Managing Through Crisis: Lessons Learned from the Street to the C-Suite

Blog - Silhouette of crossing a pedestrian lane in a city street at night 3333923 - FI
May 3rd, 2022
Hannah Tichansky

This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Risk & Resilience Magazine. The first issue of R&R explores topics like crisis management, business continuity, and operational resilience.

By Barbara-Ann Boehler in Conversation With:

Blog - Fabiana Lacerca-Allen, SVP, CCO, Aimmune

Fabiana Lacerca-Allen
SVP, CCO Aimmune

Blog - Randy Bagwell, Senior Director, International Services, American Red Cross

Randy Bagwell
Senior Director, International Services, American Red Cross

Blog - Major Donna Kinsey, (RET) Founder and President, TEC III, Training Enhancement Center

Major Donna Kinsey (RET)
Founder and President, TEC III – Training Enhancement Center

Early in December 2021, Aravo had the pleasure of (virtually) sitting down with Fabiana Lacerca-Allen, Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer at Aimmune in San Francisco, CA, Donna Kinsey, President and CEO of Training Enhancement Center in Elkton, VA, and Randy Bagwell, Senior Director International Services – US Programs at the American Red Cross currently working in Tokyo, Japan.

Randy, Donna, and Fabiana all have first-hand experience in managing through crisis – the kind of crisis in which life and death often hang in the balance.  Randy spent 36 years as an officer in the Army and currently works at the Red Cross; Donna spent nearly 30 years in the North Miami Police Department and currently provides training to help corporations and their senior leaders manage through crisis; and Fabiana grew up in politically charged Argentina and experienced multiple kidnapping attempts.  

Their first-person experiences in managing through crisis have given Randy, Donna, and Fabiana unique points of view and the ability to offer practical guidance.  The conversation centered around how compliance officers (who are on the proverbial front lines of corporate crisis) might learn from their experiences and apply a common framework to both the everyday and exceptional (hello 2020) challenges facing them.  Clear themes emerged during our conversation focusing on planning and risk management, developing a strong team and surrounding yourself with talented collaborators, and focusing on training staff in crisis management response.

Crisis Management is Risk Management

There is very little magic in risk mitigation and in ensuring that your organization is prepared for the unknown.  It is an analysis of data, thoughtful planning, and consistency.  However, compliance officers can take some comfort in the fact that many of the same skills that help us to design solid compliance programs are those that we employ to help manage through any challenge. Randy shared his philosophy on crisis management, based on his observations of his time in the military.  Randy indicated,

“The military does certain things well with risk.  They assess it well, they have programs and tools for risk mitigation, and they accept risk.” 

Randy Bagwell

Randy described his approach to risk management as a methodical paper-based exercise where risk is evaluated in quadrants, taking into consideration how likely the risks are to occur and what the potential impact is if they do occur.  So, the organization may be comfortable with taking on risk as long as the potential impact is minimal. According to Randy, “When you get to the top right of the quadrant and you get to a high impact and a high likelihood of occurring, you really have to plan against that risk, and really invest in that quadrant.”  The evaluation of risk is one of balance.

A methodical risk assessment based on a repeatable and consistent framework, e.g., the evaluation of potential risks, the likelihood of occurring, and the following impact analysis and mitigation plan is also a best practice in any kind of organization no matter the size, complexity, or industry.  The analysis distilled from this thorough assessment of risk is essential data to inform where resources and attention need to be focused.  Additionally, the data helps us have critical conversations with commanding officers, CEOs, and board of directors alike. 

Crisis Management Is a Team Sport

While certainly being prepared for the unknown is about planning, evaluating, mitigating, and balancing risk, having a strong team in place is a critical component to successful crisis management and resilience. Fabiana shared the importance of having the right people in the right places. Fabiana shared that, “Having the right people in the right place and having the right discussions applies to any scenario.”  A strong team is a key aspect of a strong mitigation plan. Fabiana further notes,

“I think none of us expected a global pandemic in the way that this happened.  The speed that this happened and with the different reiterations that’s happening now.  The ability to assess a situation and make a quick, instinctive decision is important.”

Fabiana Lacerca-Allen

Fabiana described her ideal team as those with, “high emotional intelligence, and high intuition” as well as “leaders who others will follow.” The concept of trust in leadership was endemic to the conversation, and while the ability to make a swift decision was important, leaders are encouraged to thoroughly investigate and be consistent so as not to undermine their authority. Fabiana noted, “You should show that you follow the same processes every single time.  It gives you the best chance of success.”  Randy cautioned, “If you were too quick trying to gather the facts and tried to put it in the best light, but end up being wrong, it undercuts trust and you can never recover fully from that initial response.”  Additionally, as Donna points out,

“Actions speak louder than words, you have to perform exactly how you would expect your officers or your employees to perform.”

