The crisis you don’t expect or plan for will be the one that’s likely to cause the most damage. And while a lot of pundits believe that a good manager is automatically a good crisis manager, it is important to understand that many managers cannot cope with the stress, pressure and abnormal behaviour that occurs during a crisis.
Most normal management behaviour is reversed. One minute you are managing a business, the next minute you have to manage a crisis. Different skills under different pressures.
How many managers can move rapidly from the normal pace of a business meeting to the hectic, urgent demanding pace of life and death decisions, evacuation, emotional trauma and split-second timing?
Containment is the key. Managers who are prepared, rehearsed, educated, trained and aware are those that can make the transition when crisis hits and contain the situation.
If there is a single, critical feature to being prepared for crisis, it is in treating crisis management and recovery as an ongoing process. Seeing it as an integral part of the company’s everyday business activities, not merely as a plan that is created, approved, then shelved until needed.
It is a process that has the whole company - from site management to CEO and Board - trained, tested and involved in a crisis management plan that is integrated seamlessly across the whole organisation. And regularly monitored, reviewed and audited, just like any other quality control policy that is demanded by compliance factors in today’s business environment.
To achieve this, there are a number of critical features of a crisis plan that facilitates speedy business resumption. Whether the crisis is an oil and chemical spill or explosion, a tainted food product or charges of business corruption, a crisis management and recovery plan must:
- Have tactical decisions made at the crisis location, and quickly. (This is where the public focus will be initially.)
- Localise the response, while maximising corporate and strategic assistance.
- Provide training and support to give
staff the skills and confidence so they can manage the
stage of a crisis, and back them up with appropriate technology.
- Create a tailor-made plan around uniform standards, company-wide.
- Develop realistic simulation and training exercises.
- Start planning for recovery before a crisis occurs.
- Instil a company-wide recognition of the potential impact of a crisis.
What fundamentally distinguishes crisis-prepared, from crisis-prone organisations, is their overall cultural view of crisis management and recovery.
Strategic actions, technical and structural response, communication initiatives and psychological support have to be part of an integrated management plan and process that immediately puts the organisation in charge of its own destiny.
This process must be a crisis management corporate preparedness program of total commitment by its executives and staff to key stakeholders.