The Sticky Note Organizational Chart

September 17, 2013

The best organizational chart I ever created was made on a white wall using a black Sharpie pen and yellow sticky notes.

The setting was an office in Midtown Manhattan shortly after the devastating landfall of Superstorm Sandy.

Working for the American Red Cross, I had been assigned to serve as the Public Affairs Chief on the disaster relief operation. When I arrived in New York, more than a dozen members of my team were already there, and during the two weeks I served in that role, more than 50 individuals were assigned to the public affairs group, though not all were there at the same time.

In the midst of the disaster’s chaos, my first task was to organize the sprawling staff, most of whom I had never met. Although our disaster headquarters was in New York City, our job was more difficult because we had crews spread out in each of the five NYC boroughs and on Long Island. Their varied assignments included handling media inquiries, writing stories, taking pictures, creating social media content and performing other communications tasks.

At a quick staff meeting in the hallway, we introduced ourselves and each person briefly described his or her experience and areas of expertise. I reviewed the paperwork on each team member and then huddled up with one of my key managers to draw a table of organization. Read the rest of this entry »

You Know It’s Time to Go Home When…

November 18, 2012

I am finally home after my deployment to New York City as part of the incredible disaster relief effort of the American Red Cross.

Memories of the long hours, the minor frustrations and the stressful conditions will quickly fade. My enduring memories will focus on the extraordinary team I worked with, the genuine kindness of the people of New York City and the thousands and thousands of people we helped who were affected by Superstorm Sandy.

One memory I’ll cherish is the brief chuckle I received when a fellow worker stopped by my cubicle at our headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. Without comment, he handed me a photocopied sheet titled “You know it’s time to go home when…” The list was not attributed to anyone, yet I share it with appreciation for those who brought a little humor into a serious workplace.

You know it’s time to go home when…

  1. You start referring to your hotel room as home.
  2. You start rearranging the furniture “at home.”
  3. You start receiving mail addressed to “resident” in your hotel room.
  4. You can’t remember the last time you wore something that didn’t come out of a suitcase.
  5. You no longer get lost.
  6. You know trouble spots on the traffic report on the radio.
  7. You stare uncomprehendingly at the people who have just been deployed when they ask, “How long have you been out?”
  8. Crisis counselors cry on your shoulder.
  9. You have trouble finding your home state on a map.
  10. When you hear of a disaster in another part of the country and you say, “Hey, I’d like to go there,” and suddenly you realize you’re from there.
  11. You start telling tourists where “the sights” are.
  12. You start telling the locals where “the sights” are.
  13. You start losing your native accent and begin speaking like the locals.

I will miss New York, and I hope to return. Yet, the time had come to return home.


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