An organization crisis could be defined as something that involves one or more of the following events: creates a negative impact on the financial condition of the organization; threatens to disrupt or even eliminate product lines; poses as a health risk to employees, consumers or the environment and compromises or obliterates the organization’s reputation.
Another dimension of the definition of an organizational crisis includes the unexpectedness of a crisis often due to human limits of perception, failing to proactively detect trends that foresee crises and engaging in the complicated psychological defense mechanism of denial.
Characterizing organizational crises should also incorporate examples of crises types that frequently test crisis plans implemented by aggressively thorough companies. These types include but are not limited to:
- Bribery or extortion
- Data sabotage
- Workplace terrorism/bombing
- Hostile takeovers (internal or external)
- Environmental disasters
- Security breaches
- Product/package tampering/product recalls
- Natural disasters
Crisis plans developed specifically to manage a sudden catastrophe are only considered effective if these plans are rigorously implemented by an appointed crisis manager and a team of players qualified to mitigate damage. Consequently, crisis training education is essential for managers and players to learn how to rapidly evaluate a crisis situation and initiate actions capable of sustaining the organization, minimizing loss of revenue and reputation and reducing the risk of such an event from happening again.
A Crisis Manager’s Survival Guide
What makes a crisis manager exceptionally valuable and successful during times of crises? In addition to remaining calm and level-headed, anyone in a position of crisis leadership should:
1. Understand Without Reservation that all Organizations are vulnerable to Crisis Events.
Companies and their crisis managers unwilling to admit they are not bulletproof to major problems inevitably respond carelessly and reactively to catastrophes. When you have no crisis plans and focus only on “cleaning up the mess” by hastily throwing together a mishmash of concerned-for-the-moment, improvisational fixes, you risk severely compromising your company with repeated occurrences of the same type of crises.
2. Understand that Constantly Testing and Revising Crisis Plans are Essential for Quickly and Effectively Coping with Various Crises
Developing scenarios involving probable crisis situations and testing the efficacy of crisis management teams in handling unexpected organizational meltdowns greatly improves the outcome of a crisis. Testing and revising crisis plans also strengthens the perception of a crisis manager as an authoritative individual who can be relied on to maneuver a company out of crisis mode and into sustainability mode.
3. Always have a Clear and Definitive Crisis Management Plan.
Although crisis management plans contain information key to addressing all nuances of a crisis, it should be considered as a reference guide to possible actions to take and not a strict blueprint. Even if a company experiences two crises of the same nature, extenuating variables will dictate how it should be managed. In other words, good crisis leadership should never view one crisis plan as “step-by-step” instruction guide.
4. Incorporate Best Practices in Crisis Management
In many organizational crises, the media becomes interested and involved in the implications of a crisis on a company. Therefore, crisis leadership should employ best practices to minimize any negative impacts on a company’s reputation when dealing with media. For example, representatives (or the crisis leader) should not reply to questions with “no comment” to avoid giving the impression they are hiding something. Presenting information without the use of technical jargon or ambiguous statements is recommended so that the organization does not appear to be deliberately misinforming the public. Crisis management leaders representing their company need to appear calm while in the spotlight, maintain eye contact with others and speak in a strong, self-assured voice.
4. Maximize On Their Crisis Leadership Role
Humans unconsciously engage in a psychological phenomenon called “social proof”, which occurs primarily in business settings. Social proof involves people acting on the assumption or belief that another person possesses exceptionally authoritative knowledge. Social proof explains why people feel obligated to defer to those they perceive as authoritative. In fact, social and behavioral psychologists say that if someone is considered an authority in a particular field by others who do not see themselves as experts, those “unauthoritative” people will stop and listen to what the authority figure is saying.
5. Be Able to Think Critically and Prioritize Following Awareness of a Crisis Unfolding
During a crisis, certain issues need immediate attention while others may wait until more urgent problems are resolved. Crises leaders should have an almost instinctive ability to analyze and compartmentalize problems arising from a crisis, utilize their crisis management plan and develop insightful resolutions in a timely manner.
6. Identify in Their Crisis Plans Who They Will Utilize as External Crisis Leadership Professionals
Some crises are small enough to be managed by one person. Others may require action by the crisis management team. In the event an organizational crisis is far-reaching and severe, the crisis team leader should have already established a relationship with outside crisis management pros who provide specialized knowledge and experience necessary for navigating a potentially devastating crisis.
7. Possess the Ability to Make Critical Decisions Without Obtaining Approval
Crisis leadership demands a leader highly skilled with intuitively and logically appraising a situation with little input from others. Taking the time to obtain approval regarding decisions means a crisis manager is unsure of their capacity to cope with an unfolding crisis. Wasting valuable time seeking confirmation that they are making the right decision could make or break the long-term viability of any organization.
8. Know Where to Get Credible Information
Misinformation during a crisis is rampant simply because people are uncertain, frightened and desperate for new information. Crisis managers should know who they can rely on for factual, up-to-date information. Making decisions based on bad information will worsen the overall effect of the crisis and diminish the efficacy of established crisis plans
9. Accept Responsibility When a Crisis Takes a Wrong Turn
No one is perfect, not even the most seasoned crisis leader. Accepting responsibility for making a decision that does not provide the results expected or wanted should be assimilated as a learning experience instead of a failure.
10. Meet with the Crisis Team Following Resolution of a Crisis
Whether a crisis ended favorably, neutrally or unfavorably, a crisis management leader should always meet with their team, congratulate them on their efforts and hold a brainstorming session to share insights, suggestions and other proactive observations to reduce the risk of another crisis and improve on handling the next crisis.
Can we help you?
Bryghtpath has built the crisis plans for many Fortune 500 organizations, non-profits, and public sector agencies. Our firm has more than a century of experience in developing actionable plans to help prepare organizations for the unexpected. Learn more about our approach to Crisis Management in our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management.
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