In this episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & Chief Executive Bryan Strawser discusses how to craft a crisis management framework for your organization.
Related Episodes & Blog Posts
- Blog Post: How to Create and Conduct a Rewarding Crisis Management Exercise
- Blog Post: Suiting Up for a Crisis Part I: The Crisis Leader
- Episode #44: Successful Crisis Characteristics
- Episode #102: The Bryghtpath Business Continuity Framework
- Episode #133: How to Create and Conduct a Rewarding Crisis Management Exercise
Hello, and Welcome to The Managing Uncertainty Podcast. This is Bryan Strawser, Principal and Chief Executive here at Bryghtpath. And in this week’s episode, I’d like to talk about how to craft your crisis management framework. Now, you’ve probably heard from us and everyone else that every organization should develop and continually revise a crisis management plan which should then be exercised regularly. Why? Well, because listing procedures and blindly walking through them are only going to get you so far. To benefit you really need to get into your organization’s DNA and your approach to managing a crisis. So I want to explain why I think you need to bother about this and to do so, we need to talk about your crisis management framework. The goal of this, as you build your crisis management tools is that you need an underlying philosophy, a framework that will make all of your crisis management parts work together. A consistent framework across your company describes how you will make communicate and execute decisions when it matters in a crisis.
Think about your governing approach now, because a crisis is no time for confusion or making things up on the spot. Crisis management aims to plan for an effective, coordinated response with the resources available and the resources that you have and internal and external communication requirements before and after the crisis. Everybody, teams, and the top leadership of your company need to know what to do, or they will make mistakes that make matters worse in the moment. An established crisis management framework ensures that your executives can expect a consistent process and consistent communication no matter the crisis, should that crisis morph and pull in others and additional teams, then everyone still approaches crisis management from the same starting point with the same goals and the same shared expectations. Let’s start with the basics. To start building your framework, you need to your organization’s mission and vision statements. Everybody in your company and your organization needs these values as the foundation for all of your crisis management activity.
The first is when is it a crisis? A primary consideration is what constitutes a crisis and who declares it. Crises often start as a minor problem in one functional area. Often functional groups can contain and solve those issues before they can expand. If not, a crisis team might step in and they may solve the problem. Usually, your executives are not involved in these localized events, but this depends a lot on just how your company’s structured. If units can’t contain an issue, then they escalate, but you need to decide beforehand what the triggers are for those escalations. You want to create a hierarchy for escalation and determine who has decision-making authority. Delegating authority must be clear. Decide at the planning stage when you inform the CEO and the board. Depending upon how flat your company hierarchy is, in some companies your CEO might already be directly involved in managing this crisis situation.
Then we talk about determining the battle rhythm. The battle rhythm is your schedule that frames response activities, your internal and external reporting, status meetings, crisis team meetings, or even the length of those meetings. The battle rhythm supports your crisis team in issuing regular updates, even in a rapidly changing situation. Your battle rhythm ensures that teams address essential tasks, disseminate information, and use meeting time fruitfully despite any noise that teams might experience. A battle rhythm also ensures that teams understand when they will have to report status and help stakeholders know when the next update is coming. Then the team, but for anything else, you need to create a crisis management team that has clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
It needs escalation pathways to your senior executives and your board as well. Gather the team and assign roles before you start discussing your crisis management measures, make your team cross-functional so that you have expertise from all the critical functional areas in your company. Examples include business continuity, risk management, general counsel, legal, and other representatives. Then define who’s responsible for what aspects of the plan, who makes decisions, who communicates those decisions internally and externally. Your crisis management team can then help you create that plan.
Then there’s the crisis team leader. The crisis team leader’s sole responsibility is managing the crisis response process and helping to make decisions on the spot with the team. You could call them the incident leader or the crisis leader, but they should not be one of your senior executives. Your executives are busy making strategic decisions for the business and communicating with the company and others as needed. In addition, in a case of corporate malfeasance, you’re going to need an unsalable and neutral crisis leader who’s outside of your C-suite. Now, let’s talk about communications. I can’t stress enough how important good communication is in a crisis, internally and externally. We often forget internal communication, but it’s critical to support employees, removing stress and reducing demoralizing gossip.
You need to collect accurate information and share that across the organization horizontally and then vertically up to the C-suite. Define your internal messaging approach and decide who will be the single voice that communicates your message. Understand before an emergency the channels that each of your stakeholders requires. To communicate externally, designate someone or a team to communicate a unified clear message to the media, avoid gossip and mixed messages. Consider retaining a third-party organization to help with communication and engage outside consultants if communication becomes complicated. Although the type of crisis will dictate your tactical response, your overall response communication should be consistent. Creating templates as best you can ahead of time can bring uniformity to those areas in terms of voice, messaging, timing, and types of communication, and the look.
Consistency makes your company look professional and in control of the outside world, but it has benefits within the company too. The CEO and other executives should know to expect certain information at certain times, they also need to understand no matter the crisis what’s expected of them. Then you should frame your levels of response. Not every incident will require the same level of response. Your escalation protocol or severity levels will determine the triggers for activating different responses and what those responses should include. For example, when human safety is imperiled, you need an immediate set of responses to address physical injuries or potential fatalities. What about resources or what resources do you need during a crisis and how will you obtain and maintain them?
Resources, whatever you use in your regular workday, it could be pens, paper, laptops, internet connectivity, hotspot, coffee, coffee cups, but also third-party support like legal advisors. What other essential documents will you need access to? Contracts, employee rosters, insurance plans, SOPs, and more. What about your plan for your facilities being unusable or unstable? Consider finding secondary suppliers and vendors for critical items and plan for supplies for those alternates. What about supporting your executives and staff if your area is evacuated? Some companies make arrangements ahead of time to have places to house employees and leadership in safe areas.
Lastly, ongoing education. Keep everyone’s skills fresh and maintain muscle memory by exercising your crisis management plan regularly. Stay current with new threats and risks and update your plans and responses to reflect changes in the company. As you embark on your crisis management planning journey, your industry’s business continuity guidelines and applicable regulatory requirements can aid you in thinking about critical continuity measures. And of course, the experts here at Bryghtpath are always here to support you in your crisis management discussions. That’s it for this edition of The Managing Uncertainty Podcast, we’ll be back next week with another new episode. Be well.