I have been in several disaster
planning sessions recently in which it has been stressed that you need to
define who your key personnel are in the event of an emergency. I began to think about how organizations have
thinned themselves down over the recent years in the name of doing more with
less or being lean and mean that you have to wonder who IS NOT key
The fact of the matter is, we have
trimmed most of the human redundancy out of our organizations. Dont think so? How many times have you been told that something cant be done
because a particular individual is sick or on vacation? If a job function cannot be performed
because someone is gone, then perhaps we have trimmed too far.
Now before the words cross training
spill out of your mouth, keep in mind that many (should I say most?) of us have
enough of our OWN work to do without having to take on someone elses work as
well in the event that they are out?
Now I am not against being a team player, and certainly cross training
is an important concept in the work place, yet I often think it is overused as
an excuse to not add additional personnel.
This wave of staff thinning in
order to stay competitive can and will show itself to be extremely self
defeating during an epidemic or pandemic.
Should the worst case predictions come true, many of our key personnel
wont be around to depend on and there are few backups to be found. Compound this with our just in time
economy and you can imagine the dire consequences.
This is particularly true in the IT
area where staff has been thinned to the point that preventive maintenance is
wishful thinking and proactive is a thing of the past. Reactive is the operative word because there
are not enough people to go around to do all that needs to be done. Something has to give and that tends to be
preventive maintenance and customer service.
This is a particular problem for
most organizations who see technology and IT as their way of surviving in
disaster/pandemic situations. Data
centers work in lights out mode for only so long before something needs human
attention. Where will the humans be to
remedy the situation? The same goes for
outsourcing. If a pandemic truly hits
the world, do you think any SLAs with a company in another country are going to
be worth the paper it is written on?
My point to all of this is that
increased staffing (and funding) makes us better prepared to withstand
adversity just as a few pounds of extra fat can mean the difference between
life and death for a person that is ill.
Given that pandemic flu planning is becoming more and more prevalent, I
think this is a perfect opportunity to make the case that additional staff and
funding are not only appropriate but necessary to be truly prepared for such a
Lastly, please understand that
there is a difference between adequately staffed and a bureaucracy. Im not championing for the times where
organizations had so many people that they created layers of work for people
to do to justify their employment. I
just believe there is a happy medium between fat and thin and most of us are
way too far on the lean side. I also
believe that this leanness has reached the point where it is bad for business
and has left us vulnerable. We live in
a society that is far more dependent on others than the last society that had
to deal with an epidemic/pandemic. Despite
our advances in medicine and technology, I believe we are more fragile as
organizations and societies. I think it
is well past time that we do some fattening up. Now if we could only get those that control the purse strings to