Over the years, Steelhenge has witnessed board-level crisis responses from a large number of organisations in greatly varying sectors and geographic locations. There are certain key issues which come up again and again, and we hope to give an insight into some of these over the coming weeks.
The first key area that top-level teams consistently struggle to manage is the strategic element of a crisis response. The temptation is to dive into the detail, get operational and derive comfort from dealing in the familiar. There will be ‘fires at your feet’ and they will need fighting, but it is the executive team’s role to watch the horizon; the ‘gold’ team should be looking ahead whilst those around them plan (‘silver’) and deliver (‘bronze’) on their decisions and direction.
This is where conceptual thinking models work well; simple approaches designed to capture the core elements of strategic thinking with which a gold-level crisis team should be engaging. Few senior executives know their organisation’s crisis plans well, and many have never even read them. The one tool they need is a very simple, well-structured key activity process to keep them on track.
A good set of crisis procedures is a great start – it provides those critical checklists needed to help staff working under immense pressure. These help focus discussions, give guidance and a sense of structure and provide familiarity in a situation when so much is often unknown.
10 of the key strategic questions that ‘gold’ executive-level crisis response teams should be asking:
- What do I know about the incident and what assumptions am I making?
- What issues do we face?
- What is the worst-case scenario?
- What information do I need and where can I get it?
- What needs to happen over the next hour? 5 hours? Day? Week? Month?
- What is the public perception of what is happening?
- Do we know all our stakeholders?
- Are we communicating efficiently both internally and externally?
- What are the likely short- and long-term consequences of our actions?
- What will we need for an efficient recovery once the incident is over?