Donna Kinsey

Successful Crisis Management Takes Practice

Compliance officers share several key competencies with those in the military and in law enforcement. In addition to the appreciation for a thorough (and thoughtful) approach to risk assessment and surrounding themselves with strong collaborators, compliance officers know the value of training.  Randy referenced an axiom, “Training doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.”  In the heat of the moment, employees will revert to what they know.  We may recall from our grade school days the directive to “stop, drop, and roll” during a fire.  Similarly, responses during crisis often become muscle memory.  Donna indicated,

“Training is so important during an emergency situation; you will absolutely react how you’re trained.”

Donna Kinsey

Scenario-based training is a particularly effective tool.  Randy indicated, “Too often people worry about training against a predicted crisis, however, you are training the process of the crisis, this is a template that you can put up against any situation that comes along.”

Additionally, tremendously useful information can come out of a less than perfect response to a training scenarios.  Fabiana noted,

“Strong leaders learn from their mistakes.  Every human being after this pandemic is going to learn differently about a reality that has changed so rapidly across the globe.  We’re going to study differently, travel differently, work differently.”

Fabiana Lacerca-Allen

Lessons Learned

Randy, Donna, and Fabiana shared valuable perspectives on maintaining calm and managing through charged situations that are as applicable to them in the military, government, and law enforcement arenas as they are in the C-Suite, the Board Room, and the halls of the office building (virtual or brick and mortar).  The focus on fundamental planning and managing risk, the concepts of developing a strong and agile team, and preparing staff through training will serve you well in your compliance practices.  If you would like to listen to the entire webcast you can access it in Aravo’s resource library. 

To read this article, and others focused on The Path to Organizational Resilience, be sure to visit and subscribe to Risk & Resilience Magazine!

About the Contributors:

Randy Bagwell:

Blog - Randy Bagwell, Senior Director, International Services, American Red Cross

As the Senior Director for the Asia Pacific Division, Randy Bagwell is responsible for all American Red Cross services provided to the U.S. military in Japan and Korea. In this role, he oversees fourteen Service to the Armed Forces offices that deliver emergency communications messages, provide disaster response on U.S. military installations, and teach training services classes. Additionally, Randy serves as the senior International Humanitarian Law expert for the American Red Cross. 

Before joining the American Red Cross, Randy was a career U.S. Army officer serving as an officer in both the infantry and the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. His last position on active duty was as Dean at the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s School in Charlottesville, Virginia. This school is the only American Bar Association accredited law school within the U.S. federal government.

As a Judge Advocate, Randy held several senior leadership positions and advised military commanders at all levels. He served as the Staff Judge Advocate for U.S. Army Alaska, 3rd Infantry Division, and I Corps. Randy’s combat deployments include two deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. Randy retired from the Army in June 2018 at the rank of colonel with over 36 years of service. He has four times been awarded the Legion of Merit and three times the Bronze Star for meritorious service. Randy is a frequent speaker and writer in IHL and legal leadership. 

Donna Kinsey:

Blog - Major Donna Kinsey, (RET) Founder and President, TEC III, Training Enhancement Center

Major Donna Kinsey is a retired veteran law enforcement officer who has been actively involved in training and program development for over 30 years.  During the course of her career, she was awarded the FBI Women in Law Enforcement Leadership Award and was the three-time recipient of the Department’s top honor, the Administrative Excellence Award.

While serving in the Career Development Unit, she instituted the Department’s first set of professional hiring standards. Her accomplishments include being the first woman in the history of her department to attend the FBI National Academy (session #222). She was appointed as the Department’s Range Master, responsible for the firearm qualification and training of all sworn members of the Department.  She developed and instituted the Department’s Law Enforcement Response to Active Shooter protocol, administering the training at local schools including Johnson and Wales University, where she served as an adjunct professor.  She was editor and feature writer of the North Miami Police Department’s first Annual Report, saluting women in law enforcement and military women who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Post-retirement, certified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as a high liability trainer, she continues to develop and conduct general and high liability training seminars. Donna completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida, and earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration at Barry University, graduating summa cum laude from both institutions.

Fabiana Lacerca-Allen:

Blog - Fabiana Lacerca-Allen, SVP, CCO, Aimmune

With over 30 years of experience in Compliance and Legal, Ms. Lacerca-Allen has been a leader in developing and implementing global compliance programs within Top Fortune 100 companies. She has extensive experience delineating compliance strategy, leading global teams, and negotiating, implementing, and executing on corporate integrity agreements, deferred prosecution agreements, and consent decrees.

Ms. Lacerca-Allen currently serves as a Board of Director Member at Shield Therapeutics and The Center of Excellence in Life, and previously ArthoCare Corporation. Prior to joining Aimmune Therapeutics, Ms. Lacerca-Allen held several leadership positions at Elan Pharmaceuticals, Mylan Laboratories, Bristol Myers & Squibb, Microsoft, Merck Sharp & Dohme, and AT&T Capital.

Ms. Lacerca-Allen received her Juris Doctor degree from the Universidad de Buenos Aires and obtained her LLM degree from UCLA where she was the recipient of 1992 UCLA’s tuition waiver based on merit and recognition. She has been recognized by Compliance Week as Top Minds of 2019, Hispanic Executive Magazine as a Legal Industry Leader, and by The Guardian as Women in Leadership, Inspiring Leaders, among other recognitions.

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