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Airline Crisis Typologies in Action

Airline Crisis Typologies in Action
We’ve spent a great deal of time during this course considering crisis leadership from an airline perspective. We did this largely because I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this as the leader of the Emergency Command Center at JetBlue Airways. But I’ve also been told that airline examples are particularly useful because most people are familiar with the basics of how airlines work. At a very high level, airlines move people and other things from place to place. To do so, they need airplanes, and people, and a route system, as well as sources of capital customers and operating Partners.
I bet you could probably sit down right now and sketch an airline stakeholder map on the back of a napkin, and I bet that you could have done so even before this course. I know I get a bit excited about the industry, so my apologies for a bit of overexposure in our time together. So with your fundamental understanding of how airlines operate, how would you think about the types of crises an airline might prepare for? The airlines provide a great example of companies that spend a significant amount of time planning for crises, establishing emergency command centers, identifying crisis team members, defining roles and responsibilities.
Preparing tools and support materials, providing crisis training, and performing exercises to test processes and systems while building experience for the crisis leadership team. There’s a lot to this crisis preparation, isn’t there? As you move through this module, we’ll talk about all of the items I’ve just mentioned in a context that can help you think through what might be appropriate at your organization. But for now, with all of that said, I’d like you to consider how might a typology be helpful for an airline and how might it be used.
As I’ve mentioned several times in this course, typologies are helpful for many reasons, perhaps, the most important of which is that our typologies provide a framework for pre-crisis brainstorming, planning and preparation. They can be used for discussing the likelihood of and our readiness for each situation that we’ve identified, for examining the potential impact of each were it to occur. For planning responses, so we won’t have to create our crisis management efforts from scratch when we need them, and as guides for our crisis response practical training. Every airline in the world has a crisis response plan and they typically have a dedicated safety or crisis response team that spends a great deal of time monitoring the crisis preparedness of the enterprise.
These people help identify the types of crises an airline might encounter and how they should respond in each case. To facilitate their planning, most identify a collection of crises types to organize their efforts. Here are two different typologies that have gained popularity in the airline industry. You’ll notice that both are categorical lists, list number one was produced by a company called Simpliflying. Their typology includes accidents, incidents, terrorism, real or presumed, natural disasters, IT malfunctions, and PR disasters. List number two is produced by a company called F24, a crisis management company. Their typology includes foreign object debris damage or FOD, collisions, aircraft sabotage, pilot error, mechanical failure, adverse weather conditions or events and bird strikes.
I share these lists for a couple of reasons, first, you can again see how useful it can be to have a list of crisis types that can be used to think through, plan and prepare for them. Second, these lists present very different levels of focus, the first one is focused broadly across all departments in an airline, and the second is focused on flight relaying crises. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily, but they do serve as a reminder that perspective matters and that you should make sure you define the most appropriate typology for your unique planning and ready these needs.
So why share another discussion of typologies here, as I’ve already asked you to create your own earlier in the course? Because the reason to create a typology was not simply to have one, just having one doesn’t do us much good. Having one to approve our crisis preparedness, however, now that’s the reason to have one. Sharing a new one here remind you that even these typologies can be a matter of perspective. And that they can become quite focused on a particular aspect of the business right or wrong if you’re not constantly stepping back and ensuring that you’re applying the appropriate frame for your efforts.
In the next activity, I’m going to ask you to retrieve the typology you created back in module five and complete an exercise where you predict the likely impact of each crisis type on different stakeholder groups. You might have done a bit of this earlier in the course, but I’m going to ask you to formalize the work again here. By the end of this module, I expect you to have the beginnings of a basic crisis management plan. Given that you’ve already created a crisis typology, which is one of the best first steps any organization can take when developing a crisis response plan, the next step is to determine how these crisis types will impact different stakeholder groups.
So that’s your next task, follow the instructions in the next activity, take your time and good luck.
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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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