Crisis Management – not just for huge corporations (Part 2)

In the last article I introduced the concept of crisis management and suggested a process, now we will take a look at how those principles and the process can be applied to a much smaller organisation or even a sole trader. Let’s look again at the RACER process introduced in Part 1.

Principles – think about what could go wrong that could develop into a crisis, in the context of the business in question. Don’t limit it to what could go wrong within the business (e.g. a big error by employee or yourself, something really important breaking or being stolen), consider the external environment which is out of your control, but could negatively impact your business or livelihood (e.g. natural disaster, market crash, Brexit (sigh), power cut). In other words, what keeps you awake at night? Have a think about it, consider ‘what-if’ scenarios and what a ‘bad day at the office’ might look like, and document them.

Structure – let’s say you’re a lone trader. OK, in some respects there’s the answer; it’s just you. But is that really the case? Can anyone else help you out in your moment(s) of need when things go a bit awry? Having someone with you who is emotionally detached from the incident to help with some tasks (probably coordinating activities, possibly helping with communication) and add the impartial voice of reason will definitely help in tense moments. Identify them, warn them, talk it through with them.

Process – have one. There are lots out there but they all share common components (like a beginning to kick it off, a middle bit where stuff happens, and end bit to recover and move on). I had to pick one, so I went with the RACER model, with RACER being an acronym comprising:

  • Report – the incident, event, crisis. I would also say this covers ‘detect’ that something is wrong
  • Assess – evaluate the nature of incident and severity (including potential severity)
  • Convene – the most suitable crisis management team (yes, it might just be a couple of you, but it’s still a team)
  • Execute – agree objectives, make decisions and take action
  • Resolve – close the incident, review and learn lessons

Clearly there’s lot more behind the process above, and I could write volumes on the topic, but this is just a taster and there’s a fair chunk of it that’s self-explanatory. Besides, we’re always on standby to help you in this area, so drop us a line and we’ll see how we may be able to support you.

Practice – finally! The Kast part, but arguably the most important part if you want to take this topic seriously. I’m sure there are many large organisations who are the proud owners of fantastic crisis management plans that are sat gathering dust on shelves waiting for the ‘in case of emergency break glass’ (or hit ‘print’) moment. Are you going to do conduct a large scale exercise with actors on the phones, emails sent to you describing dramas, scenarios played out in real-time? No, of course not. In a similar vein to your earlier conversation with your trusted family member or friend who with come to your aid when you need it (back in the structure bit), grab a strong coffee, beer or wine and go back to your what-if scenarios and see how you might apply the plan. 

OK, the above is hardly the most robust preparation, but I’d argue that it’s better than nothing, and would go some way to having a degree of preparedness with not too much effort. If you need more information about this, just drop us a line. If you need a checklist for topics to be discussed the first time you meet to work through the crisis, we can tailor one for your needs which serves as the “when things go wrong print this document and follow the steps” file. I can tell you from personal experience, sitting on you bum with your fingers crossed (or thumbs crossed, as is their wont in Germany and Switzerland) is not an effective means of building resilience in any size of organisation. Escalate early (preferably before an incident becomes a crisis), scrape a team together (even if it’s just one extra pair of hands), and follow the (a) process. Any process. Just have one you’re comfort with and you’ll be in good shape.