Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Another Preventable Crisis

The Triad Group of Hartland, WI is fast becoming the latest posterchild for preventable business crises.

2-year-old Harrison Kothari of Houston, TX died Dec. 1, 2010 from a rare infection that has been linked to a contaminated alcohol wipe used in a hospital. His parents have filed a "gross negligence" lawsuit. At last count this week, more than 50 potential victims have contacted plaintiff's attorneys wanting to sue. That number is sure to swell.

Then, this week, to make matters worse, it was reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found signs of sterilization problems and contamination at the Wisconsin plant in July 2009 and didn't take any documented enforcement action.

Additional government documents indicate inspectors found similar sterilization problems in the same plant a year later, with still no sign that a clean-up was ordered.

In fact, MSNBC.Com has found FDA documents from the summer of 2009 that say, "Procedures designed to prevent microbiological contamination of drug products purporting to be sterile are not followed."

After the death of the Texas boy, Triad began a recall of millions of alcohol wipes, potentially contaminated with the rare bacteria Bacillus cereus. The FDA has received at least 100 reports of problems likely caused by the contaminated wipes since the recall was announced.

After the death of the 2-year-old, FDA launched an investigation, but neither the FDA nor Triad are talking.

This is beginning to look like another company that ignored the warning signs of impending trouble and will have no one else to blame when the company collapses and fails.

Remember, two-thirds of all business crises are preventable. All you have to do is look for the signs of trouble and take action to fix what ever is wrong then, not later.

A $30-million lawsuit has since been filed by a Tennessee man who had to have open-heart surgery after his heart was infected with the rare infection.

In addition to the victims of the contaminated wipes, FDA now joins the government agencies that failed to do their jobs, which contributed to the Massey Coal Mine disaster and the BP oil well explosion and spill.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The BP Verdict Is In

The verdict is in, and as the Institute for Crisis Management says so often, "The sad fact is that this was an entirely preventable disaster."

It was also the conclusion of Fred Bartlit, chief counsel for the Federal Commission investigating the BP oil well explosion and spill in his detailed summary of the final report. The report had been submitted a month ago, but this subsequent report includes more detail.

Bartlit, said in a statement. "Poor decisions by management were the real cause."

In 20 years of tracking negative business news, the Institute for Crisis Management has found year after year that two-thirds of all organizational crises are what we call “smoldering” crises.

They start out small, usually internal, and in almost every case, someone or several someones should spot them and recognize their potential to grow into a major business disruption and ultimate crisis. And in most cases, they end up costing the company far more in the long-run than they would have spent to avoid or prevent the issue from getting out of hand and becoming a public embarrassment later.

According to the BP Commission report, there were signs of potential disaster as early as 2007.

Investigators found repeated signs of incompetence and carelessness and disregard of warning signs of both, over at least three years, before the well blew-up, collapsed into the Gulf and began spewing crude oil across the region.

All you have to do is create a work environment where everyone is paying attention to what is going on around them, and no one is afraid to speak up when they see a problem and tell someone who can do something about it.

That’s not hard to do.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Register Now and Save Money on ICM Crisis Training

If you've been thinking about signing up for the two-day or three-day Institute for Crisis Management Certification Course, the next one is scheduled for May 10-11 and 12.

AND, if you register before the end of March, you will get a 15% discount on all three days of intense crisis communication and media spokesperson training. If you wait until April to register you will only get a 10% discount.

You can save $306 for the May Certification Course if you register before March 31st.

This offer is good for the first ten persons who sign-up for the May 10- 11 and 12th course. You may use the 15% discount on the two-day course, only on the one-day media training course, or on all three.

For details about the ICM Crisis Communication Certification Course go to http://www.crisisconsultant.com/certcourses_main.htm .

For a registration form contact Yvonne at yvonne@crisisconsultant.com .

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What Were They Thinking?

JP Morgan Chase has been accused of over-charging 4,000 active-duty military families’ mortgage interest rates, improperly foreclosing on at least 14 families and within weeks of this becoming public, Chase cancelled a program to defer student loan payments for active duty personnel.

A Marine Captain blew the whistle on Chase after they illegally over-charged him interest on his home mortgage after he went on active duty about five years ago. A long-standing federal law (http://www.military.com/benefits/legal-matters/scra/overview) requires banks to lower mortgage interest rates to 6% for active duty military men and women during times of war.

After a months long battle, Chase adjusted the interest rate and told the Captain he only had to pay the 6% interest rate. But after a year, the family started getting threatening collection calls at all hours of the day and night and Saturdays and Sundays.

The right hand at Chase had not told the left hand what it was doing.
Captain Jonathan Rowles hired a lawyer and sued Chase.

Then, two months ago, Chase cancelled the deferment of student loans for active duty soldiers and began insisting they pay up.

