Events, Dear Boy: managing incidents before they become crises

An interesting speech by Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, to the Whitehall and Industry Group at the beginning of July caught our eye.

Referencing the COVID-19 pandemic and taking a line from Prime Minister Harold Macmillan when asked what the greatest challenge was for a statesman, it’s entitled “Events, Dear Boy: managing incidents before they become crises”. The speech looks at the importance of managing incidents and how the EA goes about it.

Their remit covers water, wildlife and, close to our hearts, pollution. The EA has in place standard incident management procedures with agreed command and control, trained staff to join any response and facilities to manage each incident. Their ability to respond is, in fact, one of their KPIs. Whilst the complexities of the EA’s remit are rather more than for most businesses, the basic framework is a good model for all and worth learning from.

Sir James shares his top tips when dealing with incidents and they’re worth passing on. In a nutshell and paraphrased, they are:
• Leaders must lead – forget everything else you’re doing.
• Move fast and get the organisation into incident mode immediately – you can’t play catch up.
• Get on the ground – you and your team.
• Have a strategy in place that everyone has bought into.
• Use the media – never clam up and have a simple message ready.
• Manage upwards – make sure those above you are informed.
• Be ready – have a plan in place and practise it.
• Learn lessons – every event is something you can learn from.

He ends with a great quote from American footballer, Bear Bryant: “In a crisis, don’t hide behind anything or anybody. They’re going to find you anyway.”

It’s well worth a read .

At Seed, we cannot stress it enough, if you have an incident that needs sorting, the sooner you take action, the less will be the consequences.


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