First of all what is a crisis as what may seem a crisis to one business it may not seem to be to another.
A crisis is deemed to be an abnormal situation or perception, which threatens the operation, staff, customers or reputations of an organisation. Disasters cannot be put into boxes or contained within boundaries. They are no respecters of people, buildings, companies, services or local, national or even international governments. There are no boundaries, they bring chaos and you will never be sure when or where they will happen.
What must always be remembered is that there is a human factor to be considered as not everybody reacts the same under stress, there may be casualties, people may be frightened, it may be difficult to think and guaranteed there will be a thirst for knowledge.
To be able to manage let alone get through a crisis can put demands on people and departments that can have detrimental effects on not only the company but the people. It can drain not only your staff but your resources of energy and can then have an effect on decision makers and the outcome of the critical decisions they need to make. So what can be done after the crisis is over to ease these types of pressure and how can you prepare your staff and company to cope better for the future?
Don’t assume business if back to normal once operations seem to be working again, there are other aspects to your business that will have been affected due to the past crisis event.
These could include:
Much time and effort goes into developing and implementing an emergency preparation plan such as a crisis management plan, but no matter how diligently you work to perfect this plan there is only one true test of its efficacy. When a real crisis breaks, your team is deployed, your processes are applied and implemented and your media spokesman has to stand before a crowd of reporters with cameras and microphones thrust into his face. That is when you will know if your plan will work or not. And you will also find out how professionally the people that you have chosen to implement this plan are able to handle the situation under pressure when the heat is on.
So, having had the “benefit” of a real crisis to test your plans and people to the limit, you owe it to yourself and your organisation to act on any mistakes and shortcomings. It is always enlightening to reflect upon the past crisis and the manner in which it was handled.
However, you must go beyond reflection and into the analysis of lessons learnt and then action.
Determine what worked and what did not. Evaluate whether all policies were followed in accordance with the documented procedures. If not, why not? Does your plan require modification based on your real life experience or do your people require more training to confidently and successfully apply it, or perhaps both?
It can and will be tough to be able to benefit from a crisis however you and your team need to look at it afterwards as on opportunity to learn and to be able to critique current crisis policies, and enhance and refine any items that require it. Successfully achieving this requires a determination to avoid both pointing blame and a “it was not me” approach. If either of these attitudes prevails, you will not benefit from the valuable learning’s that lie within your crisis experience.
And the danger of this is that the factors that caused the crisis to emerge in the first place may still be lying dormant within your organisation ready to create another crisis in a few months’ time…
Everybody at some point will experience a crisis be it large or small, it can be something minor like a power failure outage or something as catastrophic as the office building being burnt to the ground, the important factor is no matter what the size of the crisis is or how prepared you are in your emergency preparedness planning, something will always go not to plan and there will always be lessons to learn.
Here are some tips to help take some of the pressures away with managing a crisis and assisting you to take a crisis as an opportunity to build yourself and your company to be stronger and more robust for the future
Build and implement a workable communications plan so that people who need to know are made aware of developments as the crisis situation changes. Communicate to staff so that they know what to do, where to go, how to work, communicate, collect wages etc etc. Your staff are your number one asset and you need to work for them as much as your clients. Communicate with clients, suppliers, vendors etc and finally communicate with the media and use them as your ally, but beware poor media communications can be as damaging or worse than the crisis itself. Ensure all communications are timely, accurate and relevant.
Building the right team to manage a crisis is imperative. It is good to have key workers as crisis team managers as they have the man management skills and the company operational know how to get things done, senior management don’t always make the best crisis team management leaders, however they are essential to have on-board as you need them to be the decision makers. Once a team is selected and roles assigned the team needs to be tested in various different scenarios to clarify roles and responsibilities and also capabilities of each of those team members. Build a strong and unified team at this point to that you are better prepared come the time of a crisis event.
Simplify your business and your life. Switch to a notebook so that you can be mobile in the event you have to travel or be away from home for a length of time or even loose the use of your office environment. Always use an online backup service so that backing up is automatic and if possible off-site. Try to have crisis bulletin emails pre prepared and available to hand
You need to realise that your business may never be the same again after a crisis has passed. You will have to adjust to your new situation, your new environment and even new office location and this may mean working fewer or more hours, having fewer clients, or having to try to rebuild you client base and be prepared to move to a portable-type of workload.
• Lessons Learnt:
• Could the crisis have been avoided?
• Were there early warning signs?
• Which warning signals were ignored?
• What point did you realise you had a crisis?
• To what extend were you prepared?
• Did you have a solid plan?
• Did you have right people on the team?
• What was nature of communications and how effective were they?
• Public spokesperson, did you have one and were they effective?
• Was leadership visible
• Were all responses timely and adequate?
• What can you prevent from happening again?
• What did you do right?
• If you could replay the entire event what would you do differently?
How you handle your crisis will ultimately affect your business, positively or negatively. You can minimise the stress and make the most of a bad situation by planning for the inevitable, keeping a positive attitude, and knowing that you WILL survive.
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