2021 Project Highlights
All projects during this fiscal year occurred during various stages of the pandemic. Our clients would have preferred to be in-person; it was not always possible. We easily switched to virtual sessions, and in-person sessions were done with adherence to strict protocols. CCA shared best practices and helped clients develop their internal protocols for meetings and training sessions.
A Native community was dealing with several high-profile issues. In order to thrive economically and as a culture, they needed to be able to communicate the issues to all parties. We conducted a Crisis Readiness session before these issues put them into the Red Zone. The session incorporated skills in managing controversy; working together as a leadership team inside the community and as the aligned face to the outside; and utilizing CCA’s tools in both Native and non-Native cultures.
DEVELOPING CASE STRATEGY
Utilities were having a hard time raising rates to a reasonable level during the pandemic. CCA helped a client develop a specific strategy for a unique situation. This was the largest case regulators had seen in both number of intervenors and dollar amount. We worked with their team to develop positions that balanced both the needs of the company as well as the needs of the customers. The witness team used CCA’s tools and guidance to listen to all parties and respond in a straightforward manner.
An embattled CEO was appointed to the position at a company that had lost trust of its customers, the public, and its employees. The company faced multiple legal actions from previous poor decisions. The CEO needed to acknowledge the past and pivot to the future without damning the previous leadership. CCA provided him strategic counsel, guidance in mindset, and proprietary tools to execute the necessary communication and leadership moves. The use of our give-to-get strategy allowed him to find the highest ground on the toughest issues, and help rebuild trust.
LEADERSHIP BOOT CAMP
A COO needed to strengthen the leadership team across all operations. They were dealing with many challenges: a large number of federal compliance violations; a loss of public trust; working in a 2-month incident response mode; a greater number of incidents than in any other year; harassment issues/practices; controversial plant build; declining safety record and multiple fatalities in 5 years. CCA developed a high-risk communication/leadership boot camp. The session provided tools and skills for individual leaders. The project culminated into an escalating scenario in which the leadership team utilized their new tools to work together to avert a crisis of public trust.
Consulting engineers are often used as expert witnesses for many of their clients’ cases. A major engineering firm invited CCA to develop their top engineers as witnesses. They went through our three-day session to acquire CCA’s core system, which will serve them in any proceeding. Because many of our proprietary tools are transferrable to the written word, there is an added benefit of improving the writing of their engineering reports to make them clearer, persuasive, and more defensible on the stand. The investment in those individuals makes them more valuable to the firm’s clients.
Even though our client was successful getting all parties to agree to a settlement, the federal regulatory body rejected it. The order indicated there was not enough evidence in the record to show sufficient benefits to customers to justify the settlement. CCA was called back in to prepare the main witnesses for a second hearing. The “allegators” were quickly identified for each witness, Issue Cards prepared, and we drilled them on compelling, specific, factual evidence. On the day of the hearing, the client was notified that they would have a substitute judge who was not only new to the commission, it was also his first case. Due to their preparation, the witnesses were able to pivot to include a bit of education as well as hard evidence in their responses on the stand. The result: the client won on all issues in what could have been a devastating loss.
FIRST-OF-A-KIND INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT
A large first-of-a-kind infrastructure construction project crossing two countries was heard by each country’s regulatory body. The project was over budget and over-schedule. Adding to the company’s burden, there was a lack of trust, which needed to be rebuilt during this case (both internally and externally). CCA prepared the witnesses for the hearings.
MULTIPLE CASES, MULTIPLE JURISDICTIONS
In preparation of several cases across multiple jurisdictions, our client asked CCA to prepare current and future witnesses. Some common issues: impact of the pandemic on company finances and customers’ ability to pay; deteriorating regulatory environment; tax reform; uncertainty (COVID19 and ripple effect). CCA guided witnesses to know the larger corporate positions and how their domain fits into those.
An energy company spent hundreds of millions of dollars preparing for a major storm, then the storm missed the area. The company needed to persuade the regulators that the customers should pay for storm preparation and not the shareholders. CCA prepped the witness team to lay out their case simply and defend it in a straightforward manner on the stand.
