Remember last year when snow pounded most of the US and no one could dig out for two days? Or are you one of those already cowering in fear of trying to get to work in London - or basically anywhere south of Edinburgh - during the upcoming Olympics? If your team has a communication plan in place these events don't have to be awful.
I can't prove it conclusively but anecdotally in talking to my clients, events like last year's "snowmageddon," actually caused less financial damage than expected. The reason? People could still get work done from home or wherever they happened to be stuck.
The difference between those who were able to still function and those who weren't? A good communication plan.
Of course, having a plan and executing it aren't the same thing at all. Here are some tips for creating a team communication plan.
Give plenty of warning- if you can. A good snowstorm you can see coming for three days. The Olympics have been on the calendar for nearly half a decade. The problem is that the event impacting you may not be evident to the rest of your team. If it's likely you might have to take that conference call from somewhere else, or you won't be in the office for a couple of days, let people know.
Set realistic expectations around response time. When you're used to having someone in the office at all times, we often have unrealistic expectations that they are sitting around waiting for our call. When they're home unexpectedly they could be shoveling the driveway, or trying to separate squalling, house-bound children. The point is, you and your team can't know exactly what's happening at all times, so have a little patience.
Learn to use the technology while there's no emergency. I'm always amazed at companies that expect people to magically make use of new technology. The first time a team leader runs a webmeeting shouldn't be when everyone is under the gun. It's a little like learning to drive by taking your parents to the airport: it's do-able, but no fun and no one will be in a hurry to do it again.
Every team member should know how to present or set up a conference call or meeting. That way if the leader is stuck in a snow bank, or is unable to join, the team's work doesn't come to a halt.
Make sure everyone has alternate contact information and everyone knows how to get it. You'd be amazed how many teams don't have home numbers or alternate email addresses (most people have a personal as well as a work email address). This information should be somewhere it can be accessed in a hurry. Preferably on a secure shared file site.
Don't wait until there's an emergency to develop a plan. Knowing how to access technology, alert people to potential crises, and contact people in multiple ways should be done while there is no sense of panic or deadlines looming. It only takes one minor earthquake or storm to let you know how important this is. Worrying about people until you know they're okay is no fun. That way when the unexpected hits, it's one less thing you and your people need to worry about.
If all of this sounds obvious, it is. If you aren't a hundred percent sure you and your team haven't done this, it's not too late.
That way you'll be ready for record snow falls, zombie attacks or the dreaded Olympicalypse.