Audience Analysis Worksheet

Go to this site to view the article posted about the audience analysis worksheet assembled by Andrew Dlugan with Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills.  Andrew has a great website filled with plenty of tips on public speaking and presentations.  This worksheet is part of his recent Audience Analysis series.  This series and the worksheet are great reminders that in teaching and presenting we need to always be focused on our audience and their needs.  You should be able to run through this worksheet well in advance of the actual speaking engagement, and the data derived will help you to shape the format and content of your presentation and presentation style.

Homeland Security Priorities Needed – Any Ideas?

Homeland Security Today recently published an article citing the Congressional Research Service‘s study regarding DHS‘ failure to align and prioritize its variety of mission areas.  The results of this study shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  The massive quantity of DHS programs, including both those at the federal level as well as those pushed down to state and local governments is mind-boggling.  If you aren’t familiar with the size and complexity of DHS, see my post on the 10 year anniversary of DHS.

I won’t tackle at length the issues associated with combining 22 agencies as I did in that post, but consider the number of agency missions, directives, and requirements that DHS must have as a result of that merger.  It’s no wonder they can’t keep track of their own business!  A monster has been created, and with it a huge bureaucracy intended to manage it – but, alas, it’s impossible to manage such a beast!  Does Janet Napolitano even know all the programs and mission areas within the agency?  Doubtful.  And that’s no slight to her, it’s too big for anyone to commit to memory.  In an effort to reduce bureaucracy and streamline services and missions, they have, in fact, done the opposite.  Essentially, DHS is over-diversified.

As the HSToday article points out, DHS published a strategic plan last year, but that plan fails to give any priority to their array of missions.  It also fails to provide a cohesive strategy to the entire federal homeland security amalgamation.  This certainly is not what an agency strategic plan should do, but federal and national level strategies should be created.  DHS does require states to formulate and maintain State Homeland Security Strategies – so why can’t they do the same?

There have been a number of articles and blogs in the last few days citing the fact that ‘homeland security’ as a term, has a very loose and amorphous definition.  This is a clear signal that clarification is needed on many fronts.  I believe that part of that clarification is that homeland security is a concept, not a mission area.  There may certainly be a need for a coordinating agency to address mission areas related to the concept of homeland security, but that agency is not DHS as we now see it.  What needs to be done?  As a trainer, I say a needs assessment is a good start.  The writing is on the wall, now let’s do something about it.

DANGER: Templates in use

Timothy Riecker

Sorry… I thought this image was really funny!

Last night I spent some time reviewing the Comprehensive Emergency Management and Continuity of Operations Plan (which should not be combined into one document) for a small town.  Having reviewed more plans from within the State of New York than I can count, it was readily obvious that a state-provided template was (mis)used in the making of this plan.  The end result: a poorly written plan that can’t be operationalized.

First off, I must say that there is nothing wrong with the template that was used.  This template has been provided and is regularly updated by the Planning staff of the State’s Office of Emergency Management.  Good templates help to ensure consistent formats are applied and all baseline legal and necessary content is included.  There are many planning templates out there across the nation and globally for emergency plans.  Some are good, many are not so good.  The closest I tend to get to a template is using it as a reference.  I generally see the use of templates akin to a Jean-Claude van Damme movie: you think it’s a good idea at first, you soon discover that you don’t really like it but for some reason can’t leave it, and in the end you are left wondering what really happened.

One must keep in mind when using a planning template that one size does not fit all… actually one size doesn’t fit anyone.  While a template, as stated earlier, will provide you with a format and essential content, they don’t provide YOUR detailed information.  If you simply use the template the way most people (wrongly) do, you are essentially doing the Mad Libs version of emergency planning by plugging in titles and locations where it tells you to.  But where does this get you?  Is the plan ‘customized’ simply because you filled in the blanks with your information?  Of course not.  The plan needs to make sense.  The easiest way to determine if it makes sense or not is to read it.  A good plan should provide a strategic-level narrative of how your company, jurisdiction, or organization will respond to and manage the impacts of a disaster.  Who is in charge, and of what?  What does the organization look like?  What priorities must be addressed?

