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Industry Insights

Emergency Management


Burnout, disillusionment, and ultimately turnover, are persistent issues in the public sector, and emergency management specifically. But what are the root causes of these obstacles to performance and productivity? McChrystal Group data show emergency management teams generally outperform other government sectors in organizational behaviors. However, data show emergency managers struggle to drive a shared understanding of the operating environment and share information effectively across teams. Learn how McChrystal Group partnered with a state responding to a crisis by supporting the development of a regular communication forum to facilitate information sharing.


In the latest installment of our ongoing Industry Insights series, a persistent challenge the emergency management landscape is facing comes into focus. A major pain point for emergency managers has been achieving a shared understanding of the operating environment among the various teams that make up the organization, particularly in a crisis.

than those in emergency management to agree that other teams within their organization articulate how their actions impact their own team

Notably, respondents outside the government sector are roughly 4.5 times more likely than those in emergency management to agree that other teams within their organization articulate how their actions impact their own team, according to data from McChrystal Group. As a result, perceptions of situational awareness are low as organizations in the emergency management space struggle to share pertinent information that is critical to the mission’s success across teams.

Drawn from field interviews and survey responses from thousands of workers from more than a hundred organizations across several industries, McChrystal Group’s database collected over the last decade presents a framework to underscore actionable insights, allowing leaders to engage their teams with intention and precision.

There are always competing priorities, so I try to keep the mission in mind. It’s as much about what you do as it is what you don’t do and spend time and resources on. In my role, I try to manage all these kinds of competing priorities and share information on them accordingly.”

Former FEMA Administrator, Senior Advisor


How We’ve Worked With Clients to Address These Challenges

Information flow is most critical during times of crisis, but the fundamentals that underpin effective information sharing are built in periods of relative calm. And while information-sharing often increases during the early throes of crisis, it usually remains inefficient.

Key stakeholders lacked a “single source of truth” for crucial information, and some stakeholders had simultaneously too much of the “wrong” information and not enough of the “right” information. Across the organization, team members had several meetings on their calendars, but these were organized around subsets of stakeholders and/or specific topic areas and did not provide context relevant to the group as a whole.

McChrystal Group partnered with a state and its emergency management teams as it responded to a crisis to ensure all key players were on the same page and could share information across teams and throughout the organization by establishing a communication forum.

By working directly with stakeholders to identify areas of focus and priorities, then establishing a bi-weekly, cross-functional, intelligence-sharing forum, the emergency managers tasked with the crisis response were able to have a structure that facilitated information exchanges to provide context and explain the consequences of decisions. This allowed participants to find ways to remove roadblocks, leverage successes, and identify opportunities to connect offline to pursue shared goals.

As a result, the team was better able to coordinate its crisis response, allowing stakeholders to eliminate multiple meetings, and in turn, reclaiming the time to focus on the task at hand. Structuring and openly sharing information, along with greater transparency on decision-making and follow-through, dramatically bolstered trust and interoperability across the dynamic and layered organization.

The organization was then also able to pivot the function this structure served to later adapt not only to the crisis but also to embrace a broader range of preparedness to be ready to face future challenges.