Alert! Alert!


Japan is threatened by more natural disasters than most countries. Since 2000, the Japanese have been endured 13 volcanic eruptions, 16 typhoons, and 21 earthquakes! To help prepare people for these events, they have developed an alert system using their cell phone network. When one of these threats is looming, people all over Japan are notified on their cell phone. (There are 12% more cell phones in Japan than there are people. The message gets out!) They are now expanding this system to include threats from incoming missile attacks, terrorist attacks, or other man-made threats.

All of this presumes there is a detection system of some kind. They have technology to monitor active volcanoes, threatening weather, and tectonic plate shifts. They have systems to monitor belligerent neighbors (i.e. North Korea), and terrorist networks. This data is collected, analyzed, communicated, and acted upon. As a result, lives are saved. Resources are preserved.

It is impossible to prevent natural disasters. It is exceedingly difficult to eliminate man-made threats. In both cases, though, people and resources can be preserved through detection, analysis, communication, and action.

What are your organization’s “natural disasters”? What are the things that happen outside the organization that you have no control over? One potential “natural” disaster is the economy. Another is the loss of a single-source supplier. It’s horrible to think about, but another disaster is the sudden loss of critical talent in your organization. What if your senior leadership team, or R&D team, is lost in accident or natural disaster? Don’t forget that there is also the threat of actual natural disasters. Is your region threatened by earthquakes? Hurricanes or typhoons? Tornadoes?

What are your organization’s “man-made threats”? What can go wrong that is caused, intentionally or unintentionally, by people? We often think about sabotage, theft of intellectual property, and equipment failure from not following maintenance procedures. Every organization has the potential for these to occur, but there is another man-made threat that is subtle and hard to detect: cultural illness. The health of your organizational culture is man-made whether it is strong or weak.

The list of natural and man-made disasters that can affect your organization could be very, very long. Can you have a plan to deal with each one specifically? Probably not. You can, though, develop a strategy for dealing with various categories of threats using a system of detection, analysis, communication, and action.

What do you need to detect? What are the potential threats to your organization and what will it take to detect signs of those threats?

How will you analyze that data? This is driven by what you are detecting and how it will be communicated.

Who needs to be alerted, and how? What methods of communication will you use? Who needs to be told? How will you know the message was received?

What will you do in response? What will your communication tell people to do? Where are detailed instructions stored?

Final Thought

Avoid the tendency to think this article focuses just on big issues (earthquakes, economic disasters, sabotage, and plane crashes). Apply this strategy of detection, analysis, communication, and action to the “little” issues of organizational health and relationships. In truth, this has a much bigger impact on your organization because of the daily relevance. A healthy organizational culture will deal with sudden, catastrophic events much better than an unhealthy culture.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at] with your questions.

Photo “Fire Alarm 2” by Urban Funk. Available at

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