What is The Role of Confidence in Crisis Management?
10 Key Questions For Leadership
London, UK - 9th March 2010, 09:10 GMT
Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]
The future is now. We are living in a globalised society with global markets and just-in-time supply chains that gyrate wildly as they are fed by a complex trans-national system of super-synchronised interconnections and black swan disruptions. In this ever changing kaleidoscope environment of continuous stress tests, 24/7 communication has become increasingly important and critical to the lives of everyone both within and outside organisations. In the unfolding scenario of The Great Unwind and The Great Reset, with more surprises to follow as a result of deleveraging and austere budgets, the role and dynamics of interwoven relationships is getting exceedingly complex. Speed of response is more critical than ever before. Rapid-fire yet extremely sensitive internal and external communication is essential to survival. Hitherto, professionals working in strategic positions in management and support provided valuable services that are crucial to competitiveness and development of the organisation in global markets. From here on, senior management ought to be aware that one of the most essential specialised services that needs to be ingrained is 360 degrees communication for crisis management, a topic of great urgency and relevance with every passing day. Just consider the increasing risks that organisations find themselves facing with rising frequency:
. Growing number of critical disruptive events occurring in recent years;
The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1893
. Increasingly difficult global economic and financial markets plus competitive landscape; and
. Constant attention from regulators, the media and public on issues concerning the environment, health and safety.
No organisation can run the risk of being found unprepared to handle a potential crisis. The price paid for unpreparedness can become life-threatening as confidence ebbs away swiftly. The most important is the need to be ready to communicate when something goes wrong. That communication has to go far beyond a deep bow and an apology, necessary as it may be in some cases. Everybody wants to know what is being done to address and to resolve the crisis, otherwise it saps confidence in record time. Crisis management is an important responsibility and rests with the leadership and under their direction: a wide array of professionals within the organisation and those operating at the periphery.
The existing literature on this subject is still rather fragmented as crisis management is presented from various perspectives and different viewpoints, such as those of managers; lawyers; consultants; experts; government agencies including regulators, police, intelligence and military; and public relations professionals. Multidisciplinary crisis management is likely to lose sight of the objective. Contrary to popular belief, while it is important to keep lines of communication open and pay attention to the latest priorities, it is not necessary to be able to unify the diverse views and this domain-specific knowledge. To achieve a flexible process of crisis management that is the most efficient and effective as possible, leadership must note:
. Centralised command and control in a crisis creates its own vulnerability and single point of failure; and
. Distributed command and control structures exhibit greater resilience where individual autonomous units are empowered to self-assemble dynamically to decide what they seek to do in response to the fast changing local situation, while communicating their agenda, rationale and actions back to their leadership frequently.
The key question to ask is the following: How to develop resilience for our organisation when it is faced with managing a crisis situation? When a crisis occurs it is vital that the management team responds swiftly to the plan with confidence. Managing a crisis requires a whole different set of skills not normally used in the day to day running of a business. The key to effective crisis management lies not so much with the writing of detailed manuals -- that have a low likelihood of being used, and an even lower likelihood of being useful -- and practising drills and location evacuations as with structured and continuous learning processes designed to equip key managers with the capabilities, flexibility and confidence to deal with sudden and unexpected problems and events -- or shifts in public perception.
The 10 key questions for leadership to ask each head of department include:
. What crises have recently happened in your designate area?
. What crises have you dealt within the past few years?
. What is your crisis management plan and can we have a copy?
. When can we meet with the Crisis Management Team leader?
. Who on your staff, on all shifts, is trained to manage what kind of crisis?
. Which external stakeholders are included in your crisis management plan?
. Which insurance policies are covering what potential risks?
. When did the latest crisis management simulation take place?
. How long have you been co-operating with the present security organisations?
. Do we have the mobile numbers of all stakeholders including employees and the capacity to send and to receive text messages en masse?
Plan Global, Act Local
In many unfamiliar destinations both the planners and the participants need the help of local authorities, suppliers and affiliated associations. They should collectively realise that the local partners are more aware of the potentially thorny issues. This means more communication and advance planning, the increased use of local products and services, and therefore it becomes necessary to build in more local awareness and lead-time.
Here are the personal lessons learned by many global leaders during the last few years from large-scale crisis management episodes:
. Calmness counts, accept local cultural challenges: Stay calm to inspire confidence in stakeholders including customers, suppliers, partners and employees.
. Prepare the complete local emergency contact list in advance for each department: In an easy-to-read portable format and as comprehensive as possible.
. Prepare templates for local high-risk situations and prepare for all modes of communication: print, verbal, fax, eMail, mobile text, twitter, social media.
. Back up your personal database locally and externally: Make sure all attendees and meeting information can be assessed anytime and anywhere.
. Include the local press partners: Communicate with external and internal sources, the press can be the most critical partner in crisis management.
. Hold separate local security meetings: Involve all internal and external stakeholders and gain their support by sharing confidence(s) and demonstrating respect.
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