When emergencies strike, utility senior leaders must demonstrate solid management practices to efficiently and effectively guide the restoration process. Unfortunately, this reality sometimes leads to overzealousness within the senior leadership ranks. In fact, I’ve seen time and time again a propensity amongst utility senior leaders to want to dive in head first when there is a major outage and anoint themselves as the Incident Commander for the event! In my humble opinion, this is way overboard. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much! There’s no doubt about it, senior leadership has its role in major events, providing support for the Incident Management Team, managing risk, and much more, however top-level leaders should not be involved in the tactical execution of the restoration process and should not be buried up to their elbows in incident Commander duties.
A more effective approach would be the development of a dedicated team of employees with incident management responsibilities. This team should be made up of personnel most qualified to fill the required positions, regardless of their day-to-day positions (i.e., including second role personnel). And company leadership should do its part by giving these individuals the appropriate training, authority and decision-making capability to do their emergency jobs.
The Proper Role for Utility Senior Leaders
Senior leaders have a key role in major events providing support for the Incident Management Team. They need to make the decisions that have big financial impacts; like, should customer outages last another 5 days? Or should they spend an additional $2 million to bring in more mutual assistance personnel to shorten the outage?
Perhaps the most important issue of all is keeping safety foremost in the minds of employees, so utility senior leaders must keep the corporate focus on safety during these events.
When bad news has to be delivered, leadership must act as the spokespersons. They are the faces of the corporation and have the credibility in the eye of the public. Senior leadership reports to the board of directors and the shareholders, so they have to be prepared to explain why and how the financials have been affected by extraordinary events. When commissions and regulatory bodies schedule hearings in the aftermath of such events, they want to talk to corporate decision makers and have them explain the corporation’s performance.
The French have a saying: “To each his own.” That translates into any language, including incident command and corporate management. In other words, the appropriate experts need to address the issues each are best suited for. Let the utility senior leaders concentrate on true leadership problems. And let the incident command teams handle the incidents.
Check out this article for more information on the proper incident command leadership.