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This case set uses a humanitarian aid organization, Save the Children, to set the stage for analyzing a crisis and the CEO’s strategy of leading through uncertainty. The case provides only the minimal information the decision-maker had at the time and gives a sense of the complexity around that fact. It introduces issues around basic communication, strategy, and crisis uncertainties that can be explored in subsequent classes. The material includes video clips of Carolyn Miles, the president and CEO of Save the Children at the time, discussing these issues; when played in class, these enrich the discussion and provide a practitioner’s view of a learning experience and leadership in a difficult context. After giving an overview of Save the Children and the situation in Afghanistan in January 2018, this A case describes the text that Miles receives from the country director alerting her that the organization’s Jalalabad office is under direct attack. The organization has been through indirect attacks, kidnappings, and natural disasters. Being directly attacked makes this crisis unusual, and Miles is alarmed. Miles receives a second text less than an hour later—she learns that 47 people from Save the Children are sheltering in a safe room as the attack continues. The B case provides an epilogue. At the Darden School of Business, this case has been successfully used in second-year electives in MBA and executive MBA programs. In both programs, it is taught in a course on “Leading in Uncertainty and Crisis.” The material works well in a module on decision-making under pressure. It also would be useful in first-year communication strategy courses or organizational behavior courses that raise issues around managing performance and leveraging team and individual capabilities.
Explore a framework for defining and learning to bound uncertainties. Identify levels of residual uncertainty. Understand elements of a crisis. Apply a leadership model to events that occur without warning.