Executive Sponsorship Is Critical to Emergency and Crisis Management Programs

The difference between successful emergency and crisis management programs and those that fail is the engagement level and program sponsorship by senior executives. Programs with executives who prioritize and socialize the program and act as an ally to the program team are more successful and produce better outcomes in actual emergencies and crises.

I’ve built a career supporting companies in developing crisis and emergency management programs both in the United States and internationally. In twenty years, I’ve seen some things. One thing I’ve noticed is that some programs are successful while some tend to flounder and are not sustainable. Others just fail completely and require additional resources and organizational support with a complete redevelopment of the program.

Why Is Executive Sponsorship Important? 

In a recent discussion with a senior colleague, we agreed that a program’s success and failure are driven predominantly by one thing: an executive sponsor who will prioritize, socialize, and act as the ‘cheerleader’ for the crisis and emergency management program. This executive sponsor should be at a VP level or above. It is more than just a reporting structure of who you report to in the organization. Instead, it is an ally that provides attention, support, and resources to the emergency manager trying to create or maintain a program. Without the executive sponsor’s support, the development of these programs becomes far more challenging.

Looking for an Executive Sponsor? Consider These Things:

If you are trying to seek executive sponsorship for your Crisis and Emergency Management program, there are a few things that you should consider.

Where the program sits on the balance sheet and org structure:

One of the most critical factors is reframing the Cost Center. This program should be nested within the operational leadership of the business and have an operational leader as the program sponsor. This transfers the crisis management program from a cost center to a profit center and embeds the program with the core decision-makers within the organization. This creates efficiency and effectiveness when it comes time to activate the Crisis Management Team, respond to crises, and recover when lessons are learned and after actions are implemented.

Articulating staffing needs:

Another important factor is developing a program staffed primarily by full-time employees. Any program you’re developing for an organization should be foundationally made up of full-time employees rather than contract or contingent workers. Using contingent workers brings the benefits of experience and knowledge, but it also brings some potentially hidden challenges. Are your contract workers excluded from employee-only events? Are they provided with the same training and support as full-time employees? These questions all create a shift from investment and buy-in to a program and move contractors to see themselves as “in it for the money.” The turnover and churn from this approach are devastating for any program. Again, an executive sponsor is the person who can articulate the need for investment in full-time employees who can be invested in the future and growth of your program.

Establishing and supporting metrics:

Developing a data-driven program that tracks key performance indicators such as time, cost, and quality metrics, allows for the program to tell its own value proposition narrative in the face of even the harshest skeptic. Often, Crisis and Emergency Management metrics are squishy and not necessarily obvious. Working with the executive sponsor and their conversations with the leadership team can drive consensus on what metrics we need to capture and how we should present them for the most impact. This will allow the whole executive team to understand your program data-driven approach that you’ve taken and the level of value that your program is providing to the core business or operations.

Your Sponsor Is in Rooms Where Things Happen

Having an executive sponsor who is invested in your program and believes in your core mission and values allows for your program to be present in rooms where you may not be invited as the program manager or lead. Having that VP who can speak for the program, defend the program, and provide those elevator pitch statements to other executive leaders about the successes and the value the program brings to operations creates value amongst your partners and minimizes or reduces the risk of having the program reduced or having funding cuts to the program.

Establishing a committed and dedicated executive leader in your program will allow you to share your vision for the growth of the program and have an honest and open discussion about the opportunities or resources that may be made available to execute your vision.

Take proactive steps today to safeguard your organization’s future readiness, we can help.

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