Sunday, May 30, 2010

CEO crisis manager

Good to see Qantas Chief Executive, Alan Joyce, extolling the virtues of crisis management in Business Review Weekly magazine. "Flexibility and adaptability is really key," says Alan Joyce, the diminutive, Irish-born Chief Executive of Qantas, without any hint of irony. "We have a fairly refined crisis management team and crisis management process, probably more so than many other companies." Joyce was talking about a broad range of threats including the volcano turmoil where Qantas lost $10 million during the threat to air travel. "It's what (my predecessor) Geoff Dixon calls the constant shock syndrome...we plan on a steady state and then we plan scenarios and risks around that. But the volcano would not have been on the risk register." (BRW May 6-12,2010 - Managing the Unmanageable)

There is determined growing recognition among CEOs that crisis management is part of day-to-day planning. The process, its respondents and its leaders need to have matured either in an arena of real crises or with the experience of test runs. Best practice is practice. CEOs and crisis teams need to practise together. Organisations never know when the worst case scenario can happen but they can be prepared to handle adversity and minimise the impact when it does.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CEO crisis leadership

As we can see from current global crises, there is no hiding place for the CEO in a crisis. And when the big one hits, it is the CEO who will end up facing the music.

It is inevitable the CEO will be pursued for their views and opinions. What did they do? What did they say? Every stakeholder involved in the organisation knows that the company stands the best chance of surviving if the leadership is from the top and on top.

Ensuring the cultural approach to managing a crisis must have the imprimatur of the CEO. It is they who should proactively oversee the corporate crisis management strategy that will work in a crisis situation. However, the levels of unpreparedness, inexperience and defensive reactions that still exist in many organisations generally indicate that many lessons have not yet been learned.

To see the CEO walking the talk in crisis planning is a statement of strong leadership that will direct the organisation to the high ground when the worst case scenario happens.

In the end, the buck stops at the top. In rapid escalation, the sooner the CEO leads the agenda, the better.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Unpredictable crises 2010

The Financial Times has suggested that disaster management is a growth market, particularly related to unexpected events such as the tragic deaths and subsequent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, the sovereign debt crisis in Greece and the ongoing volcanic ash closing down air space in Europe.

Having the resilience to control an unpredictable event is the role of crisis management and when emergency response systems can't cope, strategic crisis management needs to kick in to respond swiftly to reputational brand and governance issues. The simple questions I would ask any organisation are:

* what are the worst case scenarios that could hit your business?
* what is the most inconvenient time for this to happen?
* do you have a strategic plan to deal with it?
* who will lead your response?
* can you contact/involve your key stakeholders rapidly?
* where will you manage the response from?
* can you continue to run the rest of the business?
* what are your short and long term recovery goals?

Now is the time to plan to limit the effects of an escalating unforeseen event. With a strategic crisis plan you can.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Social media for crisis response

Major corporations and government are faced with the reality that frontline crisis communication is now being seriously influenced by social media. The use of Twitter, Facebook and blogs is a paramount tool in taking the high ground.

Treading the proven path of communicating with key stakeholders through the usual internal and external media continues to be a priority but it is essential to listen to and talk the language of crisis conversation on the web.

Don't wait to deal with social media until a crisis occurs. Get your social media strategy together before the worst case scenario so as to gain maximum social media optimisation. Be sure you have the language of conversation right too - social media needs to be delivered with open dialogue and the process linked to the most effective internet search engines. Social media requires careful monitoring so that the key issues related to the crisis are being identified and dealt with as they occur.

Remember - news editors, producers and journalists are watching the web to read conversations in every crisis. Social media has to be part of your response strategy.