Engaging the top team in crisis preparedness

Crisis-Management-Insights-Survey-2015-011.pngChief executives, managing directors and other senior business leaders are failing to engage fully in crisis preparedness and risk undermining their organisation’s ability to manage crises, according to Steelhenge and Regester Larkin’s latest crisis management survey.

The survey of 170 large companies from 27 countries revealed that big business understands the need to prepare for a crisis, with 86 per cent of respondents owning a crisis management plan, 59 per cent carrying out crisis training and 68 per cent conducting crisis exercises at least annually. It is clear that crisis preparedness is high on the agenda. Continue reading

Seven tips for cyber exercises

Cyber%201By Dominic Cockram

Cyber attacks will continue to threaten business operations in 2016, with many commentators claiming that this year we could see ‘the big one’.

Organisations are increasingly focused on understanding the impacts a cyber attack could have on their operations and reputation. Many are now using cyber scenarios in their crisis exercises to test and validate their assumptions on how they would respond and reflect on the unique challenges a cyber attack could bring.

The exercises range from fully immersive simulations, that develop and build competence and confidence, by allowing a realistic replication of the pressures, issues and uncertainty, to desktop sessions, that provide leadership teams and broader management the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the nuances of a cyber response such as the awkward language and reporting processes.

Having run a large number of cyber exercises over the last 18 months, I thought it would be useful to share some of the common lessons.

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Joining the crisis dots – How simulation exercising can create a culture of crisis sensitivity

By Dominic Cockram

As a crisis dotscrisis management professional, I have worked with many different crisis teams over the years. What has become apparent is that, in the majority of cases, those conducting the operational response to a crisis (and by that I mean at both the bronze/operational and silver/tactical levels) have little understanding of the strategic drivers, priorities and concerns, and potential challenges of the executive or ‘gold’ level.

This lack of understanding can fail to give those protecting the organisation’s license to operate what they really need to fulfil their role. Resulting in delayed escalation, incorrect assumptions and the transmission of skewed information to the top. Continue reading

Situational Awareness – supporting the CEO’s critical decision-making in a crisis

By Dominic Cockram

Situational awarenessThis blog is the second in a series that looks at the challenges of managing information in a crisis and how to ensure the top team gets the information it needs. The first looked at “Managing the Upward Flow of Information in a Crisis – What Matters Most?” Here managing information to build situational awareness is under the spotlight – how to pull together that cohesive and informative picture that gives the boss just what he needs and no more.

It is a fact that almost all crisis teams find information management one of the greatest challenges in responding to an incident. Why does this matter? It matters because effective information management is the bedrock that allows the critical decision-making by the strategic crisis management team that will lead an organisation out of a crisis.

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Managing the upward flow of information in a crisis – what matters most?

By Dominic Cockram

The BriefHaving worked over the last few months with some of the larger organisations in the world, both in the UK and internationally, it has been fascinating to reflect on the unique challenges presented to a “super-corporate” in delivering crisis management and crisis leadership at the top.

Naturally, one of the greatest challenges is in the management and transfer of information about the crisis.  Quite rightly, it is filtered as it percolates up to senior leadership levels but any CEO worth his salt wants to get a feel for the reality “on the ground” and a true sense of what is happening.  This is difficult to achieve from a report which has gone through several levels of review, filter and reduction and which may be given by another executive who is also not on the ground.

So a challenge is presented, not least because any CEO appearing in front of the world’s media is going to want – and need – to be armed not only with his facts and key messages but also to be able to demonstrate he genuinely knows and feels what it is like for those right at the heart of the crisis.  Empathy is a difficult thing to achieve when you have only been presented with the “strategic issues” in a rather colourless fashion.  Yet in crisis communications, it is something the media and public are looking for and can be so judgmental about.  Continue reading

Reflections on BCM World 2013

BCMWorldConference logoSo, the BCM World Conference 2013 is now over and we can all reflect back on the trends it has presented.  Dominic Cockram from Steelhenge  led a presentation on “Achieving Control in a Crisis” on the first day and the stream – Thought Leadership – had an excellent turn-out. Dr Paul Robertson followed on the subject of crisis leadership and both sessions seemed to go down well although it was a quiet audience in terms of questions which was a shame.

