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Developing Pro-Active Crisis Response Strategies

Developing Pro-Active Crisis Response Strategies
You’ve developed a crisis topology for your organization and have thought through how each of these crises might impact your different stakeholder groups as both an exercise to pressure test the validity of your topology and to begin the process of identifying priority stakeholders, those who are likely to be impacted most significantly by each crisis type. You then spent time crafting a crisis response checklist with at least enough specificity to be able to identify the key areas of action that need to be addressed during a crisis. You considered the question of who would actually be using these checklists, and that led you to a definition of roles and responsibilities for your crisis management and if appropriate, crisis leadership teams.
Now you should be asking yourself, how can I create a way for this new team of crisis managers to both learn how to serve the organization in their new capacities and help us prepare for future crises. Great questions, and here are my suggestions for addressing them. Begin by asking the team to talk about their confidence in the organization’s ability to deal with the crisis if the company found itself in one. Perhaps a great place to start is how the company has been dealing with or has recently dealt with, the COVID-19 pandemic. What did we do well and what should we be doing better in the future? This will help everyone get comfortable with some open discussion.
At this point, you have a couple of options for your conversation. You might decide to continue the discussion in the context of how the crisis management team could help the enterprise if there’s a COVID relapse or during the next similar crisis. Or if there isn’t an appetite for another COVID discussion, you can introduce your topology to the new crisis management team. If you choose the second option, explain how you arrived at the list and make it clear that it’s not a finished product, but rather simply a good place to start.
Share what you’ve learned about the value of quality stakeholder engagement throughout all stages of a crisis, and get some feedback on the teams alignment around the importance of this guiding principle. There’s that guiding principle idea again, good one to note. With some discussion, the team will certainly agree. Return to your topology and ask the team to pick the most likely scenario in it that the company will have to face at some point in the future. They’ll be drawn to one or two items on the list. Pick one, then collectively decide on an example of what a crisis of this type would look like at your firm. Once you have your example, the team should simply work their way through it.
What will we do if this happens, say 30 days from now? What will we do? Let the group talk about how they would formulate a response. You’ll quickly see how difficult it would be to align around a consistent response without some structure. This is a good time to pull out the checklists and have all the team members weigh in on what their role should be doing to ensure the accomplishment of each step on the list. You may prefer to have team members work through their checklist on their own before a group discussion of their actions, or you may choose to brainstorm through the checklist together as a team. Either way, you want to use this exercise to accomplish several objectives.
First, you want the team to get comfortable working together. During a crisis, tensions will be high and the members of your crisis management team must be able to work very well together under pressure. Second, you want to test your checklist. So use this exercise to add, subtract, or modify steps to be completed. You will also at this stage, be able to start crafting individual checklists for each role. Having a single checklist is a great place to start, but you eventually want every member of your team to have their own checklists, ideally for each type of crisis in your topology.
Now, don’t let that scare you, as most of the items on each person’s list will remain unchanged regardless of crisis type. Third, you want to get the members of your team thinking about the resources, capabilities, and expertise already in place to be able to deal with the crisis and gaps that may exist in these areas. As gaps are identified, it’s important that the team discuss the need to address these gaps and if necessary, how resolving them should be accomplished. As a final objective, you want the team to begin to view crisis preparedness not as a burden, but as a critical necessity for the firm. You want them to accept that crisis readiness is not optional, but required.
If you can accomplish all these things with your new crisis management team, you’ll be well on your way to building the organizational resilience truly necessary for an enterprise to survive and thrive in today’s constantly changing VUCA environment.
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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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