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Leadership Strategies: January 2007 [Briefings Publications]

Contributing Editor: Hope Katz Gibbs
Volume 10, Number 1
Leadership Strategies
www.briefings.com

TAKING CONTROL DURING A CRISIS

After Katrina, one leader relocated his entire team—in two weeks

A television broadcast alerted U Jin Her that Hurricane Katrina was headed for his New Orleans office in 2005. At first, he wasn’t concerned. After all, Katrina wasn’t the first storm that had threatened the Big Easy.

But the more he heard that late August afternoon, the more nervous the Blue Skies Consulting founder became. “My immediate concern was my employees who were stuck in the eve of the storm.”

At the time, Her was at his home in Clifton, VA a spot he had rarely seen since Blue Skies joined the Northrop Grumman Corp. team in 2002. Since then, Her had worked with Northrop Grumman executives to coordinate the $281 million contract and create a computer system that would manage resources for all four branches of the U.S. armed forces.

Creating a plan

As Her watched the hurricane blow toward New Orleans, his first thought was to create a disaster recovery plan—just in case. He spent the next two days arranging housing for his team members and locating new offices and storage space for all the project’s equipment.

As Katrina tore through Louisiana and Mississippi, Her’s contingency plans went into effect. Within days, he safely relocated his staff members and their families. The following week, Her made his way to New Orleans to assess the damage. Unlike the demolished structures nearby, Her’s building had escaped destruction, although the pounding rain at-id gale-force winds had done major damage.

Realizing he could salvage the operation, Her began cleaning up the office and moving equipment and records up north. “I never panicked or acted worried. I just calmly told everyone that I had all the confidence in the world that they’d get the job done.”

Sharing credit

His strategy worked. By mid-September the operation was up and running again in Northern Virginia. Northrop Grumman executives were so pleased with Her’s efforts that they presented Blue Skies Consulting with a World Class Team Award. The inscription read: “Mr. Her worked around the clock to restore critical elements of the network within two weeks. His efforts and leadership allowed the team to continue the Department of Defense-mandated review of mission-critical functions.

Her says he has only one regret, “I just wish they presented the award to my entire team. I prefer to work behind the scenes, and the truth is that we wouldn’t be in operation today if we all hadn’t worked together.”

About U Jin Her

Before founding Blue Skies Consulting in 1996, Her was director of engineering at VeriSign, Inc., VP and CIO of eLink Communications and global director of IT Windstar Communications. Her received his MBA from the University of Virginia in systems engineering and operational research. For more information: www.bsc-itic.com.

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Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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