2017 Project Highlights
Our FY 2017 assignments illustrate the effectiveness of our remarkably simple philosophy: tell the truth, even if it hurts; be helpful under fire; and stand your ground on critical issues.
We counseled clients through crisis situations ranging from the investigation of potentially devastating sexual assault allegations to the death of an adventure-tourism customer. In some engagements, we helped clients preempt a crisis before it became a serious threat to their future. In others, we made sure they were able to emerge from an already-roiling crisis with their credibility and reputation intact.
One particularly challenging crisis began with a public expression of strongly negative sentiments toward the current presidential administration by an employee of a major public institution. The situation quickly escalated to involve credible threats of violence, a major social media firestorm, diverging opinions among board members, and some thorny First Amendment issues.
As an integral part of the client’s crisis team – which we also helped to assemble – CCA led the development of strategic and tactical plans for the response. We guided the team through establishing an overall focus and clear message that allowed them to speak with one voice, while also guiding them in addressing the many tactical challenges presented by a crisis gone viral.
Safety was the top priority. We recommended protocols – including the use of bodyguards – to keep parties safe for the duration of the crisis. We also guided the institution through the establishment of a system for monitoring and using social media.
By establishing respect for freedom of speech as an overriding principle, we aligned divergent internal viewpoints, created a non-argumentative framework for responding to public complaints, maintained a consistent message, and brought the crisis to a close after eight very intense days, with the institution’s reputation untarnished.
We provided fully customized coaching to leaders in a variety of industries this year, giving them the tools to move their organizations forward with persuasive and inspiring actions and interactions.
Three specific engagements illustrate the range of challenges we addressed this year:
- Two leaders were struggling to advance a high-profile project after being thrust into the public, political, and industry spotlights. While they were talented managers and engineers, neither was fully prepared for the leadership fishbowl. We worked with each leader to help them identify and prioritize key stakeholders, then led them through scenarios that yielded a strategic and tactical plan for cohesively dealing with everyone involved, including their board of directors and relevant unions.
- A new vice president from outside the company was having a difficult transition. This leader lacked a solid understanding of the company and industry culture, and also faced a hostile peer team. After a rough and misstep-filled first three months on the job, the executive came to CCA for a two-day session to fine-tune leadership skills and develop a fact-based communication approach better suited to the style of the industry.
- A team of four leaders – whose inability to work together was becoming disruptive to their company’s operations – trusted CCA to help them individually and as a group. We showed them the value of their diverse leadership styles and backgrounds and led them through scenarios that explored the potential consequences of maintaining the status quo. The result was a framework that allowed them to turn their diverse leadership styles into an asset for the organization.
FDA Approval Preparation
The year’s most interesting health authority approval preparation project was for a small company seeking approval for their first product, which had been in development for more than 12 years.
While some members of the team had individual experiences with FDA approvals at previous companies, the team had not worked together in a presentation to develop a compelling story to present to the Advisory Committee and the agency. They also faced challenges related to a protocol change, data robustness, an unexplained adverse event, the availability of existing treatments, and Advisory Committee members who aren’t well versed in this indication.
We worked with the company to develop a focused presentation of their data, clearly tell the development story, and integrate their scientific and medical explanations.
We counseled the team to utilize a highly transparent approach to addressing any potential shortcomings in their data and educating committee members on the product’s risk-benefit ratio. By being fully prepared for all issues and views from the committee and being responsive to questions, this approach allowed them to effectively tell their product’s very compelling science, medical, and regulatory stories and earn a rare 19 out of 20 votes from the committee.
We prepared companies for more than 25 regulatory hearings in FY 2017, ranging from rate and prudence cases to construction certifications and integrated resource plan approvals. Special considerations included renewables, clean coal, nuclear plants, corporate mergers, and new regulatory structures.
Our regulatory work also included preparing witnesses for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) critical infrastructure protection audit. Our preparation process was easily adapted to meet the needs of these witnesses, who were primarily technical professionals with limited experience under oath.
In addition to regulatory hearings, we prepare witnesses for litigation cases. This year that included a complex construction dispute between an American corporation and a European conglomerate. CCA worked with the legal team to give witnesses the skills they would need to be effective in their depositions and trial testimony, both in U.S. federal court and in front of an international arbitrator.
Our involvement in this case has also included conducting extensive research on issues, testing the facts and looking for potential pitfalls, making sure that witnesses are fully aware of the overall case strategy, and helping the legal team find ways to use their well-prepared witnesses as partners in advancing their case.
Among the numerous issue workshops we conducted in FY 2017, one stands out as particularly challenging. It involved a controversial – and high-profile – first-of-a-kind plant.
In recent years, the plant has been the subject of a whistleblower lawsuit, online exposés, and accusations of fraud and mismanagement. While preparing for their latest prudence hearing, executives of the corporation decided to augment their longtime legal team with representatives from a new firm and try a different approach.
To begin the process of defining this new approach, we led an intense, two-day, no-holds-barred workshop that brought witnesses, attorneys, and subject matter experts together to discuss the plant’s issues. The workshop was structured as a safe zone in order to hear all views, build trust within the team, and search for ways to resolve the key issues.
This approach was an essential first step in resolving issues and developing a new strategic path forward built on a foundation of transparency and the desire to find an equitable solution for all major stakeholders.