When an organization is in an Amber Zone of a crisis, there is a small window of time to act in order to pre-empt the Red Zone and protect the client’s reputation. CCA does not act on behalf of the organization; we believe destiny needs to stay in their hands. We will guide, advise, coach, organize, provide tools and systems, see around corners for them, sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the crisis management team, probe, and bring to bear all of our experiences to help the client avoid the Red Zone. Because we define a crisis as any event or situation that can impact a client’s reputation, the types of Amber Zones are quite varied; one is highlighted below:
Our client was dealing with a high-profile project pioneering the use of new technology, which would make the company an innovative leader and set them up for sustainability. It would be a “first-of-a-kind” construction. The regulators in this jurisdiction were not in favor of the project; the company’s Board of Directors was unsure, and the internal executive team was not aligned. An existing negative relationship with the regulators combined with the internal uncertainty threatened to doom the project. CCA quickly got up to speed on actions taken, understanding the technology, assessing the needs and status, and charting a path forward to prevent the Red Zone. Some of the actions taken were alignment meetings, an “alligator” hunt, development of Issue Cards, developing the narrative, vetting responses, visual storyboarding, strategy, and theme for all interactions. We also helped build a campaign to persuade internal executives, Board of Directors, partners, and regulators to attain alignment. The solution included temporarily decoupling the issue of concern. The project is capable of including that piece when the need arises. It went forward with alignment, and the Red Zone was avoided.
A new CFO was asked to testify for the company on financial issues of a very large, highly visible project. In the midst of learning and absorbing everything for his new position, he needed to be immersed in the project’s issues – and the case was in a few weeks. CCA worked one-on-one with him on both witness skills and content. All tools given to him will serve him as a leader and as a witness.
INVESTMENT IN NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS
Our client sends selected new leaders to CCA to prep for critical presentations to the Board of Directors or executive team – both venues can be career-enhancing or career-limiting experiences. These interactions are most often “grilling” sessions – tough questions on critical issues. Both presentation construction and Q&A preparation are conducted. The result: a) development of leaders and b) more favorable decisions on major approvals.
CCA does a great deal of private leadership coaching; we will highlight one. The leader is a woman breaking down barriers in a very traditional company and industry. Her career path seemed to stall. CCA gave her leadership tools for both internal and external interactions, changed some style that was getting in the way, designed strategies needed for this corporate environment as well as the larger national environment – and aligned her professional and personal values.
PREPARING FOR ADVISORY COMMITTEE
A pharmaceutical team was preparing to make its case in front of a skeptical advisory committee. They used CCA’s process to ready their team and KOLs. Private one-on-one sessions helped the presenters hone their presentation, and strategic Q&A work on the toughest issues strengthened their ability to hit the issues head-on. As they were preparing, the medical community was debating some critical issues – some integral to the client’s product. CCA guided the client to lay out the data, presentation, and responses to address both sides of the debate and ensure the AdCom fully understood the study program and science – which resulted in a favorable vote for approval.
TEAM-BUILDING ON TASK
High-profile Board of Directors elections were becoming controversial and divisive. The client asked us to ready the candidates to communicate with shareholders throughout the election period and help pre-empt divisiveness by communicating honestly, clearly, and strongly. They also wanted to utilize the company’s communication team to provide support to the candidates. Our first session was for the communication team – provide them with the same tools, conduct an “alligator” hunt, develop Issue Cards and a Smart eBook for candidates. The next session was for the candidates plus the communication team. Candidates learned CCA’s proprietary models, strategy, demeanor – all the tools needed for tough interactions. The communication team provided support and materials throughout this session. Both groups discovered how to work together within the same system.
In addition to prep sessions and boot camps, CCA was also called on for guidance and advice on challenges such as: operational moves to increase trust and reputation; best practices across the industry or across multiple industries; COVID protocols for in-person meetings, seminars, hands-on-training; structure and management of internal communication teams; handling controversy; next steps for new or potential leaders; making introductions/connections between clients with similar challenges for lessons learned.
Note: Extensive issue research is conducted as a first step for all assignments.