Templates really should be viewed as guidance documents – this will help prevent most user errors.  Plans address needs – so a good needs assessment (threats and hazards) up front will help identify the content of the plan.  Don’t forget to read the plan while you are writing it to make sure that it makes sense.  Consider how it will be used and by whom.  Do we write emergency plans just to fulfill a legal requirement or do we write them so we can use them???

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 3: Identifying Program Resources and Funding

This post is part of a 10-part series on Managing an Exercise Program. In this series I provide some of my own lessons learned in the program and project management aspects of managing, designing, conducting, and evaluating Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) exercises. Your feedback is appreciated!

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 1

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 2: Develop a Preparedness Strategy

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 3: Identify Program Resources and Funding

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 4: Conduct an Annual Training & Exercise Planning Workshop.

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 5: Securing Project Funding

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 6: Conducting Exercise Planning Conferences

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 7: Develop Exercise Documentation

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 8: Preparing Support, Personnel, & Logistical Requirements

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 9: Conducting an Exercise

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 10: Evaluation and Improvement Planning

 

Exercises can be very resource intensive, have no doubt about that.  Generally speaking, the more you invest in them, though, the more you get out of them.  Certainly discussion-based exercises are usually not as expensive as operations-based exercises.  For all exercise types, however, the largest costs are in the design (staff or consultant time, as well as meeting time), and conduct (again, staff or consultant time, plus the time of the participants).  What resources do you need for your exercise program as a whole?  How do you get them?

First of all, let’s discuss human resources.  In Managing an Exercise Program – Part 1, I discussed the importance of having an exercise program manager and what some of the qualifications should be for that person.  A program manager is probably the most important human resource you could have for exercises, but certainly this person can’t do it alone.  A good exercise program is able to leverage the experience, support, and ideas of others – both within and outside.  The exercise program manager needs to be a great networker, able to draw people from various agencies into a mutually beneficial partnership.  Some of these agencies will come and go, but some will be strong, permanent partners.  Each partner agency, including your own, should be contributing to the efforts of the group – not only with ideas, but with people to serve as controllers, evaluators, planning team members, etc., physical resources suitable for whatever types of exercises you conduct, and perhaps even funding.

In March of 2008, I founded and co-chaired the New York State Exercise Coordination Committee, composed of several state agencies, departments, authorities, and the Red Cross.  Meeting regularly and communicating often, we were able to pool our resources not only for each individual exercise, but for exercise program management as a whole throughout New York State.  We formulated consistent policies and practices, allocated Homeland Security funds state-wide for exercises and corrective actions, and developed and delivered exercise-related workshops and training courses.  We became the core group for the Training & Exercise Planning Workshop (more on this in the next part) and applied for and coordinated funding requests to FEMA for the Regional Exercise Support Program (RESP), which provided contractor resources to state and local exercise initiatives.  We were not only able to help each other, but we were able to benefit the state as a whole.  This model can be applied to other states; county and local governments; and consortia of public, private, and not for profit groups.

Keep in mind that the HSEEP cycle is just that, a cycle.  You will constantly be revisiting each of these steps – sometimes out-of-order – including determining needs and sourcing of resources.

HSEEP Cycle

HSEEP Cycle

What resources do you think you will need to manage your program?

Be on the lookout for Managing an Exercise Program – Part 4: Conducting an Annual Training & Exercise Planning Workshop.

Managing An Exercise Program – Part 2: Developing the Preparedness Strategy

This post is part of a 10-part series on Managing an Exercise Program. In this series I provide some of my own lessons learned in the program and project management aspects of managing, designing, conducting, and evaluating Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) exercises. Your feedback is appreciated!

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 1

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 2: Develop a Preparedness Strategy

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 3: Identify Program Resources and Funding

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 4: Conduct an Annual Training & Exercise Planning Workshop.

