Tag Archive for: Crisis Management Training

Critical Thinking and Digital War Rooms

The Role of the Executive in a Crisis

Previously, we wrote an article on The role of the Board in a crisis and the need to clarify expectations between the Board and the Executive, prior to a crisis occurring.

During a crisis, the role of the Board remains one of assurance and governance. In situations where the Executive is directly impacted or implicated, the Board will need to take an active leadership role. Beyond these two scenarios, it is the responsibility of the Crisis Management Team to lead the crisis response.

What is the role of the Executive in a crisis?

During a crisis, the Crisis Management Team (CMT), comprised of members of the Executive leadership team, will quickly form to become the strategic thinking and decision-making team for the organisation. As soon as a crisis is declared, key actions for the Crisis Management Team include:

  • Distil and verify information received from within the organisation and externally and; clarify what is known and unknown.
  • Understand the impacts across the organisation and community.
  • Determine what strategic decisions need to be made immediately (often with incomplete information) and actions that need to be taken now and later.
  • Understand the key stakeholders impacted and develop a strategy to communicate and engage effectively with all key stakeholders (including the Board).

In preparing to respond effectively to a crisis, the Executive leadership team needs to have:

  • Identified ‘catastrophic’ risks through scenario-based activities.
  • An integrated response model with clarity on roles and responsibilities.
  • A capability development program that includes training and exercising.
  • Access to crisis management tools that will enable and support a response.
  • Regular reporting to the board and other key stakeholders to ensure alignment and assurance.

The Crisis Management Team, made up of key members of the Executive leadership team, is presented with significant challenges in a crisis.

The team will often be mobilised with very little notice. The incident may be uncontained or uncontrolled, putting the team in a high-stakes and high-pressure situation, with significant community and media interest.

The crisis team members need to have strong critical and creative thinking skills and; be able to made key decisions with conflicting or incomplete information, under time pressure and with intense scrutiny.

Key decisions made by the team may be reviewed at a later date and it is essential there is evidence of clear decision-making.

To support these teams for this significant role within their organisation, an on-going capability development and maintenance program needs to be in place.

Building capability through experiential learning

Scenario-based training and the use of tools to support the crisis management team will provide assurance that the team has the capability to respond to a range of strategic, political, operational, financial and environmental threats.

Developing this capability at the most senior levels within the organisation has significant benefits outside of responding effectively to a crisis including:

  1. Building adaptive thinking capability that can be drawn upon for escalating or unknown risks that emerge.
  2. Enhanced critical and creative thinking capability that can be used during ‘business as usual’ and in responding to ‘slow burn’ or strategic risks.
  3. Uncovering blind spots by identifying risks that could lead to catastrophic events and; enhancing the identification of emerging threats to the organisation.

Janellis has been working with Executive Leadership Teams for over ten years in the specialist area of crisis management.  Many leaders have strong intuitive capabilities to respond to a crisis but the complexity of a crisis will, by its very nature, be immensely challenging.

Individual and collective thinking capabilities are put to the test and tools and training will help the teams challenge assumptions, ask the right questions and make decisions that draw upon their combined experiences.

Key steps to building and maintaining this capability include:

  • Identification of ‘catastrophic’ risks through scenario based training.
  • An integrated response model with clarity on roles and responsibilities.
  • Access to tools that will enable an effective response.
  • Training and testing of the crisis management team.
  • Regular engagement with key stakeholders within the organisation and externally.

About Janellis

Janellis is an enterprise consulting firm working with leading organisations across many industry sectors.  Janellis helps organisations execute their strategy and are specialists in organisational resilience; risk, compliance and assurance; and crisis and emergency management.

Our crisis management tools have been embedded in organisations across a number of industries in countries including Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and the USA.

Janellis has recently become a partner of 100 Resilient Cities, an organisation pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. This partnership provides our crisis management tools to member cities around the world.  The tools are particularly valuable for cities with significant risks and vulnerable communities within those cities.

Is your organisation prepared for a CBD-wide emergency?


The need for CBD stakeholder groups to align and build a coordinated response capability has never been greater.

In 2015, the NSW Government updated the CBD-wide emergency management arrangements for organisations operating in the Sydney and North Sydney CBD.

These changes now demand that all CBD business leaders and property managers understand their new responsibilities – and crucial role – in responding to a city-wide emergency.

To help these groups interpret the new plan, and it’s impact on business, an online resource was launched jointly by Janellis and NSW Police www.cbdresponse.com.au in December 2015.

