Tag Archives: crisis

Leading in a Crisis Part 2: Taking Action – David Falzani, SMF President

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If a crisis hits your company, clear thinking and decisive leadership is essential take your team through the ensuing storm.

As you’ll have read in our previous blog post on this topic, preparation is vital to ensuring that your organisation can deal with a crisis effectively. With a thorough risk assessment and management strategy in place, you’ll already have a good idea of how a crisis would impact your operations, and a plan deal with the issues. So, when that crisis hits, what’s next?

Face the music
When crisis hits, your first instinct might be to cover your own back. Self-preservation is a natural reaction in circumstances like these, but unfortunately, that’s not going to get you nor your organisation out of the woods. Before anything else, you may need to swallow some hard truths.

These might include your own role in the crisis – if you’re leading your company, then you no doubt exert a large influence on how the crisis affects your organisation and any solutions to it. You should consider yourself as one of the first figures who needs to make sacrifices if any tough choices need to be made.

After that, it’s important to develop a consensus on the causes of the crisis. This is vital, as no long-term solutions can really be implemented unless you know what the underlying problems really are.

Transparency is vital here. Quick fixes and concealment are not a way out, and will only exacerbate the crisis and make things worse.

All hands on deck
As we previously discussed, any risk management strategies should be communicated transparently and openly with your organisation’s stakeholders; and ultimately to the public as the media will inevitably report on the crisis.

Crisis can create a lot of uncertainty and fear among stakeholders, but particularly employees who will be worrying about their job security. If you didn’t involve them in risk management before the crisis hit, as is the ideal, now is the time to do exactly that.

First of all, your employees need certain reassurances. If redundancies have been deemed necessary because of the situation (for example, if an economic crisis requires cost-saving measures to be made), then this needs to be a part of your crisis consultations with the
other members of your organisation. The potential impacts of any planned changes must be outlined in full – in particular, if redundancies will be necessary or if there is any possibilities for employee redeployment.

As a crisis will affect your whole organisation, it is vital that you involve the whole organisation in the dialogue aimed at resolving it. Consultations should take place with employees and, if present, unions. Giving employees clarity and reassurances about the
situation will make your organisation more likely to weather the storm. There’s been more than one company that’s hit a survivable crisis but found it lost a key portion of its top talent, perhaps those who find it easiest to get a new job, through a lack of clear consultation.

Furthermore, as crises often call for new, creative ways of thinking and problem-solving, a
company-wide dialogue could potentially produce new solutions and answers at an uncertain time. These cannot be implemented without the help of staff.

Fight your way out
Think of a crisis not just as a disaster, but an opportunity for change. A crisis might actually empower you to make important changes to the company – changes that may have stalled in the past, but can now be implemented in the name of crisis management.

Indeed, many companies saw the 2008 financial crash as a business opportunity. Take Dan Simon’s piece in Forbes, How to turn a financial crisis into a business opportunity: “During this turbulent period we managed to grow the company into a major player in financial PR and open successful offices in New York, Los Angeles, Singapore and Sydney.”

Calmer Waters
Keeping a level head and turning the tables to your advantage can help the organisation emerge from the crisis not only intact, but more successful and efficient than before.

Click to read part 1 of Leading in a Crisis.


Leading in a Crisis Part 1: Preparation – David Falzani, SMF President

When crisis strikes your organisation, who are you going to call? A consultant? The bank? Your legal team?

Unfortunately, there are few easy fixes to a business crisis. Crisis can strike at any time and in any form, and some can end up being so severe that your company may have to cease operations entirely. There is no magic wand to wave, and while crack teams of experts who will solve all of your problems are the stuff of dreams, it is ultimately you who must lead the company’s ship through the storm. So what is a crisis? And how do we best prepare an organisation for such an emergency?

The problem of risk
Risk management seems to dominate the day-to-day operations of our institutions and workplaces more than ever before. The very phrase can send even the most hardened manager into cold sweats, conjuring up memories of hours of paperwork to protect the company or premises against anything from fire to burglary.

However, this simplistic understanding of risk can obscure some of the most important lessons of security culture and the problem of risk. Successfully preparing for a crisis and managing its subsequent fallout ultimately requires a shift in organisational culture – one which seeks to manage and limit insecurity. This further requires a parallel shift in how we conceptualise risk.

Risk does not just refer to specific areas of potential crisis, such as property damage. It refers to a whole range of potentialities that could negatively – and significantly – impact your operations. Cisco offer a useful definition of risk as “Risk = Value x Threat x Vulnerability”.

Preparing for disaster
Of course, we can never be fully prepared for risk – its very nature implies it is always a possibility. Whether a crisis is caused by external factors, such as a major environmental disaster, arson or an information breach, or something internal, such as rogue bookkeeping or sabotage, it can be so unpredictable that preparation and security thinking should be of the utmost priority. While risk or insecurity can never be eradicated, they can certainly be managed.

Start by developing a clear process and strategy for gathering information about every one of the business’ operations. There are innumerable sources of risk within any company, and unfortunately, board members are often blind to these until it is too late. Line managers will be aware of many of the potential risks associated with their department, but they might also not have the same perspective as the employees they’re managing. The same goes for external experts who are able to assess your risk planning objectively and bring a fresh perspective to your situation.

It’s therefore worth entering into a dialogue with all stakeholders and at every level of the organisation. This can be achieved through stakeholder mapping, which involves:

  • Identifying and categorising your different stakeholder groups, from your employees to your customers
  • Research, identifying and defining the specific issues each group may face, and how much influence your company has over them
  • Defining an ideal outcome of a crisis, how to manage its fallout, and how to mobilise each stakeholder toward solving the problem

This will not only give you diverse information about potential areas of insecurity (allowing you to plan for crisis scenarios), but it is also the first step in establishing a permanent culture of security throughout the company hierarchy. Any so-called ‘security team’ should ideally be drawn from this diverse knowledge base.

Keeping this flow of information regular and comprehensive is vital in keeping your executives and managers informed and involved. In other words, every member of your company should be constantly aware of the risks around them. With the right protocol and procedure in place, developed according to rigorous risk assessments, you are already well on your way to being prepared for a crisis.

Simply put, open and transparent communication with stakeholders is a must. It is vital to remember that any crisis you have is going to affect not just your internal operations, but everyone around you as well. Therefore any considerations of risk should not just extend to your internal organisational culture – how it will impact you – but also the impact it is going to have on your company’s image and, most importantly, your consumer base.

Click to read part 2 of Leading in a Crisis.