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Organizational Resilience Goal #1: Anticipating Crisis Through Stakeholder Engagement

Organizational Resilience Goal #1: Anticipating Crisis Through Stakeholder Engagement
Now, that you’ve considered a researcher’s perspective on the anticipation phase of the organizational resilience model. Let’s think about how we might apply what we’ve learned. Thinking back on our earlier examination of stakeholders, we acknowledged the importance of establishing relationships with each of our stakeholder groups to better understand their interests, so we can enhance our ability to create value for them. The logic here is simple, learn what stakeholders want from your business and you’ll be in a better position to deliver what they want. Another benefit of deep healthy relationships with our stakeholders, is that over time, these relationships begin to feel more like partnerships.
In a partnership, all parties tend to develop a sense of teamwork such that everyone is on the lookout for anything that might threaten the partnership. Perhaps you’ve had this experience yourself. If you have a favorite coffee shop or dry cleaner for grocery store. When you visit these places, do you find yourself paying more attention to your surroundings. If you see something that needs to be fixed or straightened or refilled or you’re more likely at these places to say something to an employee, or even make the repair or adjustment yourself. Are you more likely to tell others about these places? If you’re like most people, you are.
All of these behaviors are typical of stakeholders that have assumed that some responsibility for the quality of the partnership. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself as a customer or an employee. These are the two stakeholder groups that are most easily engaged as partners, but these same partnership characteristics can develop among other stakeholders as well. I’m reminded of our very early days at JetBlue for an airline here in the United States, one of your most important and influential partners is the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA. For all airlines that operate in the US, the FAA is your regulatory stakeholder, responsible of course, for the health and safety of all who conduct business in some form with an airline.
Because I was the head of training at JetBlue and the company was launched, it was in my best interests to have a very healthy relationship with the FAA, particularly with the operations inspector who was responsible for our compliance with training regulations. Very early in the formation of JetBlue, we made the decision to become one of the first airlines in the world with a completely electronic training records system. I know that’s almost hard to believe today, but in 1999 when the decision was made, almost all training records for every airline on the planet were kept on paper at the company’s headquarters or training center. At JetBlue, we thought it would be better to manage them electronically.
It actually took some work to convince the FAA that electronic record keeping could even be done in a reliable way and frankly, before the turn of the century, that wasn’t necessarily a baseless concern, but we were able to convince our regulatory authority that it could and should be done. What really created some noise in our industry and by that I mean, we receive dozens of calls from other airline training and operations leaders was when we inform the FAA that one benefit of electronic training records was the ability to securely allow real-time access to anyone’s record at anytime and that we wanted to provide members of the FAA 24/7 access to our training records. Why the ripple through the industry?
Because the general perception of the FAA through the eyes of a typical airline was that the FAA was there to spot your mistakes. To catch you trying to bend the rules and to fine you when you were discovered. Our perception of the FAA, they were our safety partners, they were there to help us create the best company in the industry. Yes, they were a key stakeholder with safety oversight responsibility, but they didn’t want to catch us being unsafe. They wanted to help us be safe. It was this nuanced difference in philosophy that I truly believe allow JetBlue to become one of the most successful airlines in the history of the sector.
How did our provision and training records access to our regulators ultimately play out? They loved it. They felt like an honorary member of our team. They felt trusted and they were the best partner we could have possibly had and to put a fine point on the FAA as our partner, not simply our regulator. Every now and then I would receive a message from a member of the FAA, who’d been looking through our training records. The message would say something like, ‘‘Hi Mike, I was going through your ground operations records this afternoon and I see that Joe Smith will be needing a safety training refresher by the end of the week. Don’t forget to make sure that he gets it.
Thanks.’’ In the eyes of other airlines, they would’ve expected the FAA not to say anything. Hope we would miss the training requirement and pay a visit to a company headquarters to find the company for a training failure. In our case, because we treated the FAA like a partner, they return the sentiment, helped us become more safe, to be more resilient. How can stakeholders help a company be more resilient? By helping the company identify hazards that if not resolved early, could become much larger issues later on. Effective stakeholder engagements not only great business, but it can be remarkably helpful in your crisis anticipation and identification efforts.
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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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