Leaders are now asking these questions with regards to a CBD emergency:

– Does everyone in the organisation understand their role in a CBD-wide emergency?
– Do we have confidence in our capability to respond?
– Are our plans aligned with the government’s and our property managers’ plans?
– Will we be able to coordinate our efforts in an effective way?
– Are we compliant with the Australian Standards and relevant regulations that underpin our response capability?
– Can we provide assurance to our key stakeholders and regulators that we have it covered?

Emergencies by their nature are challenging to respond to. CBD emergencies have additional levels of complexity including large numbers of people in high-rise buildings and a heavy reliance on transport infrastructure.

Dependencies between businesses, facilities managers, emergency services and property groups all need to be considered. Organisations must be confident that plans are aligned, CBD risks considered and teams responsible have the knowledge, capability and tools they need to be effective in their response. The need for these key CBD stakeholder groups to work together to build a coordinated capability has never been greater.

How can you be assured of your CBD Emergency Management capability?

To help businesses leaders answer their critical questions, build their CBD emergency management capability and provide assurance to key stakeholders Janellis has developed the City Resilience Capability Review for businesses.

The City Resilience Capability Review identifies gaps that require immediate attention, as well as ‘better practice’ approaches that can be applied more broadly across the business.

Our unique approach:

  • builds on investments already made in the areas of emergency management preparedness
  • creates alignment with specific CBD emergency requirements
  • ensures integration across all incident, emergency and crisis management planning; and
  • delivers confidence to all key stakeholders involved on their capability to respond.
CBD Response on multiple devices

CBD Response Digital Platform

We review a collection of relevant documents, conduct field inspections of CBD sites and have one-on-one meetings with nominated stakeholders. We specifically examine and assess the integration of the key requirements within CBD Response against your emergency management plans and procedures.

How have other businesses used this approach to create alignment?

By understanding the requirements set out in CBD Response and initiating a City Resilience Capability Review, businesses have gained confidence and assurance of their response capability in a city-wide emergency scenario.

The reviews have given them a roadmap to ensure that:

  1. Responses will be coordinated;
  2. People will be safe; and
  3. Impacts to the business are minimised.

Why Janellis?

  • Janellis has expertise in the niche area of CBD Emergency Management and City Resilience. We have specialised in this area for over 10 years helping complex organisations align, integrate, test and assure their emergency, crisis and organisational resilience capability.
  • In 2006, Janellis first developed the ‘CBD Emergency Management Guidelines for Businesses’ in collaboration with the NSW Government and received a State and National Award from the Attorney General’s Department.
  • In December 2015 Janellis partnered with Dexus Property Group to facilitate the launch of CBD Response with key representatives from NSW Police, NSW Police Media and Transport for NSW, held at the Sydney Chamber of Commerce.  The session raised awareness of the new plans and the tools available for business leaders.
  • Janellis consultants have a diverse range of skills and experience across the spectrum of emergency and crisis management and all have over 15+ years experience in working with complex organisations and government agencies.

For more information on our capability and expertise in this area please follow the links below or contact us via email – info@janellis.com.au for more information.

Pass me those crisis glasses

In facilitating crisis management training with executive teams, it would be fair to say that their subject matter expertise, managerial and corporate disciplines are well honed and unquestioned. They are responsible for, and well attuned, in ensuring their ‘day to day’ vertical line management, their ‘pillars of excellence’, are effective and productive.

I have however, on more than one occasion, been asked by the CEO or the COO why then, do we see some of these astute businessmen and women falter and struggle in an environment of simulated crisis planning and response mode? My response is simply; “they just need to change the lens in their glasses.”

When these organisations are in Business As Usual (BAU) mode, these executives manage, lead and make decisions through a lens of governance, approvals, checks and balances, utilising complete and validated information and not dictated (in most instances) by the burden of immediacy of time“They have their business management lenses in.”

However, irrespective of the origin of the crisis, whether internal or external, once declared, the crisis leadership team convenes. Day to day vertical line management transitions into horizontal team management, a ‘beam’ of organisational leadership. The business management lens is removed and the crisis leadership lens is replaced. The ‘crisis response prism of lights’ is now refracted into a spectrum of clarity, objectives, and actions.

Through this new lens, crisis leaders should be able to resist the strong urge to reach into their organisations to provide tactical advice, which we often call ‘leadership compression’. Where before these executives required certainty of information and intelligence, now they will utilise incomplete and dynamic information filtered through the crisis lens to inform key actions and decisions. The 80/20 rule often becomes the principle of the moment. Stakeholders that would be interacted with in normal day to day business are now re-prioritised through this lens into a strategic crisis stakeholder hierarchy where escalation, notification and communication frameworks may be the key to reputational saviour, or catastrophe.