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 5: Securing Project Funding

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 6: Conducting Exercise Planning Conferences

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 7: Develop Exercise Documentation

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 8: Preparing Support, Personnel, & Logistical Requirements

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 9: Conducting an Exercise

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 10: Evaluation and Improvement Planning

 

 

In my last post, I outlined the initial needs of managing a preparedness exercise program, including sources of information for a preparedness assessment.  Recognized as a best practice, I’m following the model of the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP).  The next step of program management is developing a preparedness strategy.

HSEEP Cycle

HSEEP Cycle

The development of a preparedness strategy is an activity that will involve the highest levels of your organization.  Drawing upon the data collected in the last step (the preparedness assessment), the preparedness strategy will address overcoming the identified gaps in your preparedness.  The mnemonic to remember here is POETE or Planning, Organization, Equipment, Training, and Exercises.  The gaps you identified in your assessment should fall into one of these categories.

Once you have catalogued your gaps, you must develop strategies to overcome each gap.  Here are some helpful hints in strategic planning:

1) Define the gap and identify the underlying cause(s).

2) Create objectives to overcome each gap.  Remember that objectives must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented).

3) Establish priorities.  Some gaps may have a higher priority to accomplish based on the vulnerability they pose, legal or regulatory requirements, or other matters.  Additionally, some objectives may need to be accomplished prior to others for many of the same reasons, as well as practical flow of processes.

4) Assign required actions – identify specific actions required to accomplish each objective (there may be several).  Identify who will be responsible for each action and who will be responsible for supporting their work.  Establish a realistic deadline.  NOTE: some gaps may take a long time (years) to overcome.  As such, do the best you can to outline objectives and keep in mind that strategic plans are ‘living documents’.  Early on, you may not be assigning tasks to overcoming certain gaps, but someone will be responsible for monitoring related issues.

5) Marry needed resources to each action item established above.  This may be personnel, funding, facilities, etc.

6) As work is being done to accomplish these tasks, continual monitoring and assessment is necessary to ensure that everyone is staying on track and that the strategic plan continues to reflect the direction and priorities of today.

There are many references out there for strategic planning.  With a bit of insight you can translate this guidance into something useful for these purposes.  The end goal of this step is to have a document in hand that identifies what your organization needs to accomplish to be better prepared.  From this, you will soon develop exercise goals which will be the cornerstone of your exercise program.

What successes have you found from your strategic planning experience?

Coming soon – Managing an Exercise Program Part 3: Identifying Program Resources and Funding.

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 1

This post is part of a 10-part series on Managing an Exercise Program. In this series I provide some of my own lessons learned in the program and project management aspects of managing, designing, conducting, and evaluating Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) exercises. Your feedback is appreciated!

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 1

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 2: Develop a Preparedness Strategy

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 3: Identify Program Resources and Funding

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 4: Conduct an Annual Training & Exercise Planning Workshop.

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 5: Securing Project Funding

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 6: Conducting Exercise Planning Conferences

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 7: Develop Exercise Documentation

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 8: Preparing Support, Personnel, & Logistical Requirements

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 9: Conducting an Exercise

Managing an Exercise Program – Part 10: Evaluation and Improvement Planning

 

From inception to improvement planning, I think preparedness exercises provide great value to the jurisdictions, companies, and organizations that do them.  From a seminar to a full-scale exercise, there is much to be learned by participants as well as the strengths and areas for improvement identified from emergency plans.  I’ve been inspired to write a series of blog posts on each of the phases within the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) cycle.  The cycle, shown below, encompasses not just the steps in executing an exercise (project management), it includes exercise program management as well, which I think is often neglected.  Doings exercises is great, but to ensure continuity, quality, and continuous improvement, any entity that does exercises should have an exercise program.  Having a structured exercise program will ensure that your organization capitalizes on your exercise investments to the greatest degree possible.  Just like any other functional program, it needs to be managed.

