Volkswagen: a long road to recovery

By Dominic Cockram

220px-Volkswagen_logo_2012.svgIt has certainly been a busy few days for the VW crisis management team. If they had a mature and practiced crisis preparedness capability in place then hopefully they will have been hard at work for some time now. Suggestions are that others did have some foresight that all was not well in the industry from the roadside test reports, so there may have been some early work going on.

But, in facing this potentially overwhelming corporate crisis, how should VW set about managing the crisis, identifying their priorities and ensuring their reputation recovery?

Even in such an unprecedented situation the same principles apply as for all strategic crisis teams; they are there to bring shape to the problems by identifying the main issues and establishing clear strategies for dealing with them.

Key points they should be considering include:

Review
What happened? Why did it happened? How did it happened? And who let it happen? These are all questions that need to be answered and from there the team can determine how the crisis is going to be managed.

Strategy for recovery
A clear path forward must be identified which will both resolve the problem and re-establish the brand as a ‘trusted’ supplier.

Stakeholders
Stakeholder management must be conducted with all parties – public, Governments partners, staff and many more.

Communications
Clear, transparent communications are the order of the day.

Learning
Finding a way to demonstrate that the ‘new’ VW has learnt lessons and stepped out of the shadow of this nightmare must be sought, to set the agenda for the future.

The ‘learning’ point is an interesting one. While identifying lessons is an easier task, showing you have actually learnt from them is harder yet incredibly powerful in terms of moving forward which could be key for VW here.

At the end of the day, VW now have to show contrition, commitment to change and responsibility in setting out their new agenda going forward. The past cannot be forgotten but it must be controlled and bounded, actions clearly delineated and the future now established.

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