How often have we heard the expression “this is completely out of control”?
A crisis of any magnitude can hit an organisation where it hurts without a moment’s notice and it doesn’t take long to lose control. The only protection is a well-rehearsed crisis management plan.
In a matter of minutes, a serious incident or emergency can run out of control and seriously disrupt a business 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, cyber crisis, 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 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, government, educational institutions, professional firms and research organisations. They often face the greatest damage from a negative event because they may lack the financial and managerial support required to respond and recover efficiently.
Ownership of crisis management planning must come from the top because most crises end up at the top. The top global executives recognise that crisis management is a corporate governance strategy and endorse its implementation. They know that a crisis out of control is liable to lead to loss of profits, lawsuits, loss of market share, serious loss of reputation and, in many cases, loss of senior jobs. After writing numerous plans for organisations, I am totally convinced that unless complete support of the Chief Executive and top management is assured, the crisis management program will flounder and never reach its currency. The day the Chief Executive or Managing Director endorses the organisation’s intentions to install a crisis management program is the day it really happens.