HSEEP Cycle

Each blog post will give some insight and lessons learned from my own experiences with exercises large and small and I will reflect on exercise program management responsibilities throughout the cycle.  For more in-depth information on exercise program management, I refer you to HSEEP Volume I.  I will also have an update on this HSEEP volume in the near future as DHS will soon release a revision.

The first thing I want to cover is exercise program management as a general concept.  As stated in HSEEP Volume I, “Exercise program management is directed toward achieving the objectives established during the multi-year planning process…”.  As an exercise program grows, so should the responsibilities of managing it.  Most organizations don’t need a full-time exercise program manager, but they will require someone with the flexibility to vary how much time they spend on the exercise program.  The planning and conduct of an exercise can take up a considerable amount of time, and the program manager needs to shepherd this process.  In small organizations, the exercise program manager may be one of the few people involved in these activities as well.

Obviously the person in charge of an exercise program needs to be knowledgeable and experienced in exercises.  As with the oversight of any program, you need to have the right person in place.  Some caution should be used here, however – there are plenty of folks with LOTS of exercise experience… BUT the vast majority of experience out there is as a player.  Players, as a general rule, don’t experience all the machinations behind putting an exercise together.  Someone may have been a player in the largest exercise known to human kind, but that doesn’t make them adept at exercises.  There is plenty of training out there addressing various areas of exercises: the HSEEP training course, Exercise Design, Exercise Evaluation, and others.  These are great – but the world is full of ‘trained’ people.  Do they have the experience to do the job?  It doesn’t take a lot of experience, in fact, in my opinion, a little experience can go a long way – especially if it’s the right experience and they were taught the right way to do it from someone with a lot of experience.  I’ve fully immersed interns in many of the areas of exercise program management and would be fully confident in their ability to run a program for an organization.

As mentioned above, exercise program management centers on the multi-year training and exercise plan (MYTEP), which makes sense as this document will outline requirements, goals, and benchmarks for the program.  Building this plan is not the first, though.  We know that before we can write a plan, we need to do an analysis or an assessment of where we stand.  This is why the first step in the HSEEP cycle (above) is Updating Preparedness Assessments.  As much of a fan as I am of the HSEEP documents, they do fall rather short on providing guidance relative to this step.  It can be broken down easily enough, though.

A preparedness assessment, to me, would identify where we stand and where we want to be in terms of preparedness.  The resultant gap would then feed the second step in the HSEEP cycle – developing a preparedness strategy.  Let’s define preparedness: traditionally, it involves planning, training, and exercising; we can build from this to give us the data we need.  An absolute priority is identifying and assessing risk.  Hopefully your jurisdiction has a recent hazard analysis or THIRA, or your company or organization has a recent business impact analysis (BIA).  Having a recent hazard analysis done will identify the threats you need to be prepared for.  If you don’t have a recent one of these, I would suggest that you are way ahead of yourself with exercises and need to take a step back in emergency management to do one of these and build a plan.  Based upon the results of your hazard analysis, do you have the necessary plans (and are they up to date?) to address the hazards?

The second assessment should be a capabilities assessment.  You can reference FEMA‘s list of core capabilities to ensure that you are examining everything you need to.  Keep in mind that not everyone needs to have every capability.  You may not have a need for certain capabilities or it may not be feasible for you to have it based upon costs – so long as you can obtain that capability from someone else in times of disaster.  However, there are certain capabilities, based upon your hazards, that you want to ensure that you have.  If you don’t have them, they need to be developed.  That’s a gap.

A third assessment, related to the second, would be to identify needs to develop personnel capabilities – specifically through the means of training.  Yep, a Training Needs Assessment.  I’ve blogged previously about this.  Your identified needs become another gap to include in your preparedness assessment.

Lastly, you should do an assessment of exercises and real life events to date.  While you are just starting to formalize your exercise program, I still think an assessment of exercise progress to date is important.  While you may not have had a formal program, you have likely done some exercises or at least participated in someone else’s.  What plans have been tested with these exercises?  How long ago were they conducted?  Do you have After Action Reports?  (Read my article in Emergency Management Magazine on the importance of AARs and implementing corrective actions).  How about lessons learned and after action reports from actual incidents?  What gaps from these still need to be addressed?