Army Private First Class Andrew Napoli is serving near Kandahar, and his wife tried to get Chase to reconsider the student loan deferment. She said they ignored her, so she called NBC News and then told Chase she had called a network television news department.

She says the next day Chase called with a change of heart. NBC quoted Chase spokesperson Kristin Lemkau as saying, “Upon review, we have decided to reinstitute the loan deferment for all active-duty service members who request it.”

Did you catch that little qualifier, “who request it.” Wonder how many who were formally notified their student loans were no longer deferred now know they can “request” it again?

Remember, we at the Institute for Crisis Management argue that two-thirds of all business crises could be prevented. This is certainly one of those “problems” Chase doesn’t need, with public attitudes about American banks and financial institutions already in the proverbial crapper.

Chase chief spokesperson Lemkau said, “We are deeply appreciative of those who fight to protect our country and Chase funds a number of programs that provide benefits to military personnel and veterans, and while any customer mistake is regrettable, we feel particularly badly about the mistakes we made here.”

She said Chase is returning about $2-million in refunds to military families and buying back and returning the 14 homes that were foreclosed on.

So what could Chase have done to prevent or minimize the damage?

First, when you are dealing with a potentially high profile customer – i.e. families of U.S. soldiers – stop and think about the ramifications of what you are about to do.

Second, when a potentially high profile customer – i.e. families of U.S. solders – asks for help and someone to listen to them, don’t even think about it. Put them in touch with someone who CAN help. If that is not your policy, more often than not, you can expect to read about the customer’s complaint in the local newspaper, on the local TV “Trouble-shooter” segment or somewhere among a million on-line blogs, tweets or other social media outlets.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Lesson From Fort Hood

You and your organization – business, non-profit, college, university, healthcare facility, manufacturing plant or distribution center – are not immune from workplace violence.

You can ignore the threat, continually tell yourself “it will never happen here,” and go about your daily business in ignorant bliss.

Or, you can learn from all those examples that face us in the news almost every day.

A federal government report, just released, confirms what every expert has been saying for years.

The murder of 13 people and wounding of 32 more at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009, “could have been, and should have been prevented,” according to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, (I-Conn).

Marc McElhaney, Ph.D., an Atlanta based expert on workplace violence says workplace violence is a process, not a sudden event. Our experience at the Institute for Crisis Management supports that conclusion.

Just because the Senate report is about an attack on an Army base, doesn’t mean management of any other kind of organization can ignore the findings or convince themselves it could never happen in our plant, campus or office.

There are two things every executive, administrator or business owner should do.

1. Learn the signs of developing workplace violence and educate all employees about their responsibility to pay attention to signs of change and behavioral problems with coworkers, AND then to share that concern with the appropriate person.

2. Develop a workplace violence crisis plan for the rare occasion when you can’t prevent an incident.

You can learn more about or contact Dr. McElhaney and his staff at www.craorg.com for help with #1 above and the Institute for Crisis Management www.crisisconsultant.com or info@crisisconsultant.com for help with #2.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Disasters, Crises, Trouble Everywhere, Are YOU Prepared?

A 5-Star hotel in China was destroyed by fire started by Lunar New Year fireworks. Egypt is the focus of the world. While protestors demonstrate, throw fire bombs and get shot at by alleged government thugs, businesses throughout Cairo are shuttered, looted, damaged or destroyed.

A factory explosion killed 7 in Turkey and a storm more powerful than Katrina slammed the coast of Australia.

That’s just a few of the headlines in the news in one-hour, one-day this week. Oh, by the way, did you hear about the snow and ice storm that paralyzed cities and businesses from St. Louis to Chicago to the Northeast United States?

Wonder how many of those businesses, hospitals, non-profits, colleges, universities, plants and distribution centers had a crisis plan?

All should have a crisis operations plan, a crisis communication plan and a continuity and recovery plan.

Office Depot has developed a guide, “Expecting the Unexpected; Disaster Preparedness for Small Business.” They commissioned a study by TNS NFO that found 71% of small businesses do not have a disaster plan and 64% of the owner/operators of those businesses say they do not need one.

According to the Association of Small Business Development Centers, more than one in four businesses will have a significant crisis. And the Hartford Insurance company says 43% of those who have a crisis and no crisis plan never reopen. And the Hartford study says of those that do reopen, only 29% are still operating two years later.

There are two things you can do, now, and we can help. Sign-up for one of our two or three day crisis communication workshops and give us a call about how we can help you develop a crisis plan.

We are accepting registrations for the May 10-11 & 12 ICM Crisis Communication Certification Course, and there are openings in the July 12-13 & 14 class and the Sept. 13-14 & 15 class. For more details go to http://crisisconsultant.com/certcourses_main.htm or call us at 502 587 0327.