Who wants to hear anything more about crisis management? Haven’t we heard enough of this with almost one year of Covid-crisis behind us? I think this is exactly the right time to speak about crisis management when we have learned so many things in the past year of what works and what doesn’t work. Moreover, a crisis does not always have to be a pandemic, but smaller bumps on the road can send organizations into crisis management - even more important to have a script ready at hand to deal with the crisis. A structured approach will help to focus and protect your valuable resources. Before jumping into the nuts and bolts of the structured approach for crisis management, I would like to focus on the most important subject: people, people, people. A crisis is the litmus test for how well people are managed and treated in your organization.
Shared purpose is stage, front and center in an organization! It creates the alignment necessary to permit people to constructively work together as a team, to benefit from the strengths of each individual and thus collectively achieve a common goal.
Provide Psychological safety: you want people to openly speak their mind, give feedback on the true state of affairs, take moderate risks and come forward with ideas and novel solutions to resolve everyday problems as well as crisis situations.
Reward experimentation: especially in a crisis situation, the old ways of doing things might not provide the solution, they might even be at the core of the problem. Consequently, people have to try out new ways of doing things: experiment, fail, try new, fail, try differently and succeed. People will only experiment if they feel that they can safely do so. Ask yourself honestly whether you are rewarding experimentation or penalizing it.
Once your organization has embraced the core values and people behaviors, the actual crisis management process runs like clockwork:
Start by understanding the burning platform. Key is to assemble a dedicated crisis task force and to develop a common view of what is at stake. There should always be a central place (often referred to as war room) where information comes together, the mission is owned by all and from where central messages are spread out.
Phase 2 is about setting the priorities and planning of concrete actions and activities. It is also important to decide what not to do to safeguard resources. Underlying all the phases is continued two-way communication keeping all stakeholders informed of priorities and action plans.
Phase 3 focuses on execution of the agreed plans and activities. Agility and speed are of the indispensible. You continuously do, check the results, and adapt where necessary.
The after-action-review is then performed after the crisis has been resolved. Review of plans, actions and outcomes helps the organization to learn and be even better prepared should another crisis come. You might also need to move into recovery mode now in order.
It is of the essence to constantly re-emphasize and live your values and people management.
Are you ready for a crisis coming from outside or within your organization?