Situations and problems that in a normal environment would be addressed with an obvious and available technical solution, will now, looking through the crisis lens, demand adaptive approaches to problem solving and bold action to create opportunity in what can be an ambiguous environment.

I have found that these are the times, where business executives transitioning into the crisis management team, often have that cognitive difficulty in coping with complex, multiple and competing issues when under pressure. This is not a question of competence, but purely that the human brain is not wired for identifying the truth and pathway amongst all the ‘white noise’ in a time critical period. It needs a special tool; a Decision Support Tool, to help decipher the facts, evaluate the current and potential impact, and develop a strategy to mitigate or control the crisis.

This is where crisis and emergency management professionals can affectionately be termed organisational optometrists. They have been trained, postured and deployed wearing the lens of crisis and emergency response, utilising a decision support tool to execute their plans, bringing normality to uncertainty. These emergency management professionals essentially assist with the ‘fitting’ of crisis lenses.

The trick though is this. Business executives cannot be expected to wear these lenses day in day out in their normal functions and roles, however upon the declaration of a crisis, they should be confident and trained to reach into the top draw, and fit these lenses.


Janellis is an enterprise consulting firm working with leading organisations across many industry sectors and government agencies. We help organisations execute their strategy and are specialists in transformation and change management; organisational resilience; risk and compliance; crisis and emergency management and portfolio and program management.

CBD Response leads the way

Significant events have occurred within Sydney’s CBD Zones in recent years. They have highlighted the difficulties in moving large groups of people, the need for rapid communication and the reliance on key decisions to be made by business leaders.

If you work in the Sydney or North Sydney CBD and you are responsible for the safety of others, you have a role to play in preparing for a major emergency.

New Role for Business Leaders in CBD Emergency Management

In the event of an emergency in NSW a ‘significant and coordinated response’ will require businesses, government, critical infrastructure companies, service providers and the broader community to work together.

Organisations operating within the CBD cannot rely on emergency services agencies and building managers alone to ensure the safety of their staff and the continuity of their business.

In an emergency, business leaders may be faced with incomplete or conflicting information. The complexity of an effective response requires the most experienced and capable leaders to make decisions that could affect the safety of many people and the continuity of their business.

In order to successfully work together business leaders need to be aware of how the police, the other emergency services and the local authority will respond.

New challenges lead to a new plan and revised requirements for business

In June 2015, NSW Police published the new Sydney and North Sydney Central Business Districts Evacuation Management Subplan [Subplan]. You can view the full plan here.

The key changes to the plan are:

More than ever there is a need to ensure that organisations operating within these zones are self-reliant, that they understand the key components and concepts of the Subplan – at an executive level – and that they have exercised and tested their capability.

CBD Response helps organisations get prepared

CBD Response has translated the NSW Government’s plan specifically for businesses operating in the Sydney CBD Zones. It provides all the information and tools organisations need to get prepared and be assured on their readiness and ability to respond to a CBD-wide emergency.

It has been designed for business leaders, business response teams, property managers, building owners plus audit and risk professionals.

If you are unsure of how well aligned your capability is to these guidelines please use the Assurance Assessment Tools to check that your organisation has the ability to respond to a CBD-wide emergency.

If you work in the CBD and are not aware of your role in an emergency or the key concepts within this site we recommend you complete the Assurance Assessment for Business Leaders on that page and forward the results to the most appropriate person within your organisation.

For more information on CBD emergency management reviews and health checks please contact Janellis.

Cosgrove leads CBD executives to stirring realisation

Over the last 15 years, Janellis Australia has worked with the Federal Government and a number of organisations operating in high-risk industries such as critical infrastructure, to quantify and build resilience capability.

The still-emerging area of organisational resilience has created unique opportunities to collaborate with some of the brightest and most experienced people in both the public and private sectors. This has included Sir Peter Cosgrove who had recently retired as General of the Australian Armed Forces.

Peter’s insights and experience in the complex area of emergency management, specifically for business leaders, was pivotal in our journey towards developing an international benchmark for organisational resilience.

Inaugural National Emergency Summit tests emergency management plans

In November 2006, Peter was on centre stage at Convergence, the inaugural National Emergency Summit in Sydney designed and facilitated by Janellis.

He was flanked by key members of the Insurance Australia Group (IAG) crisis management team and a panel of experts from police, fire, ambulance, transport and media.

The audience was comprised of several hundred executives and subject matter experts: media crews lined the back of the room. The intensity of the discussions taking place was palpable.

