Written by Anna Bernstein on 26 Jun 2014
No business wants to deal with a crisis but it always pays to prepare for the worst. Crises can arise from a number of sources be they technological problems, finance issues, poor public relations or even long term organisational conflicts or issues.
A crisis will occur suddenly and it’s important to act immediately and begin work on a resolution. Should a major incident take place, it is vital to know the steps to recovery in order to avoid sustaining any long term damage.
The first port of call is to determine the scope of the crisis and analyse the catalyst. Often once you identify the root of the issue the proactive crisis management planning process then becomes a relatively straight forward one – at least as much as it can be!
This will involve determining the worst case scenario in any given circumstance and having the pragmatism in order to suggest a workable solution. This sounds fairly obvious, but have you ever considered how your company would react in a crisis scenario? Do you have the necessary staff, resources and (or) expertise?
In the plan creation phase, it’s important to identify any existing risks and develop strategies around them to prevent any possible future crises before they happen – scenario planning is an essential underpinning.
Following a crisis, it may become necessary to bring in specialists from outside the company. The benefits of an interim manager are the fresh perspective that they can offer as well as the experience they have in dealing with complex business situations.
Interim managers are experts in dealing with this kind of situation. They lack the emotional connection allowing them to act quickly in order to deliver the best possible results. Objectivity is key; their emotional detachment ensures that their focus remains on the task in hand.
What’s more, their appointment can act as a reassurance to shareholders and other staff who may have lost confidence in the management team who were present at the time of the crisis.
An interim manager should be given the authority to deal with the situation but will require the cooperation of the crisis management team. This team should include the CEO, department heads, human resources and members of the media team.
They should be aware of the crisis management plan and be briefed as soon as possible following the incident. As mentioned before, identifying the root cause(s) of the crisis will be a key element of this briefing and each member of the team will be required to perform a specific task in the strategy implementation.
Members of staff are likely to be aware of a crisis situation even if they are not privy to all the details. Rumours and uncertainty can be detrimental or even destructive to a workforce as a whole. Department heads should make staff aware of the situation and how the company is working to resolve the immediate problems.
A crisis may have public consequences, and it’s important to manage the story within the media to avoid long term reputational damage. A consistent message should be delivered to all parties to ensure credibility and transparency.
While issues may arise from press statements, it is better in the long term to take ownership of the narrative than allow falsehoods to spread through silence assuring people that positive actions have been taken.
In recent times social media has allowed information to propagate at incredible speed. The social media team should monitor the situation and respond where appropriate in conjunction with the public relations team.
The solution to a crisis is only a small part of the overall plan - a paradox that one often fails to understand. Every crisis is different and there is an excellent learning opportunity to develop the skills required for high pressure situations.