A forklift accident results in a fatality. What do you do?
Emotions are running high, and you have a million thoughts running through your head.
What do I tell the boss? How do I handle the publicity?
This is the situation our client found themselves in when a forklift accident caused a fatality at their supply warehouse. With some help, the organization was able to turn this crisis into an advantage by establishing credibility for the new Chief Security Officer (CSO), creating a better leadership team for crises at the company, and investing in post-incident mental health for impacted employees.
How do you respond when a crisis strikes? Do you overreact to the situation and put yourself in a fight or flight mode? This is a typical response that we have seen from many of our clients and other organizations trying to battle a crisis. But rather than being overwhelmed by the situation, successful organizations know how to take advantage of a crisis.
In this article, we’ll explore changing your mindset, positive ways to prepare to take advantage of a crisis, and more real-life examples of organizations in a crisis.
Why Changing Your Mindset is the First Big Step in a Crisis
A crisis can be scary, but it will happen no matter what. A natural response is to run away or ignore it, but that will not help the situation.
To avoid this, we encourage you to embrace uncertainty and consider it a way to better your organization. Organizations that do this well are stronger and able to bounce back from a crisis as a more resilient organization, allowing them to face uncertainty better in the future.
3 Tactics to Take Advantage of a crisis
1. Prepare ahead of time.
First, create an overall crisis management framework that provides clear roles and responsibilities across the organization. Then, create plans around different crisis scenarios that your organization may face. Doing so will help relieve stress when a crisis happens so that you can better handle any problems.
In 2012, a retail store that two of our analysts worked with experienced a major crisis when Hurricane Sandy hit. Since they had already experienced several hurricanes before, they knew that preparing a crisis management framework & a specific, detailed plan for hurricanes ahead of time would be crucial in ensuring the safety of their employees and their ability to bounce back.
This organization’s preparation allowed them to come out of the crisis ahead of their competitors because their preparation meant that they were able to reopen their stores far ahead of their competition.
2. Improve your crisis management plans.
A huge mistake many organizations make is viewing creating crisis management plans as a “check the box” exercise rather than as part of an overall resilience strategy . Then when a crisis happens, no one actually knows how to handle the situation as they’re not familiar with the plan and have never really practiced it in a crisis exercise.
To set your organization up for success, you’ll need to find areas where your crisis management plans need to be improved. Having routine exercises in place and conducting after-action reports is a great way to find weak points in your organization’s plans.
Once you have completed exercises and after-action reports, sit down with your team and establish any changes you need to make to your plans. From there, you can conduct other exercises to test your plans and ensure that during a crisis your organization can be resilient.
3. Learn to take advantage of a crisis from other organizations.
When in doubt, look at other organizations in your industry that handle crisis well. Doing this allows leaders to gain insights into best practices, avoid common mistakes, and develop a framework for effective crisis management.
Benchmark your organization with others in the industry. This can especially help when looking for ways to improve crisis management programs.
3 Critical Moves During the Crisis
1. Get out in front of the crisis.
The last thing you want to do in a crisis is put off dealing with it or downplay the situation.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened in 2010, BP allowed oil to pour into the Gulf for weeks before making any “attempts” to cap the spill. On top of that, the way the company publicly responded to the incident showed BP did not seem to see that time was of the essence or take the future of the Gulf Coast seriously.
Overall, BPs response caused consequential damage to the organization, which took significant effort to repair.
The best thing you can do when a crisis strikes is act immediately. Rely on the plans that your organization has put into place.
2. Control the narrative.
Learning how to control the narrative in a crisis means your organization is either going to make something happen to change the narrative or choose to focus on a different part of the narrative.
In 2018 at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, a manager called the police on two African-American men who had asked to use the bathroom but were denied because they hadn’t ordered anything. A video of the men being arrested went viral and sparked widespread outrage and protests, with many accusing Starbucks of racial discrimination.
The company responded immediately by apologizing to the men. After further investigation, they made changes to their company policy, added racial bias training, and established a partnership with the NAACP.
Starbucks’ crisis response acknowledged and addressed the issue of racial bias. It was seen as proactive and effective in addressing concerns raised by the incident.
How your organization responds to a crisis is what will control the narrative, whether for good or bad.
3. Use the crisis to gain resources.
During a crisis, organizational weaknesses become apparent, providing a crucial opportunity for leaders to identify areas that require improvement or fixing. These areas may have previously been targeted for improvement, but due to various reasons, the initiatives may have been met with resistance.
Suppose a crisis management leader makes a request for additional funding to enhance emergency notification capability but is denied. Then, following an unfortunate incident, such as an active shooter situation within the organization, an opportunity arises to secure the required funding. As a result, the request for enhanced emergency notifications is re-submitted and approved.
Pay attention to the crisis at hand and use it so that you can better respond to different events in the future.
Want to work with us or learn more about how to take advantage of a crisis?
- Our proprietary Resiliency Diagnosis process is the perfect way to advance your business continuity & crisis management program. Our thorough standards-based review culminates in a full report, maturity model scoring, and a clear set of recommendations for improvement.
- Our Crisis Management services help you rapidly grow and mature your program to ensure your organization is prepared for the storms that lie ahead.
- Our Crisis Management Academy is a complete online course that builds strong crisis leaders & effective crisis programs.
- Our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management contains everything you need to know about Crisis Management.
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