi­demic or a pan­demic. All of these things af­fect the peo­ple in the busi­ness – and they’re pre­dictable. You don’t know ex­actly what it will look like and when it might hap­pen, but you do know that it will hap­pen in some form.”

The same is­sues can ap­ply to your sup­pli­ers, equip­ment, the reg­u­la­tory sys­tem, and other mat­ters that can dis­rupt your busi­ness and af­fect con­ti­nu­ity. These is­sues are of­ten ne­glected, yet have sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on all ar­eas of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

So how does Tiger­tail work with an or­gan­i­sa­tion to help de­ter­mine its spe­cific risk?

“It’s re­ally about talk­ing to

peo­ple within the or­gan­i­sa­tion and get­ting an idea about their ap­petite for risk,” Rick ex­plains. “We need to build a com­plete pic­ture of the or­gan­i­sa­tion – in­clud­ing what it needs and what is doesn’t have – and then we can help it im­ple­ment a plan that cov­ers those ar­eas. It is a very con­sul­ta­tive process and it has to in­volve all lev­els of the or­gan­i­sa­tion so that every­body owns their role and un­der­stands that they con­trib­ute to suc­cess.”

By en­gag­ing the peo­ple in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, Rick says they are in the best po­si­tion for sig­nif­i­cant change and im­prove­ment. He refers to the ‘Four Ps’ of Peo­ple, Pro­cesses, Plans and Prac­tise as the se­cret to build­ing a ro­bust and flex­i­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion, ca­pa­ble of deal­ing with risk and cri­sis.

“Start with your peo­ple and you build the con­struc­tive cul­ture that’s built around trust, flex­i­bil­ity and innovation and your peo­ple will carry you through,” he says. “If your peo­ple are com­mit­ted to the or­gan­i­sa­tion and the work that it does, they are self-in­ter­ested in the or­gan­i­sa­tion suc­ceed­ing.

“To sup­port your peo­ple, you need some pro­ce­dures to guide them through the best course of ac­tion. Those pro­ce­dures are rolled up into plans which talk about the big pic­ture of how an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s go­ing to deal with the is­sues and the prob­lems it might face. Then you’ve got to prac­tise all of that so peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with those plans and are able to en­act the pro­ce­dures. Ul­ti­mately, this will help de­velop trust in one an­other’s abil­ity to han­dle the prob­lem.”

The strat­egy has proven to be suc­cess­ful for Tiger­tail, with con­tin­ued growth in its six years of op­er­a­tion. Rick sees some great op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pand through di­verse in­dus­tries and new tech­nol­ogy, yet re­mains com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing a cost-ef­fec­tive and per­son­alised ser­vice to clients.

“I would like to think we ac­cu­mu­late high-pro­file clients by do­ing re­ally good things for their busi­ness and by build­ing strong re­la­tion­ships with them. I guess that half our work an­nu­ally is re­peat busi­ness. We’re pretty proud of that and the fact that most of our new clients are re­fer­rals.

“Our phi­los­o­phy has al­ways been that we build a re­la­tion­ship with the client to help them to be­come more ag­ile and build ca­pa­bil­ity. It’s not about hand­ing out check­lists or forc­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pro­cesses to fit the tem­plate that we used for the last one and the one be­fore that and the one be­fore that. It has to be per­son­alised. Every­one faces risk – but every­one’s risk is dif­fer­ent.”

Rick Stone

Sim­u­la­tions help re­fine plans and hone emer­gency skills

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