When a crisis hits, there are those whose immediate reaction is to want to stand alone and fight it themselves. However, the most successful crisis responses are those undertaken by a pre-established and well-rehearsed crisis management team, not one or two individuals. Last month on this blog we explored the personality types of the crisis management ‘loners’; here we explore why it is so vital for crisis management to be a team mission, and not an individual pursuit.
Just as people are hired for their expertise and experience to fulfil ‘business as usual’ roles, each member of the crisis management team brings different expertise and knowledge to the table, enabling them to provide a different perspective on the chosen response strategy. Whilst it is key to have a strong chairperson to ensure decisions are made quickly, drawing upon the expertise of senior management is a must. No one person can possibly be expected to understand all of the implications a decision may have on the entire organisation, especially when they’re making decisions under severe pressure and time constraints
Anyone who has been involved in a crisis will tell you they are tiring. Adrenaline keeps the team going for the first few hours – maybe even the first day – but people soon experience fatigue. If you have a team or, even better, primary and secondary teams of people who know the crisis management plan and have been thoroughly trained in its application, then you have the capacity to implement a shift or rota system. You have people who can take over when you’re not able to think straight; decisions which could make the difference between survival and failure of your organisation should not be made by an exhausted individual.
One of the most difficult facets of a crisis to get right. When a crisis hits, there are always large numbers of stakeholders wanting to know what’s going on as quickly as possible, whether that’s staff, customers, regulators, shareholders, the media, the general public… The list goes on. The more senior staff you can inform from the outset the better, then even if team members are stood down, at least they will know there is a potential problem and will be able to spread key messages and deal with questions more readily
When making quick decisions with very little or incomplete information there is every possibility mistakes will be made. By having multiple people responding to the crisis there will always be some level of validation.
5. Information management
Not for the feint hearted and not to be underestimated: information management is essential to ensure that the right people have the most complete and accurate information possible at the right time. During a crisis, decisions and actions plus the information they were based upon must be recorded to be used as evidence if there are any later investigations; this is not something commonly done if only one or two people try to manage the situation on their own.
Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t want the world and his wife offering their opinion in a crisis. The team still needs to remain relatively small, a core membership of half a dozen or so, with additional expertise then brought in if required. But when faced with a situation which threatens an organisation, it is definitely a case of “none of us is as smart as all of us”.