Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Asian crisis management

I have just returned from facilitating crisis management workshops and training exercises in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India and there is growing and refreshing understanding of crisis management processes in government and business in those countries.

Recognition of the dramatic effect of the Japanese earthquake, the Indonesian tsunami, the Kashmir and China earthquakes, Cyclone Nargis and other disasters in the region, plus events such as China's national dairy recall crisis over tainted baby milk and the horrendous terrorist attack in Mumbai, have all played a part in convincing Asian governments and corporations that crisis management planning is central to preparing for the unthinkable. There is much more crisis management strategic interaction between national and provincial governments, and the private sector is including crisis management and business continuity as a responsible process in risk management strategy, preparedness, response and recovery.

I experienced top management and corporate leadership in Singapore, Bangkok and Bangalore endorsing crisis management education in terms of training, finance, material equipment and personnel. At one large manufacturing site in Thailand, I was delighted to see their current Crisis Management Team displayed on a wall chart adjacent to the central conference room. The room itself was set up to manage an escalating crisis with phones, whiteboards and appropriate technology in place. They also proudly showed me their crisis incident rehearsal schedule. They are more than ticking boxes - they are passionate about the maintenance of their program.

In Asia, there is undoubtedly a growing awareness of how a local crisis in a small village can now escalate rapidly to global front-page news and how people issues can be the active centre of a critical event.

As Japan moves firmly towards its earthquake recovery, the rest of Asia is reassessing its critical threats with the knowledge that even the worst case scenario can continue to escalate, and serious scenario planning is needed to prepare for such catastrophes.