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Incorporating Additional Dimensions into a Crisis Typology

Incorporating Additional Dimensions into a Crisis Typology
So far in our exploration of crisis typologies, we’ve examined the potential benefits of having a list of different types to more easily differentiate not only the typical characteristics of these different scenarios, but to help us develop some basic response plans for each. At least to help us identify key stakeholder groups that are likely to be impacted by each crisis type and some early actions that we should be taking in each case. In the last activity in fact, you crafted your own list of crisis types that you believe are likely candidates to assail your organization.
Regardless of the length of your list, if you’ve identified even a few different types, you’ve taken a significant step forward in launching a crisis readiness campaign. Well done, now, I’d like to help you think about different ways to build on your categorical typology. Some researchers have discovered that a simple list to crisis types isn’t sufficient to facilitate planning for an adequately broad spectrum of likely scenarios. In their research, they’ve determined that it can be helpful to organize the distinguishing characteristics of different crises into some number of dimensions where each dimension offers a continuum of potential outcomes. These additional dimensions, the researchers argue, can help us more effectively define and subsequently differentiate between crisis scenarios.
Let me illustrate how the addition of a dimension or two might be helpful to your crisis planning efforts. Let’s say that one of the entries on your categorical typology is product failure. Most companies that I’ve worked with have a plan for dealing with a product failure related crisis. When considering the potential impact of a product failure, one planning step is to estimate the impact such a failure might have on different stakeholder groups. Generally and this is fairly common sensical, product failures have a significant impact on your customer group.
As you consider how the product failure will impact and be perceived by the customer group, you’ll discover that these outcomes will be greatly influenced by the nature of the failure and by the severity of the outcome. Clearly a product failure that causes a significant injury or death will be perceived differently than a failure that produces no injury. Considering this example, crisis leaders may opt to incorporate a version A and a version B to their product failure planning. Version A might be a product failure that causes personal injury or death and version B might produce a much less severe outcome.
This is why researchers like the idea of adding additional characteristics to their categorical lists, they provide greater specificity, which allows more precise planning. In a moment, I’m going to introduce you to a different way to think about organizing unique types of crises. Some researchers have determined that it can be more effective to abandon the categorical list approach to crisis differentiation all together and instead use a multi-dimensional approach. As a result of their research and as an assessment of how a multi-dimensional presentation of different scenarios might benefit high-stakes leaders, these dimensions are typically presented in two by two matrices.
Producing four-quadrant models that help us at a minimum visualize four categories of outcomes that once again can be used to help us formulate basic response plans for each category. Their argument as you will see in the reading that follows is that there are so many different potential crisis types that it would simply be easier to imagine four possible crisis scenarios. One for each quadrant of a four-quadrant framework where plans could be prepared for each of the four scenarios. Sound confusing? Well, it won’t in a few minutes. In my experience their argument has some merit. Personally, I like the idea of having a list of types in my crisis plan.
But I also like the idea of adding a dimension or two as I described earlier to help me imagine scenarios that I might have to face. As you work through the following reading, decide for yourself what makes the most sense to you. A simple list of crisis types, a two by two or three by three matrix of dimensions or some sort of hybrid combination of the two for organizing your typology? At the end of this module, you’ll be asked to decide as you’ll be creating a typology of your own but before we go there, enjoy the exploration of two and multi-dimensional typologies. You should find these approaches interesting and informative.
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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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