Know what conditions to expect in a crisis, and get ready for them.
High performance crisis teams that are well informed on the crisis conditions/traps tend to be better prepared, more proactive, and use safeguard more effectively/systematically.
Therefore, after assembling your core team and going over the crisis meeting process, it's important to go over the crisis conditions so that the team can start brainstorming solutions. Most people have never experienced a crisis, so it's important they understand what they will be up against. Doing this early on will also help you design better plans and procedures down the line.
01 | Assemble the team and go over the following list of conditions (which are not listed in any particular order):
- At the start of the crisis, you will often be flooded by questions from stakeholders right from the outset and have little info to provide them.
- At the start of the crisis, you may not have much information on which to base decisions
- At the start of the crisis and during some critical moment, you and the team will need to make decisions much more rapidly than usual, without all the info, analysis you are used to. Most people and teams become paralyzed by this, unless they have systems in place and training in this.
- At the start of the crisis, you will often not have all the resources (human. technical) that you want or need. This often derails crisis teams at the start unless backups are already in place.
- Once information starts pouring in, it often comes in a flood (facts and rumours). You and your team will have difficulty filtering all the the info in the time available (unless you have systems in place and a lot of people working on this). Teams often become paralyzed by the info flood
- You may get conflicting info from different sources with no clear way of sorting rumour from fact.
- You may not be able to access the incident site, or get in touch with those at/near the site.
- Your critical thinking will be affected by stress, even if you are not aware of it, and tend to jump to conclusions (unless you are using a formal decision-making process).
- Your team will suffer stress effects, including decreased cognitive performance and increased bias in their decision-making. Some will cope much less well than you or they anticipated.
- Your team will get tired quickly and their performance will drop within a few hours.
- You will be under intense scrutiny/observation by stakeholders (media, executives, family, employees, govt, etc).
- If your crisis is international, you will have to deal with highly complex communication challenges (due to technical reasons, geographical issues, time difference, political issues, language, procedural reasons etc).
- A high number of people or executives often want or demand to be part of the CMT, or to observe.
- Your usual mean of communication (phone, internet, software) sometimes become unavailable due to technical issues or because they are blocked by others (ie. governments)
- Social media will spread information and rumours very rapidly, possibly also on network you don't know or on private networks.
- You will have very little control on information once it is released externally
- Media will often want to run a story (with or without your help)
- Stakeholders will demand and expect information and updates right from the start (ie within 20-30 min!).
- Stakeholders may take independent action if they are not sufficiently informed or think the CMT is mismanaging the crisis.
- In some type of crisis, other crisis teams may take independent action. For example a govt crisis team or another organization with people/assets at stake.
- Competitors may take advantage of your crisis.
- Your reputations (personal, team or organizational) are very vulnerable from the onset and damage can be long lasting.
- The speed at which stories break and the pressure this imposes on traditional media outlets
- Increased pace and fierce media competition make accuracy and quality of reporting increasingly challenging
- Social media makes it much easier for reporters to access sources (official and unofficial) and content (interviewees, images, video)
02 | Ask each team member to (individually) identify the conditions they feel the team may not be prepared for, and to write each on a post-it note. Do this individually.
03| Collect the post-it notes and put them up on a board. Group the ones that are repeated. Dividing them into two columns, operational and reputational, can also help visualize problem areas. Discuss each post-it note in turn. This helps everyone understands each other's point of view.
04| Once all the issue have been discussed, get the team to prioritize them (perhaps in terms of urgency and importance). Make sure not to avoid or sideline important issues just because they fall outside your comfort zone.
04| Discuss what can be done to manage each of the important and urgent conditions. Do you have a strategy, system, team or role in place to mitigate them? Make an action plan to address the gaps. This may require another meeting if there are many issues to resolve. If you have questions on how to address a condition, write it in the comment box below and we will offer suggestions.
Without talking too tediously on the value of crisis preparation, it is important for the team to recognize that just one or two of these conditions are enough to derail your crisis management efforts.
Have advice to share with other readers? We'd love to hear from you. Please use the comment box below.