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Author: mtthwhgn

thank u, women in resilience

thank u, women in resilience

Emergencies affect everyone differently. Race, age, ethnicity, affluence and level of education are just some of the factors which determine your vulnerability (and resilience). Gender is also a factor, with women more likely to die than men after a large scale disaster.

But this blog isn’t about that…

This morning I watched this lecture on popular misconceptions about disaster.

Another misconception that Hollywood’s gets wrong is about women’s role to cope during disaster, as shown by this parody clip:

But this blog isn’t about that either.

This is a blog written on International Women’s Day 2019, to say “thank you” to the hundreds of women I have worked alongside. Thanks for the work they do to make people safer and for everything I have learnt from them.

I can’t thank everyone individually, but I’ve picked out those whose tutelage has had the most lasting impact…

Agnes offered me a job on the same day that I met her. Nobody would call her logical, or predictable, but her dedication and passion could not be questioned. She pushed me into doing things that I was uncomfortable doing and had faith in me when I didn’t always have it in myself.

Long after meeting her, I remember still being in awe of Sue‘s experience in emergency management. As well as her ‘battle stories’, she taught me about determination and to read between the lines. She acted as a mentor more than a manager.

Over the last two years, I’ve relied on Lucy more than she realises. She sees things through a different lens, one which I feel gives greater consideration to outcome over process. She is a demonstration that sensitive, technical and complex subjects can be approached in a compassionate, human way, but still with a sense of humour.

Fiona has a pragmatic, considered and calm approach to the most challenging circumstances, and has taught me the importance of taking even the briefest moment to reflect, consider alternatives and contingencies before a decision is made. In her words “you often have more time than you realise”.

And finally, J, whose request for us to “be real” and avoid obfuscation really resonates with me. It’s something I’m trying to bring through this blog, and how I communicate at work. And something I’m still working on!

Helen, Alison, Aggie, Kate, Lynn, Gail, Robyn, Barb, Megan, Susan…There are tons of brilliant women out there in resilience (and every field) who as well as being excellent at what they do, bring valuable and important perspectives.

Thank u.

Revisiting Red Teaming

Revisiting Red Teaming

Red Teaming: The independent application of a range of structured, creative and critical thinking techniques to assist the end user to make a better-informed decision or create a more robust product.

That’s a kinda academic way to say “having (and welcoming) someone whose job it is to critique you”. 

I originally wrote about this in February 2017, and a lot has changed for me professionally since then. Based on recent experience, I wondered whether I would approach this differently now, has my thinking had evolved? 

recent Twitter exchange gave me a renewed interest in this idea and so picking up on the key aspects of that discussion, I’ve revisited my previous post. 

Is a Red Team a name for something that already exists? 

Yes and no.

Decisions in emergencies (in a UK context at least) are made by consensus. So there is already a structure whereby people with different experience and responsibilities reach decisions jointly. A variety of aspects and implications will have already been considered and extremes moderated or discounted.

However, ‘decisions by committee’ typically take longer to reach and run the risk of ‘group think’ where the desire for harmony in the group results in dysfunctional decisions.

A Red Team is about doing what you normally do, what you have been trained to do; but then taking an equally qualified objective team and seeing if they have any other perspectives you haven’t considered either about the decision you have reached or the way in which you reached it.

UPDATE: A colleague also pointed out that the type of feedback that I would anticipate coming from a Red Team is can also be (although in many cases isn’t) provided in the form of post-exercise reports. However, these are painfully slow to be produced, missing the oportunity to make dynamic change.

What are the barriers to Red Teaming?

There are many, but I think they can be broadly categorised into two groups; culture and resources.

We all like to think that we have the answers, and so accepting that in ambiguous, high risk and complex situations we might always have thought of everything shows self-awareness. Adopting a Red Team approach would signify to me high levels of strategic leadership maturity.

On the resources side, sorry, I think sometimes you have to take a hit. However, this should be balanced against the cost of sub-optimal decisions being made. Arguably that’s much harder to quantify, but having a stab at working out the return on investment would be a better approach than looking at expenditure.

