Five tips on how to successfully manage a crisis
Crisis? What crisis? While unthinkable for many organisations, the occasional crisis is unavoidable for most. Due to their nature, extent and potential impact, a crisis can constitute a decisive moment for every organisation. So how can you prepare a crisis team so that, as an organisation, you can continue to make the right choice at the right time? Here, our crisis experts provide five indispensible tips on how to confidently pre-empt a crisis.
Tip 1: dare to carry on
It might sound like stating the obvious, but in practice this is far from the truth. In a crisis it’s absolutely essential to continue to act. If you do nothing you’ll be wasting valuable time and not asking the right questions. It’s at the start of a crisis that the likelihood of freezing – and thus failing to act – is at its greatest. The reason for this is that in a crisis situation the initial phase is the most complex and difficult to put into perspective.
So how should you deal with it all in the real world? Well, firstly by making supplementary contour analyses. Answering the six w-questions will give you insights into a crisis situation. Even if you are unable to answer some of these questions, you’ll still be able to shed some light on existing shortfalls and you can link the relevant actions to these. Carrying out such an analysis will always minimise the likelihood of non-action. By collating information and converting it into “actionable intelligence” you will start up the natural process of taking action that much quicker.
Tip 2: filter the information
During a crisis, having the correct information is essential because it enables you to focus. Unfortunately, crisis situations are typically characterised by inadequate, missing, superfluous and even conflicting information. Moreover, there will often be insufficient time to verify or test all the information. For the Crisis-Management Team (CMT), in particular, this will be an almost impossible situation that will lead to making poorly informed decisions.
Information can be filtered through two convenient channels before it reaches the CMT. Firstly, Crisis-Management Information systems can detect, filter and prioritise the correct information (1). However, these represent a substantial investment and such a system is much less useable in the event of a cyber attack. The alternative is a well-trained Information-Management Team (2), comprising various Content-Matter Experts (CME) who can collect information quickly and effectively. Because these experts filter the initial information and put it into the right context, they can make the best decisions.
Tip 3: communicate transparently
In the hope that it might not be noticed, it’s quite tempting to wait until a crisis is over before communicating it to the outside world. Unfortunately, this will be counterproductive. If something is not right, the public will realise it very quickly. That’s why it’s best to communicate your progress as honestly, openly and as often as possible. Keep using available lines of communication and provide fresh information on a regular basis.
This can be accomplished in the form of two roles: namely “voice-to-business” and “voice-to-client”. The people playing these roles ensure that all stakeholders are given the right information at the right time. Within the context of the CMT they are also responsible for communicating new information externally and constantly challenging the team members about which information they can share.
Tip 4: know your role, embrace it, and keep playing it
Roles and responsibilities in a crisis can be unclear, particularly when the pressure is really on. This can result in the wrong person making the wrong decision at the wrong time. Such a decision will enjoy scant support and will be based on incorrect or incomplete information. It can be a dangerous mistake.
The good news is that it’s a mistake that can be avoided. Make sure in advance that clear agreements are made about who does what, and the associated decision-making powers. This will eliminate any possible grey areas when the going gets tough. It is crucial that people know their respective roles and limit themselves to only playing their own role. Don’t be afraid to make it clear to team members if they are exceeding their capabilities and expertise. It will inject clarity into the situation and ensure that you have the right person, in the right place, at the right time.
Tip 5: keep practising
Experiencing and dealing with a crisis situation is not like riding a bike; it is something that can be forgotten. Coping with stress, complexity and the pressure of time is not something we do every day. It’s a skillset that you have to continue developing and regularly evaluating. “There is no time for training on the job”.
Think you’re crisis-ready? Exercises and simulations form the basis for a well-trained CMT. During a simulation you will act out a crisis according to a predefined scenario, which will, of course, be both realistic and soluble. Existing plans are thus trialled and the team dynamics are put to the test. It goes without saying that a good simulation will be interactive and challenging. Participants will respond immediately to events, through social media, phone calls, press conferences, whatever. Being prepared and getting continuous practise are crucial if you are to successfully nip a crisis in the bud!
Would you like to get started with the practical implementation of crisis management? And do you already have some experience with risk management? Well, as it happens, our Risk Management unit is looking for a Senior Risk Consultant! Take a look at the details of the vacancy and waste no time in applying.