The NSW Government had recently launched the Sydney CBD Emergency Subplan and Janellis had also launched our Guidelines for Business to help organisations interpret the plan and build capability.

Many organisations had told us they wanted to understand “how the Subplan would actually work in practice?” so we set about achieving the ambitious goal of developing a hypothetical scenario to test the current plans and the thinking that surrounded them.

Hypothetical scenario reveals a need for a significant, coordinated response

While developing the hypothetical scenario, we identified key response agencies that would be involved, critical infrastructure service providers, plus a range of organisations that wanted to be involved and who would be directly impacted. With more than 400,000 people identified within the Subplan zones, the participant numbers kept growing.

In considering who would be the best person to lead this landmark event for Australia, there was no better person than then retired General Peter Cosgrove. At the time, Peter spoke of his immediate attraction to working with the business community. This was because of his professional experience in emergency situations, as well as his “profound belief that there is a pressing need for the business community to prepare to cope with disaster”. He commented on our “new reality” and the need to factor the capability to respond to major disruptions into the “highly necessary” column of our busy lives.

The hypothetical scenario involved a gas explosion in a building site within the Sydney CBD and the Subplan included elements of emergency management that were new to Australian organisations, such as SydneyAlert and directions to the public, including “shelter-in-place” and nominated “safety” sites that were different to normal fire evacuation sites.

The discussions were building to a peak point when it became clear that the unique characteristics of the Sydney CBD would require a significant and coordinated response for an emergency event of this nature.

Hypothetical scenario delivers stirring realisation for executives

During lengthy discussions, participants queried relying on building management security staff to interpret the directions to the public, as detailed in the new Subplan.

They raised concerns about how quickly the SydneyAlert messages would be sent out and how organisations affected would actually respond to the shelter-in-place command and what did it actually mean? Business leaders wanted to know how reliable the information provided was and how they should respond to incomplete or conflicting information.

Peter mentioned the yin and yang of media as being both the best source of information and the worst. He also spoke of the skill required to “cut through the noise” and demonstrate critical thinking at key decision points.

As this was the first time the private and public sectors had come together in this format, the magnitude of the discussions reached a defining moment of dawning when business leaders realised that in a crisis event of this scale within the CBD, they could not expect to get a response from a 000 call. They had to become self-reliant.

The highlight of the day was the moment the IAG crisis management team reached their (hypothetical) decision to continue to advise staff to “shelter-in-place” and disregard the information from the media. The conflicting information presented to them captured the complexity of the decisions they could potentially face and; the need for the most senior and most capable crisis management team, to make decisions that would ensure the safety of many people.

In Peter’s own words:

Australia has some of the best men and women leaders of any country in the world who can deal with business shocks standing on their feet and they have already demonstrated this. However, the new set of challenges needs more work. Some organisations are very advanced and responsible – and there are a lot who are not. In running through the hypothetical today, we can start to imagine the dimensions to the problem.

In crisis events, business leaders must take the lead

Both the National Emergency Summit and more recent significant CBD events have highlighted the difficulties in moving large groups of people to safety, the need for timely communication and critical decision-making.

Organisations operating within the CBD cannot rely on emergency services agencies and building managers alone to ensure the safety of their staff and the continuity of their business.

The reality is, in an emergency, business leaders may be faced with incomplete or conflicting information. The complexity of an effective response requires the most experienced and capable leaders to make decisions to ensure the safety of many people and the continuity of their business.

Executives require a measurable capability in emergency management

Earlier this year, a revision of the 2006 plan was completed and the new Sydney and North Sydney Central Business Districts Evacuation Management Subplan published on the Emergency NSW website. In recent months, Janellis has facilitated another executive-level exercise to build capability to respond to a range of disruptive events, including an event occurring in the CBD.

While there have been many advances in technology in the past decade and the risk profile continues to change, surprisingly, many of the emergency management issues for organisations operating in the Sydney and North Sydney CBD today are the same issues that were raised at the National Emergency Summit in 2006.

Key strategies that are being used and tools that have been developed to address the issues highlighted at Convergence have proven to be effective. Many organisations now have a measurable capability in emergency management at the executive level.  

As the expanded Subplan zones now include approximately 700,000 people, there is an even greater need to ensure that organisations operating within these zones are self-reliant, that they understand the key components and concepts of the Subplan at an executive level, and that they have exercised and tested their response capability.

To learn more, download the full Convergence Report here.


Janellis is an enterprise consulting firm working with leading organisations across many industry sectors and government agencies. Janellis helps organisations execute their strategy and are specialists in transformation and change management; organisational resilience; risk, compliance and assurance; crisis and emergency management; and portfolio and project management.