How do we learn from a crisis?

11 Jun 2020

How do we learn from a crisis?

Robert Booker shares his experience as Executive VP of HR at BG Group during the Arab Spring Crisis.

In late 2010, Robert Booker was sitting down to eat dinner when his work phone rang. He answered to hear loud banging, people yelling and then the frantic voice of his colleague broke through the line. He was calling from Tunisia. Angry protests had erupted in the country. A prison break had occurred just blocks away. As the executive vice-president of Human Resources at BG Group, Robert was now responsible for ensuring the safety of hundreds of employees, and he also needed to figure out how to get anxious expatriate workers and their families out of the country. 

There was also another catch. While the safety of employees was paramount, the gas that BG Group produced made up 40% of Tunisia’s electricity. Shutting down operations would be devastating for the country and could push it into further turmoil. They needed to move quickly and effectively. 

The crisis team was able to pull together, keep the team safe, communicate effectively and keep the lights on – literally and figuratively. They also learned some valuable lessons along the way.  

Robert is now the Senior Consultant at Stanley Strategy Inc. and is completing his Doctorate at Vanderbilt University in organizational learning. He recently sat down with Elaine Grotefeld, Head of Odgers Berndtson’s Cleantech Practice to share his insights and advice for learning from an organization through change and uncertainty.

Is your leadership team asking the right questions right now? Are you learning from your response to this crisis and preparing to move forward? 

Robert shares five key areas to focus on right now and practical questions every leadership team should be asking: 

  • Culture – Did your leadership’s response match the organization’s culture and values? Were you guided by your organization’s principles? 
  • Communication – How well did you do with communication and transparency? How well does your team think you did? Do these perspectives match? 
  • People – Who were the leaders and who were the laggards? How will you reward the leaders and how will you train and develop the laggards? How will you prepare your leaders to better deal with future disruption and develop the traits that are needed for next time? 
  • Efficiencies – What efficiencies did you gain during this crisis or transformation? How do you ensure that you continue to develop them and not lose those gains? 
  • Leadership capacity – Did you have the right skills on your leadership team to manage this. What skills were missing? How will you get those skills now and for the future? 

Looking for help evaluating your team’s performance? The Odgers Berndtson Global Leadership Practice helps organisations unlock potential from individuals and teams and drive greater performance at executive and board level. Get in touch with our team to find out more about how we can help. 

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