The Basics of Crisis Management

Now, more than ever before is the time for leaders to speak with their actions- not just words. Let’s talk about effective crisis management in tough times.

We all know why I’m writing this article, so let’s skip the introduction and talk about the basics of inspiring leadership in a time of crisis. We’re set to see some tough times in the coming weeks and months, so there’s never been a better time to be refining your crisis management plan and practice some effective leadership strategies to ensure the safety and profitability of your organisation as you move into the future. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ ‘Global Crisis Survey’ shows us that 70% of leaders have experienced a corporate crisis in the last five years, and that number is sure to jump considering just how far-sprawling the implications of the COVID-19 virus are hitting organisations big and small.

A Quick List of considerations

  • Put together a response team

  • List the key areas and order them according to the severity

  • Transparency is key; small issues can magnify if you’re not transparent

  • Communicate with your staff and your clients regularly

  • Leverage a SWOT analysis to put assemble your continuity plan

  • Experiment addressing problem areas; keep damage in-house not to upset clients

  • Slim-down policies and act fast

Agility & Tailor-Fitting Your Business Plan

This is the time to get your business plan into shape, and by that I mean make it slim and agile. For my guide on how to make your business more streamlined, check out my article here, as well as my guide on how to deploy speed in your organisation. In essence, though, times of crisis require fast and agile decision making, and aren’t cohesive with organisations that aren’t willing to try new things. Jaclyn Jaeger writes that “a generic business continuity plan needs to be adapted and tailored to cope with the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus. Does the business have in place policies and procedures for working remotely? How do sick time, employee leave policies and travel policies need to be adjusted during this uncertain time? What data privacy and security controls are in place with employees accessing personally identifiable information at home?"Keep in mind, too that this is the time to throw away time-consuming policies and act accordingly to the emergency- so move fast!

Leadership in a time of crisis

Great leadership in a tough time often comes down to transparency and communication, and this applies both internally with your staff and externally with your clients and suppliers. It’s important to narrow your focus, and make sure your communication is timely and regular; don’t think a problem will simply go away in a time of crisis. I’ve also said many times that in the context of a meeting, the leader should be the last to speak so to not sway the opinions of the staff attending the meeting. I think this principle should be applied to the context of crisis management, and that a leader should be the last one to pay their own wage in a tough time. This might be confronting to some leaders, but in a time where sacrifice is necessary, the leader should be hit first before their employees. I’ve operated like this for as long as I can remember, as I’m a firm believer that the profitability of the organisation is made possible by my staff, not just me.

SWOT away the pain

Now, perhaps more than any other time in your organisation’s history is an opportunity to connect with your customers and suppliers and identify areas of improvement. We as leaders can often become complacent when business as usual is moving along nicely, failing to see the need to experiment and innovate in our operations. In a time of crisis, however, this is somewhat forced upon the executive team. This is where the identifying of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, otherwise known as a SWOT analysis is an invaluable experience for your organisation.

When you take the time out to analyse your weaknesses, you can begin to implement new ways of addressing them in a time of crisis; whether it's internally, or an issue with your suppliers or even your customers. Make sure this is a collaborative process involving as many members of your staff as possible; often the most impactful implementations can come from the grass-roots members of your team, the ones with critical touch-points with clients that can help you identify severe issues. On that note, in a sensitive time, don’t sweat the small stuff- prioritise your risks according to their potential for impacting clients and your organisation… you simply don’t have the time to address everything, so make sure your attention is directed to the big issues first, which you can work through and show your stakeholders that you’re addressing their concerns first and foremost.

Reverse Engineer a Solution

Finally, let’s talk about a crisis management plan, and just how useful it can be went a sudden event takes place that throws your operations into disarray. I’ve left this point last intentionally, because I think it’s unreasonable to expect every organisation to have this in place already, and it’s not helpful to tell people that they simply should have had this in place. If you haven’t, you’ve almost certainly learnt the lesson that it’s an often forgotten essential. The basics of an effective crisis plan or business continuity plan are formed through your SWOT analysis, and it will help you to reverse-engineer possible solutions to areas that need addressing, or at the very least, identify which areas need action. Part of this process is to take a step back from your normal responsibilities and put things under the microscope, so make sure you’re keeping an open mind and you’re willing to experiment with new things while attempting to engineer a solution.

As always, try to avoid your clients paying the price for any mistakes you might make; in a time of crisis, they’re some of the most important stakeholders in the process, so act accordingly.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be furthering this topic, and having a look at government stimulus responses for businesses small and large and how they’ll make a difference in the landscape.

For now, though, thanks very much for your time, and let’s all stick together.

Kobi Simmat, CEO & Director of the Best Practice Group.

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