In a matter of minutes, a serious incident or emergency can run out of control and seriously disrupt a business or organisation with catastrophic effect. In some cases, it takes years to recover.
The right response actions can minimise serious damage and can quickly put an organisation in control of its destiny. Management needs to consider the organisation strategically and ask what is the worst thing that could possibly happen. Fire, financial problems, lawsuits, product defect, sexual harassment, act of violence, terrorism, security breach, technology collapse, executive misconduct or environmental issues to name a few. With the most likely threats in mind, management can prepare strategies to avoid or manage a potential problem and control the agenda.
Reading between the lines in today’s media and social media reports of crises, it is easy to see which organisations have anticipated the problem and have a planning process in place to deal with it. If an organisation is ready, then there will be a clear message about what is being done and who is doing it.
It is not just large organisations that need to have comprehensive and integrated crisis management plans. All organisations need to anticipate crises. It is so important that small and medium-sized organisations look at their worst-case scenarios. The service industry, local government, educational institutions, professional firms and research organisations.
The simple questions I would ask any organisation related to crisis management are:
- what is the worst-case scenario that could hit your organisation?
- what is the most inconvenient time for this to happen?
- do you have a plan to deal with it?
- who will lead your response?
- can you contact your key stakeholders rapidly?
- where will you manage the response from?
- have you identified ways to continuing to run your business?
- what are your short-term and long-term recovery goals?
The keys to successful crisis management are fast, strategic response from top management, accuracy of information, putting people first and protecting brand and reputation. Credibility in crisis means being ready to handle the worst-case scenario.