After a long year of working with consultants, querying and coordinating with your departments, building out crisis plans and messaging, and exercising them with your people, you’ve FINALLY checked the box on “set up a crisis management program.”
Your crisis management plans are neatly collated in their new plastic-smelling binders and that extravagant fire extinguisher on the wall radiates glowing beams of polished red and “Take that, hurricane/active shooter/cyber breach!”
But this is not the time to get smug or complacent in your efforts.
One of the biggest misconceptions we see our clients make in starting up their crisis management program is in thinking it’s a one-and-done event.
But unlike its big brother, business continuity, the discipline of crisis management is inherently less formal. Which makes it all that more important to actively work at the things that will ensure your program doesn’t atrophy and dissolve when people move on to other roles or just simply forget about it. You have to make regular deposits into your crisis management bank account, ideally starting in year two, to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Here, we explain more about why stepping up your crisis management efforts in year two is so critical to your program’s long-term success and how to do it well.
When and Why You Need to Start Thinking About Year Two of Your Crisis Management Program
At the risk of dipping into a somewhat controversial topic, I think it’s helpful to think of an effective crisis management program as closely resembling a vaccine.
Both are designed to anticipate a likely threat. And after thoroughly researching and deconstructing that threat, experts then introduce something into the system that is designed to counter and mitigate it.
But in both cases, the threat evolves and changes over time—as does our own understanding of it. That’s why vaccine makers track things like vaccine effectiveness and modify their formula to account for both their learnings and changes to the virus.
The same can be said for your crisis management program. If you want your crisis response to actually be effective against all of those pesky crises that can derail your operations and ruin your reputation, you have to continuously and regularly invest in your crisis management program by:
- Looking for new and better ways to involve members of your organization in crisis management planning activities, including things like exercises, meetings, training, and internal awareness
- Capitalizing on crisis management wins and developing messaging that builds a culture of resilience in your organization
- Advocating with leaders and executives to build support for crisis management efforts
- Planning in advance for your next year’s crisis management activities to get the resources and buy-in you need to grow and mature your program.
Most companies don’t think ahead about these things. So those who do have a massive edge over the competition when they are able to respond successfully and efficiently during a crisis. I have an entire treasure chest of client anecdotes that can attest to this truth.
If you want your crisis management program to be more than merely an exercise in creating fancy plans that proceed to collect dust and are eventually forgotten—to actually succeed in helping your company lead through the next crisis with confidence and poise—-you need to think and plan ahead.
The best time to start is early in your year two activities, ideally well before you’re nearing the year one finish line. That way, you can set expectations and get the buy-in you need to sustain your program. Here are some of the things you should be thinking about.
5 Things Every Crisis Management Program Needs to Do in Year Two
1. Build a culture of resilience.
When people come to us with problems getting the resources and support they need to run their business continuity and crisis management programs, the first question I usually ask is:
“What are you doing to build a culture of resilience within your organization?”
We think of a resilience culture as a way of thinking, acting, and planning within your organization that helps your organization better respond to change, disruption, and crisis. And although it evades a clear-cut ROI and takes some time, fostering a culture of resilience is arguably one of the top things you can do to get buy-in for your business continuity and crisis management program.
While year one is about getting your crisis management plan rooted in your organization, year two should emphasize creating a culture of resilience that gives your program the fertile ground it needs to flourish and grow. The best way to do that is to know your crisis management program story–your program’s why, what, and how—and continually look for opportunities to share that story within your organization.
Some potential ways to share your business continuity story and build a culture of resilience include things like:
- Getting on the agenda with senior leadership and departmental units and sharing your program’s story
- Hosting lunch and learn events to educate and provide a forum for discussing your program
- Leveraging annual events, like national preparedness month or national cybersecurity awareness month, to showcase your program and the importance of crisis management as a discipline.
2. Implement a crisis management lifecycle.
A lot of businesses make the common mistake of thinking that business continuity and crisis management planning is a linear process, rather than a circular one. But the threats to your business will inevitably change, as will your capacity to respond to those threats, whether because of investments in training, changes in staffing, or changes to technology and other tools.
It’s important to have a lifecycle—a set schedule for reviewing your crisis management inputs, plans, and documents–on a regular basis to make sure that everything is up to date and your crisis management plans are optimized for the ever-evolving threat environment.
Your lifecycle doesn’t need to be complicated. We recommend that our clients follow a four-step process that includes the following:
- Assessing your threats and their potential impacts on your business
- Adjusting and improving your plans based on new insights
- Exercising your plans as part of training or in responding to actual crisis events
- Maturing your program by regularly gleaning from lessons learned and adjusting your program accordingly.
The important thing is to make sure you get these steps on the calendar at regular intervals to ensure your plans and documents are reviewed on a consistent basis.
3. Recruit and empower program champions.
Along with your executive sponsor, it’s critical that you engage and equip the people on your crisis management team and other involved stakeholders to be champions for your program. They can serve as important force multipliers in spreading the message about crisis management within your organization.
Ideally, your champions should be people who already get the importance of business continuity and crisis management to your organization’s success. They should also have the skills and capacity to translate that important message across your organization.
Starting from the top down with those who are the most passionate about your mission, take the time to actively meet with your program champions. Ask them questions about their own departmental objectives, the roadblocks and obstacles they often encounter, and what you can do to help empower them in their crisis management role.
4. Ensure senior leader accountability.
Whether your business is highly regulated or not, it’s implicit on your leadership to demonstrate to customers, investors, auditors, and regulators that your company is equipped to handle unplanned crisis events and get back to business safely and quickly.
But what many senior leaders don’t understand is that their responsibility doesn’t stop after year one of their crisis management program. As the program owner, it’s your job to educate them on why they need to care about crisis management in year two and beyond AND what their respective obligations are to fulfill their board and executive duties to this end.
You can help forward their understanding and accountability by (1) getting them involved in annual training exercises that help inform them of their role in a crisis response and crisis planning as a whole, (2) building metrics and post-event case studies that show the value and ROI on their investment in crisis management.
5. Create a plan to mature your crisis management program.
As you start to build your organization’s resiliency “muscles,” you will likely discover that your original program goals and objectives start to change, as do external and internal inputs that influence those goals. You need to have a plan to intelligently and sustainably mature your program over time.
This includes at least annually, asking and answering questions like:
- Where is our organization headed in terms of strategy, business objectives, and long-term goals?
- How can our crisis management program support that strategy?
- How have our crisis management objectives changed from last year?
- What do we want our crisis management program to look like in years three, four, and five and beyond?
- What other resiliency capabilities do we need to build out, like business continuity and IT disaster recovery?
- What are our organization’s new objectives that could change our resource commitment, and where can we show our crisis management program’s alignment in fulfilling larger organizational goals?
If you’re a crisis management owner seeking to optimize and mature your crisis management program and other resilience efforts, Bryghtpath can help.
Want to work with us or learn more about Crisis Management?
- 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 the 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.
- Learn about our Free Resources, including articles, a resource library, white papers, reports, free introductory courses, webinars, and more.
- Set up an initial call with us to chat further about how we might be able to work together.