A synopsis of the false missile alert aimed at Hawaii. Who should take ownership of this significant process failure. Read and decide for yourself.

On Sunday morning about 6:00 am I was reading the news on my cell phone and was shocked to hear that the Hawaii state emergency alert system had sent out the message.


I can’t even imagine what it was like to hear all those cell phones’ audible alarms screaming with this announcement and the panic that must have ensued quickly after that. One of my questions is who wrote the template for this alert? Did anyone read it and assess its impact on the public if sent? Perhaps the announcement was written quickly to give to a developer because he/she needed it in the next hour to hit a milestone. I have to believe that there is no person out there truly believes there is a shelter for this type of catastrophic event. Of course, as we well know now, the alert was false. (CNN, By Zachary Cohen January 9, 2018, 6:06 pm)

What caused this unfortunate panic situation? Unfortunately, we hear the same answer that has been creating terror for us for more than a century. One complacent person made a common computer error by pushing the wrong button during a safety drill. He/she even passed the programmers validation (question: are you sure) by simply pushing yes because he/she had accepted that same validation on a hundred other programs.  State emergency leaders and emergency officials immediately blamed the event on an employee who “pushed the wrong button.” It takes a lot of courage to come out and respond to the terrorized public – sorry we had one person push the wrong button.

The initial response to the tragic event turned into a major embarrassment for the state and its Governor, David Y. Ige. Hawaii officials worked quickly to head off damage to the leading industry in Hawaii, which is tourism, by sending a note out from the Governor to all residents and tourists of Hawaii. My relatives were on vacation in Hawaii during the event and received the letter from the governor under their hotel door. Their response to the dispatch was that the message was a nice gesture. After reading the communication, I believed the notice represented more than a simple apology. The moment of genuine leadership had arrived, and that required someone in power to take responsibility for the crises. Who better than the Governor since the buck will always stop with the top leader?

On Sunday, the Federal Communications Commission said that Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place in its emergency notification process. What did Hawaii do to respond to that statement? They quickly added a second person to verify the first button pusher was using the correct button, which was a logical and quick solution. My question is why that step was not already in place? It would have been so easy right then to fire the person who made a mistake and assume it would never happen again. Credit goes to Governor Ige, who happens to be up for re-election this year and has been criticized for his lack of leadership for saving the job and life of the button pusher. Colin Moore, Director of Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii, claimed there was no better test of leadership than responding to what happened yesterday.(NY Times, Adam Nagourney, January 14, 2018)

And there it is, not a statement about one person creating terror simply by being complacent. Rather we analyze the leadership style of the top man in the state. Aren’t all leaders analyzed throughout their lives? How would we respond in this terrible situation?

In his letter to the residents and visitors of Hawaii, Governor Ige explained “that the cause for this false alert was an error by a Civil Defense employee at Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency who unknowingly activated this alert to be sent. It is ironic that a person who is dedicated to serving the people of Hawaii and protecting their safety was responsible for causing this situation. You can imagine how badly this person feels. I assure you that steps have already been taken by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to ensure that a situation of this type never happens again.”

Now let’s consider what kind of leader holds the name of the person creating such havoc close to his vest, does not fire him, and tells the public how terrible he feels that he made such a horrific mistake. One might consider Governor Ige’s leadership style is startling in the way he is taking care of his employee, but as the CEO of Hawaii, his approach could easily be considered a Laissez-faire leadership methodology. The French word Laissez-faire formally translated means, “let them do”  or more commonly translated to the phrase “let it be” As such, laissez-faire leaders are characterized by their hands-off approach, allowing employees to get on with tasks as they see fit. This leadership approach can apply to jobs where the employee is producing creative content or workplaces where employees are very experienced. However, when an organization/business is facing life and death decisions, leaders must monitor performance and effectively communicate expectations to prevent work standards slipping.

In any leadership style, operational, well-thought-out business practices need to be planned by the leaders and stakeholders, defined through a flow chart, responsibilities in the process identified, leaders of critical process steps highlighted, and one owner of the entire process (whose throat to choke) established before terror ensues. My conclusion based on public information gathered to date is Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency has process gaps that need to be identified and resolved quickly, and the leadership of the agency must be held accountable for future failures.

Let’s ask ourselves if this were our company, would we find similar process gaps. What type of leader are we and how do we blend our leadership style to bring out the best in our company?

Golden Executive Coaching can help you build your leadership team and establish processes to improve your business! Certified by Marshall Goldsmith in Stakeholder Centered Coaching, we have 25 years experience in process management and are certified in change management. Go to www.Goldenprofessionalcoaching.com for more information.






Mary Kuniski is a catalyst for business and individual change. Throughout her career, she has consistently led corporate businesses into the future, often achieving process improvement and change that others could not. Mary’s enthusiastic attitude and tenacious ability to keep moving forward is why she identifies with this quote from Dale Carnegie: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” Passionate about problem resolution and committed to coaching and leading others, Mary is driven to ensure that everything she does provides lasting value. At a young age, her leadership and public speaking skills were recognized and nurtured through her ten-year participation in 4-H. She has also fostered change for businesses such as Parkinson Voice Project, where she directed the implementation of their website and online learning management system, and Overhead Door Corporation, where she created and launched a successful core data process improvement strategy. During her tenure with The Michaels Companies, Mary held five Director positions and three Vice President roles, and pioneered the company’s expansion into Quebec. Her efforts to lead the transformation of over 40,000 craft items to three languages resulted in Michaels becoming the first international retailer to acquire language certification from Quebec on the initial attempt. This meant Michaels successfully adherred to strict French-language laws. Mary has over 20 years in executive leadership in the retail industry and for 10 years led supply chain shipment improvement and savings and reduction efforts at Michaels. Mary is a Dale Carnegie graduate, certified trainer, and consultant for Dale Carnegie DFW's Executive Leadership training. She holds an MBA in Global Management from the University of Phoenix and a degree in Human Development, Clothing Studies from Pennsylvania State University.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: