Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Who Is Your Crisis Team Anticipator?

Crisis planning requires someone in the process to be a very good “anticipator.”

It takes a different kind of “anticipator” to help manage a crisis once it hits.

The first kind of anticipator is able to look at the most obvious things that could possibly go wrong and then see beyond that.  One of my favorite examples is a client we had recently started working with when the World Trade Center was attacked.

The company was a large publicly traded company and top management’s idea of a crisis was an accident in one of their plants. 

However, when the World Trade Center Towers came crashing down, there was panic at corporate headquarters.  The CEO, CFO and Corporate Counsel were in New York City that morning for an important meeting near the Towers.

When news bulletins reached the corporate staff as they were arriving for work in a different time zone, they started the futile attempt to contact the boss in New York where all communication was jammed.  It was several hours before they heard from the CEO that all three executives were safe and had walked out of the blast zone and into another part of the city where they found a phone that worked.

No one had anticipated the boss would ever be in such danger, nor what his loss would mean to the company.

Needless to say the death or incapacity of a senior executive can have far reaching impact on any publicly traded company.

The other kind of “anticipator” should be on the crisis management team, and should be someone with institutional memory and the ability to see the “big picture.”  This is someone who knows the organization and the market place, as well as key audiences. 

He or she must be able to look at what is happening and reliably predict what may happen next.  When a statement is being prepared the “anticipator” should be able to look at it and tell the decision maker, “if you say this, this key audience is likely to react this way.”  

“If you do this, it will prompt this reaction from the union…” or other key audiences.

The failure to anticipate what COULD happen and the failure to anticipate reactions to decisions and actions while managing a crisis can make or break any company, organization, school, hospital or not for profit.

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