[Also see 3 tabletop exercise scenarios]
"Anytime we have a situation like that, we locate travelers, expatriates and local employees and make sure they're safe," says Wagner. Caterpillar has internal programs to track business travelers. "We don't stop until we get through to them and can confirm they are safe. If we couldn't do that, we would go to the local authorities. We also work with a local company that has boots on the ground that can help us track the person down. We might even send someone out to knock on the door of their hotel or house."
All Caterpillar personnel and family members were ultimately accounted for. So far the company has held off pulling its people out of the disaster zone, but Williams, Wagner and the rest of the team are monitoring the situation, including radiation levels, closely, checking in daily with the Caterpillar VP in Japan. Production has been reduced but not halted by the crisis.
Ironically, just before the natural disaster struck Japan, Wagner attended a statewide disaster preparedness exercise run by the Department of Homeland Security. "We did a tabletop exercise involving an earthquake on the New Madrid fault line [in Illinois]. We have dealt with tsunamis. The new piece was the nuclear fallout."
Now nuclear catastrophe takes its place on the spectrum of risks facing Caterpillar employees, wherever they may be.
3. Demand proven business skills. Karen Frank remembers the day, early in Williams' tenure as CSO, when he called an all-staff meeting to tell everyone they should seriously consider getting an MBA if they had not already done so. "I had never thought of it," says Frank, brand protection and investigations manager.
She decided to take advantage of Caterpillar's tuition reimbursement policy and pursue the degree. Williams' emphasis on personal growth and development "made me feel important," she says. "You can support the business much better if you understand the principles of business decision-making."
Williams himself has an MBA, which made him a huge believer in its value. "I really saw the benefit and the ability to talk in depth with business leaders and get it from a business standpoint," he says. And it drives him to distraction when people suggest sending employees to take a course that only teaches the "language of business."