All of this data and these documents can be pulled together and referenced in a simple, cohesive document outlining your preparedness needs.  It seems like a lot of work, but without identifying our needs, we can’t move forward with an effective exercise program.

What are your thoughts on identifying preparedness needs?  Is there anything I’ve missed?

Thanks for reading and be on the lookout for part two of Managing an Exercise Program where I will outline the development of a preparedness strategy.

 

Find Out What You Need

As mentioned in previous posts, I am, by trade, a trainer.  Many of those years have been in the realm of public safety and emergency management, but I’ve had the opportunity to apply my trade to a few other areas as well.  Quite possibly the most important things I’ve learned, both by training as well as  experience, is the necessity of a needs assessment.  A needs assessment, as defined by The 30-Second Encyclopedia of Learning & Performance is “a systematic study or survey of an organization for the purpose of making recommendations, and is often employed … to get to the cause of a performance problem.”  This definition is on page three of the book, by the way.  It’s that important.

In training and other professions we do needs assessments all the time; some formal, many informal.  So informal, in fact, that oftentimes we don’t realize we’re doing them.  I’m big on common sense and in trusting professionals, but I think this oft lackadaisical approach leads to incomplete and sometimes shoddy results – not where we want to be as professionals.

In the instance of doing a training needs assessment of an organization, one needs to be certain to assess both internally and externally.  One internal focus, obviously is the employees themselves.  First, we look at the tasks – what do they do, how do they do it, and how well do they actually do it (aka actual outcome).  We compare this to expectations the performance expectations (which, ideally, are documented).  The gap between actual outcome and expected outcome is, usually, a training need.  These would translate to what I call Tier I training needs – those necessary to do business.

To digress a bit, here’s where a trainer often times becomes an organizational development consultant.  Likely, the processes a company performs haven’t been looked at in years, with layers of policy and procedure added every time a problem was identified.  The trainer, upon examination, may find that the process itself is faulty or outdated, which wouldn’t be a performance deficiency of the employees.  These types of findings should be noted to management immediately.

Still looking internally, the trainer also needs to look at the wants and desires, in terms of training, of both management and the employees.  Management may have training they want applied to all employees (by the way, this is worth analyzing, as often times something like this is ‘a good idea’ vs something identified by way of a needs assessment’) and the employees themselves (or their union) may want to incorporate training to allow for development, career paths, etc.  These are all certainly viable candidates for Tier II training needs – those that aid the organization.

A good needs assessment must also look externally as well.  The Tier I external factor would be safety and regulatory requirements – i.e. the legal things that must be done, such as OSHA training.  External Tier II factors would be non-required industry standards.  These are things usually obtained by way of certifications, conferences, etc.  While they aren’t necessary, they can help the company’s resume and aid in keeping the company near the head of their industry.  So often do we see these as some of the only trainings that employees receive, which is very frustrating.  These are typically rather expensive (especially when you factor in lost productivity and travel), are not focused (at least on the needs of the employer), and the ‘training’ received is usually not shared at all with the employer.

Needs assessments are certainly applied in other areas.  In emergency planning we do things like a hazard analysis, a vulnerability assessement and a capabilities assessment to determine preparedness needs.  In emergency response we do a situational assessment to determine what is needed to resolve the incident – often times over and over again, as these needs change as the scope of the incident changes.  In disaster recovery we analyze the needs of victims and survivors so we can provide the best services to them.  Needs assessments are vital to many professions and fields of practice.  It seems we’ve lost the quality of services that managers and customers expect.  I feel that much of this is related to people being lazy, not taking pride in what they do, and taking short cuts in their work.  If you short cut a needs assessment, you cut short your potential.  Do it right and start off your whole process with the right information to do the job right.