It seems that as a member of our Tribal Council, or I suppose with any type of elected/governing body, a lot of time is spent on crisis management and having to react to situations that arisen in the programs that provide services to our members/constituents. I know that being proactive is a better strategy than having to reactive but that is a type of luxury that doesn’t seem to fall to those in executive and management levels.
Being proactive sounds great and looks good on paper but, to me, is seems that when you start managing at higher levels (as in my case being part of the Executive/Legislative branch) that it doesn’t really work on that way. At lower levels it seems that when a crisis erupts or a major problem surfaces one can just refer to a policy for direction or refer the matter up the chain of command. But when you are in a position where you are the top of the chain, the policies, procedures, and guidelines that are in place may not be as effective when dealing with issues that threaten the health and safety of people. I’ve found out over the years that what looks good on paper may not be as easily implemented nor provide for the direction to address issues in a rapid response.
So how should one proceed when this arises? For me I guess that means having to look at the urgent/emergency situation that has arisen and then in discussion with my other elected officials on the Council develop a plan to address the situation but being mindful that we need to try to work with the scope of our adopted policies/procedures while also trying to make sure that situation doesn’t spiral out of control while this occurs. I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s a delicate balancing act because on one hand you want to follow established processes so as not to place the Tribe or ourselves in any type of liability and then on the other hand these established processes may require going through a number of steps that could take a long time to be completed and in turn placing the welfare of people and employees in limbo.
I won’t claim to be an expert in the best way to handle these situations nor do I believe that there is really any sort of standard process that can be easily implemented that addresses everything that can occur (especially when you are dealing with items as a governing body of a government). The only thing that I can really provide is how I approach these matters and then see if anyone else has a better solution/approach to a situation – this is the manner that I approach it:
- Try to identify the source of the problem and also determine what level of seriousness is the issue and the risks that our people/constituents/employees face if we don’t act in a timely manner;
- Is there an adopted policy and procedure that can assist us in determining the course of action to follow and then if so we need to evaluate if that process will be beneficial in resolving the matter or if it will hinder our ability to address the matter before people are hurt;
- If policy/procedure exists and provides for a mechanism to address the issue while ensuring people are protected then it’s a simple matter to follow that process until resolution occurs;
- If policy/procedures exists but cannot ensure a timely resolution of problem and the probability that irreparable harm will occur, then working together as a Council what steps should be implement to address the problem mindful that we need to protect all parties involved and that by going outside the process a liability may be created; or
- If no policy/procedure exists for the type of issue then the Council would need to develop an emergency law/policy/resolution that would address the situation and then after the matter has been resolved have staff develop a policy/procedure to address the matter in the future.
This might not be the best approach to issues but sometimes protecting the health and safety of one’s people and employees must always be the highest priority and this sometimes means that establish policies and procedures may not be adequate for all situations. Before I was elected as a member of the governing body I always felt that policies and procedures should be the only thing considered in addressing situations, but that has changed and, for me, I realize that even the best developed policies/procedures may not address everything nor provide for immediate solutions when matters of public welfare are concerned. I know that issues may differ from the business sector or non-profit world, but if anyone else has solutions/ideas I am always up to hearing them because no one person knows it all and sometimes there is someone out there who may have a different approach that produces better results.