Left of boom is a ‘military phrase describing the timeline of events before an explosion or incident – the period when you still have a chance to prepare and avert a crisis’. Staying left of boom ‘means making proactive decisions and staying ahead of the evolving situation’. Achieving left of boom requires ‘leadership through confidence and purpose’.
Left of boom ‘starts with understanding and protecting the purpose of an organisation’. This occurs ‘through effective assurance, integrated planning, monitoring, and preparation – all designed to enable the response of leaders to emerging situations and crises’.
In summary, left of boom organisations are assured, prepared, and possess a common operating model.
When crisis strikes, right of boom ‘ensures the appropriate response is activated, stakeholders are reassured, and recovery immediately commences’. In parallel, an organisation restores business operations or, preferably, builds back a business with enhanced capability, capacity, and resilience.
In summary, right of boom organisations are adaptive, proactive, and collaborative.
Grant Chisnall is Chief Executive Officer and founder of the crisis preparedness, response, and recovery company Left of Boom. Graduating from the Australian Defence Force Academy and Royal Military College, Duntroon, in the late 1990s, Chisnall served as platoon commander in East Timor and military observer in Sierra Leone.
Following his military service, Chisnall combined his skills to empower organisational leadership through educational programs optimising, developing, and executing crisis plans, response, communications, stakeholder engagement, risk, and recovery. Chisnall aims to enable ‘leaders and team… to act proactively and confidently before, during and following a crisis.'
Chisnall’s experience includes supporting crisis planning, execution, and recovery teams in a variety of environments including mining fatalities, air crashes, COVID response, cyber-attacks, product recalls, issue motivated group activism, bushfires, floods, and cyclones.
Boom or Bust
At the opening of Boom or Bust: Survive and Thrive During Crisis, Chisnall issues a challenge:
This book is dedicated to crisis leaders.
Those who step forward into the fight.
Those who take accountability for the situation.
Those who fight for their survival.
If you are reading this article then, by nature, you are probably the type of leader who accepts Chisnall’s challenge. Throughout Boom or Bust, Chisnall emphasises leadership, as a ‘roadmap to resilience’ enabling trust, empathy, and support as the ‘determinants of a successful crisis resolution’.
Chisnall ascribes overconfidence bias – the tendency for a person to overestimate their own abilities – to frequent organisational failures during crisis events. Overconfidence bias results in leaders heuristically misdiagnosing potential and actual crisis situations as follows:
- It will not happen to our organisation.
- Compliance is more important than preparedness.
- People, ethics, and values are not top priorities.
- Speed of reaction, messaging, and action are not important.
- Problem myopia leads to big picture ignorance.
- Narratives lead with excuses and blaming others.
- Seek a return to business as usual, too quickly.
- This final overconfidence bias was infamously encapsulated by former British Petroleum (BP) Chief Executive Officer, Tony Hayward. In April 2010, the BP offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, killing 11 workers, injuring 17 and polluting 1,770 km of shoreline. In June 2010, as the crisis meandered toward resolution, Mr Hayward said: ‘There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I'd like my life back’.
Countering the overconfidence bias, Chisnall’s Boom or Bust guides leaders, in three parts, through eight principles of crisis preparedness, response, and recovery:
Part one: first principles:
- Understanding crisis.
- Fundamentals of crisis preparedness – build trust, including mutual trust, through:
Part two: left of boom:
- Purpose (defining your why).
- Prepare (adaptive capacity).
Part three: right of boom:
- Respond (assessment, acknowledgement, action).
Accompanying Boom or Bust: Survive and Thrive During Crisis, Grant Chisnall provides a series of online tools to guide leaders and practitioners in crisis preparedness, response, and recovery. To access these free online tools, go to: www.leftofboom.com.au/boom-or-bust-toolkit
Grant Chisnall concludes Boom or Bust with suggestions from Tony Pearce, Victoria’s first Inspector-General for Emergency Management, for conducting post-crisis reviews to seek maximum benefit for an organisation. The following are Tony Pearce’s key considerations for debriefing people, teams, and organisations:
- No fault, no blame.
- Clear scope and terms of reference.
- Employ experienced facilitators.
- Provide emotional support.
- Collect information.
- Criticality of evidence-based findings.
- Define implementable recommendations.
- Create win-win outcomes.
Boom or Bust starts with understanding and protecting the purpose of an organisation. Next, leaders map and create a roadmap to organisational resilience through enabling personal and team trust, empathy, and mutual support as the determinants of a successful crisis resolution.
Boom or Bust is recommended as a reference book for leaders, planners and people preparing to lead before, during and after crisis.