Overall the conference felt as though there were slightly less people than last year but still a good turn-out at Olympia; never the most intimate or exciting of venues for conferences and more suited to large exhibitions.

As ever, there was a large turn-out of technology stands at the exhibition and the development of BC software, notification solutions and crisis software suites seems to continue to grow and develop.  We spoke to a number of visitors however and they seemed to want “something simple which just does what it says on the tin” so it still seems that many do not see the tech solution as giving them quite what they need  as yet.

The conference had a good spread of speakers and the case study stream had some excellent sessions looking more closely at how some are actually doing BCM.  The delegates always like to hear the realities from those doing the work at the sharp end. Our own business continuity planning case study of Establishing ISO 22301 in Crossrail: Europe’s Largest Construction Project, presented with Steve Hails, Health & Safety Director for Crossrail was extremely well received and it was a shame that the clock restricted the discussion session at the end.

Overall I would think it goes down as another good conference and well done to the BCI for all the work they always put in.  The trend seem to be moving towards Crisis Management and Resilience as the key areas of focus for the future, and reflected upon by Lyndon Bird in his article recently in Continuity.  Crisis Management is certainly seen now as a key area for businesses and the public sector to get right and there is much more effort heading in that direction now, as well as focus from the senior management teams which always helps.

Resilience continues to grow as a topic and is definitely gaining ground as the new arena for development.  Bringing together all the capabilities in a more integrated and measured fashion to ensure that organisations are ready for whatever is thrown at them.  The Mega Trends of the Future as set out in the PwC Global Review this year give some insights to way the world is heading and some of the issues we all need to face up to in the not so distant future and Resilience could be the approach to face this period of change and disruption to the norms we know now.  We shall see but it definitely offers considerable scope as a concept for such developments.

Other related posts: Resilience: The 21st Century Imperative

Crisis Management Planning 101: Learning from Asiana’s Mistakes

By Isobel Nicholas

South Korea’s Asiana Airlines was roundly criticised in the aftermath of its response to the crash of Flight 214 on Sunday 6th July 2013 at San Francisco airport, inflicting severe damage to its reputation.  The criticism largely stems from its silence in the hours after the crash and the lack of information made available to support victims of the crash and their families as they struggled to find out what had happened and whether their loved ones were involved.

Here we review what happened and look at what lessons in crisis management planning and crisis communications can be learned. Continue reading

‘ANTIFRAGILE – Things that gain from disorder’

By Nick Morgan

In his new book, a sequel to the hugely successful ‘The Black Swan’ (2007), Nassim Nicholas Taleb frames the concept of ‘antifragile’.

taleb-illustration_2415090bTaleb’s concept is simple and his argument is convincing – some organisations collapse in a crisis, others genuinely benefit from them.  The ability to thrive in adversity (but ethically and never at the expense of others) is the hallmark of his ‘antifragile’ concept.  His simplest example, and one of the most powerful images in the book, is of fire – a fragile candle will be extinguished by a gentle wind, but an ‘antifragile’ flame will grow in the wind, spread and burn more fiercely.

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Lessons learned – or are they?

By Katie Collison

A key theme to emerge from the 2013 Crisis Management Conference held in London in May this year was post crisis learning. The distinguished panel of speakers from the UK Cabinet Office, Unilever, Goldman Sachs, the BBC and Bank of England, unanimously agreed that it is all too easy to identify what went wrong in a crisis response or an exercise, but far harder to ensure that the lessons so welcomed are actually turned into change and implemented to protect and prevent the same things happening again. Continue reading

Crisis Decision Making: How wicked pressures create decision avoidance

By Claudia van den Heuvel

Strategic level decision makers often assume they will be able to manage a crisis well, purely because they make “difficult and risky decisions” every day. In theory, crisis decision-making should follow the standard decision process of: assess the situation, formulate various options or strategies and implement a choice. Often however, this doesn’t happen. Continue reading