Clearly embedding Red Teams would take time, money and will, but should that be a barrier to doing things better?

A (red) rose by any other name…

I don’t get hung up on what this structure would be called.

I became aware of the concept through a TV drama Newsroom, where it was called a Red Team, and that term has stuck with me as shorthand.

I have mixed feelings about the militarization of civil emergency management. However, there is no escaping that Red Teams have a military connection, where they are used to good effect. Typically, where the military goes, the civil emergency response follows.

The 2010 Ministry of Defence guidance on Red Teaming states it is a “practical response to overcoming the complex problems introduced by our human frailties, helping us to recognise them and correct our thinking and analysis before faulty judgements are cemented in the minds of key decision makers.” I think that’s equally as applicable in a civil context.

Perhaps recognising a militarisation tendency, NATO has opted to call their structure ‘Alternative Analysis’. You could also think about De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and call it White Hatting, that has a peculiar ring, but might look entertaining in a control room!

What am I doing to implement Red Teaming?

I’m not convinced I’m adding much actual substance to the conversation, other than being an advocate of ‘let’s try it’.

In a lower-key way, I made a recent decision to bring someone in specifically to check my working out on a particularly complex project at work. It was really helpful to have someone force me to reflect on my proposals, and can really see how this could be scaled up. 

I’m interested in views of colleagues on how this could be applicable and how some of the barriers could be addressed.

Ramen Resolution – Ruckus Ramen

Ramen Resolution – Ruckus Ramen

Finding a ramen place on holiday isn’t difficult, especially in North America. But choosing a ramen place on holiday is a whole ‘nother matter.

I depend heavily on “Top 20 ramen joints in [city]” articles to narrow down the options for me. That’s how I discovered Ruckus Ramen in Boston, which appeared in this Thillist list.

I had arrived just as they were opening, so I was awkwardly the only patron for a little while.

I also missed the instruction to order at the cash register (check me out using Americanisms) so there was a bit of a standoff whilst both sides waited for the other to make a move. Eventually, I placed my order for tempura pickled Padron peppers and the Tori Paitan ramen, mainly beause it was heralded as a ‘crowdpleaser’ in that list I found.

The Padron peppers were delicious, salty, sour, crispy…everything I like!

However, I was disappointed when it came to the noodles. Not because there was anything wrong, but I definitely ordered badly.

I was seduced by what Ruckus call ‘swag’ but everywhere else calls extras. I’d pimped my ramen, with something called an umami bomb, and friends, it bombed.

The crispy chicken skin was not, and it just made the broth gloopy with collagen. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish it because it was just too thick.

That aside, heritage cauliflower was an interesting topping and something that I would try again.

Looking back there are other things on the menu which I should have ordered instead (step forward black garlic mazeman) so, the moral of this story is definitely to take time to read the menu in detail!

It seems unfair to rate Ruckus badly due to inept ordering, but if you’re going to force me I’d give it 2/5.

Ramen Resolution – back to Nanban

Ramen Resolution – back to Nanban

It’s a rare occasion that I’m early for, well, anything. But a diary misunderstanding today meant that I ended up two hours early for a thing.

After eating, drinking, browsing, reading and general perusing…I even had time to update on some recent ramen adventures! Joy of joys!

My last visit to Nanban was on 31 December 2017. I remember then being intrigued by the idea of curried goat ramen.

After 364 days, I surrendered to the nagging voice in my head and headed back to the Brixton restaurant. I was not disappointed.

I had a cocktail (because; festive), placed my order (because; hungry) and settled back in to my book (because; other resolutions).

Crispy gyoza is a cool idea, but they tasted a bit greasy. The noodles were delicious though. Spicy, slightly sour broth, and meaty hunks of goat dotted through the bowl. It’s not the best egg that I’ve ever had, but hard to really find fault!

I think I’d still prefer soft and juicy pork belly as the meat, but I’m always up for trying new things, and would definitely return to Nanban again to assess the seafood ramen, which isn’t an option you see in a lot of places.

