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Multi-Hazard Disaster in Japan

Part of the Pentalemma Series on Managing Global Dilemmas

Dylan Scudder

Against the backdrop of an increasingly globalized business environment, this book provides readers with a pragmatic approach to international management of complex issues that arise from the tension between financial goals and social imperatives. If the challenge of management is making decisions in situations of uncertainty, Multi-Hazard Disaster in Japan is the ultimate test of finding business solutions in extremely volatile situations. Based on firsthand experience and years of rigorous research, this book leverages a real-world case of a global company responding to a historical mega-disaster to let readers experience defining moments of managing with limited information, time pressure and a dwindling budget. Almost as if "parachuting" into an escalating disaster scenario, readers form critical relationships with characters that introduce them to management tools and techniques they need to arrive at a successful conclusion. The excitement and intensity of Multi-Hazard Disaster in Japan equips business leaders of today and tomorrow with valuable know-how they can apply to the uncertainties of everyday business in an international context.

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Highlights from Chapter One

In Chapter One, certain options were made available to BBJ managers during the intense period of their initial disaster response. The scenario suggested that Kelvin Reed had taken matters into his own hands by authorizing BBJ’s lorries to hit the road immediately after the earthquake. Switching a critical component of a company’s infrastructure to emergency relief work in this way would almost certainly not be within the rule book. Corporate governance cannot legislate for every eventuality, and senior managers are paid to manage. In the real world, there needs to be sufficient flex within such arrangements to allow a company to respond to a genuine emergency. This was very much the case in Japan in 2011—to the credit of the companies concerned. What remains important under such circumstances is that the manager concerned is able to justify his actions and that he seeks retrospective authority as soon as practically possible. Due process is very important; but in crisis situations, managers must be prepared to set it aside where necessary—and be ready to defend their decisions.

Regarding philanthropy, the temptation to view this situation as a straightforward moral case for philanthropic business support is obvious and entirely defensible. What the scenario endeavors to show though, is that there are often creative solutions that go further, benefitting both the community and the business and perhaps with an eye on the longer term. The “Full Philanthropic Engagement” choice, although laudable, does...

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