It’s slightly on the expensive side compared to other options in London, but you get what you pay for and so as a ‘last meal of 2018’ I felt it was justified.

I think I’ve given up on my rating system (although it would probably be a solid 4). In hindsight,the system wasn’t well enough developed at the outset, and I’m not sure after so many posts that I can introduce something new. What to do dear reader?!

If in doubt, eat more ramen! Peace.

Ramen Resolution – Ramen-ya

Ramen Resolution – Ramen-ya

Guys!! I thought I did a noodle hat-trick in New York City, but then I was going through my photos and realised I actually squeezed in 4 bowls of deliciousness.

I’m fairly sure me forgetting Ramen-ya tells you quite a lot already, without me actually telling you anything yet.

It wasn’t bad ramen. It wasn’t great ramen. So I guess that makes it ra-meh-n?

It was a busy night in Greenwich Village, and Ramen-ya was busy too. But again, as a single diner, I was slotted in at the counter straightaway. However, someone had had the genius plan to not have the kitchen visible behind the counter, so you just looked upon an empty void used for storage of boxes.

I chose the miso Tonkotsu. It was everything you would typically expect, pork, mushrooms, egg. All very tasty, but to be honest after Mr Taka, the next noodles were always going to have to step up their game to be in the same league.

Would I go back? Sure, but only if other options weren’t available.

Ramen-ya, you were perfectly ok, but nothing really set you apart. I’m therefore giving you a firm 3/5.

Ramen Resolution – Mr Taka

Ramen Resolution – Mr Taka

I’m not one for histrionics, but I think I may have found the best ramen ever

My plan for Friday night in New York City was to have a quick bowl of noodles before hitting up some trendy Lower East Side bars. I’d googled to find a place with decent reviews and set off in the direction of Cho-Ko…

After a traumatic journey which involved three subway lines and a bus, I looked through the window and something about it just didn’t appeal to me. Fortunately, on the opposite side of the road was a more promising ramen joint with a queue outside.

Mr Taka was BUSY! But as a lone-diner, I was able to bypass the ‘line’ and was seated at the counter with a great view into the kitchen.

Now let me tell you about the Tonkotsu noodles…

Black Garlic Oil, parmesan, spicy miso and MEAT!! Thick, fatty, smokey, anise-y meat. Looking around at what other people had ordered, I had chosen well – most dishes seemed to just have one chunk of meat, but mine had three.

The broth was creamy and had paper-thin slices of raw garlic – this was new for me, and although the first slice was a surprise it’s definitely something I’ll be adding to my own recipe now!

The restaurant was also playing some great J-Pop.

This was ramen so good that I adjusted my plans for the evening and just went home satisfied. And honestly, I don’t even feel like I missed out.

Mr Taka gets a solid 5/5. If you’re in NYC you neeeed to visit!

Ramen Resolution – Hana Noodles

Ramen Resolution – Hana Noodles

Next on my short burst of New York ramen eateries was Hana Noodles.

Again, this was a stall located inside a ‘market’, this time the DeKalb Market Hall in Downtown Brooklyn.

Now, it turned out this wasn’t strictly ramen (although I’m not sure there are hard and fast rules about what is and isn’t) but more like just regular noodles.

However, I’d trecked all the way there so decided to give it a shot. I decided if I wasn’t going to have proper ramen then I should at least pick something a bit unusual so ordered the Peanut Butter Noodles with Pineapple.

It took a while to make, as all noodles at this noodle shop are hand-pulled to order – you have the choice of noodle diameter and cross section (flat or round) and can watch the chefs getting very physical with balls of dough to create the noodles.

I wasn’t expecting the dish to be cold either, but it was a perfect lunchtime snack.

On the basis that Hana Noodles wasn’t ramen I feel it’s a bit unfair to score them, but what I did eat was delicious and the service was fantastic. If pushed I’d have to award a 2.5/5 – as a bowl of noodles it was tasty and refreshing, but not being ramen means points are docked!