Crisis Management: Managing the Unmanageable

On Wednesday 21st March 2017, Khalid Masood carried out a devastating terror attack in Westminster, London. Five people died, more than 50 were injured, and London came to a near standstill as the police put transport links on lockdown.

Some 12 years earlier London was rocked by the London bombings that took 52 lives and injured more than 700 people. Terror attacks tend to come to mind when we think of a crisis, but there are many more examples – financial crisis, natural disaster, workplace violence, and more.

A crisis is a situation that is unpredictable, but not unexpected. That means to some extent plans can be put in place to manage them if they do happen. Clearly these plans are typically broad and have a number of contingency plans within them to manage the unpredictable nature of a crisis. However, the key takeaway is that planning for a crisis is not only useful, but also incredibly important.

Common Features of a Crisis

  • The situation arises unexpectedly
  • Urgent decisions have to be made
  • Information is demanded urgently
  • Sense of a loss of control
  • Business as usual often becomes impossible
  • Communication is difficult

Crisis Management for Organisations

Many organisations realise that crisis management is so important that they hire in external consultants who have an abundance of knowledge in this space. There is an industry standard set of documents and processes deemed to be key to the success of crisis management:

  • Assess risks: What might be expected to occur. An organisation residing in an area on high terror alert could reasonably expert various types of attack to take place such as a bombing, chemical attack, physical violence, and so on.
  • Produce plans: What should happen in the event of the crisis occurring. Expect there to be multiple threads to the plan to cater for numerous eventualities.
  • Create a crisis management team: Assign roles and responsibilities to that team.
  • Produce a communication plan.
  • Produce an org chart along with communication details.
  • Circulate plans and provide training.
  • Test the plans, review, and improve.

In Summary

When there is a crisis it not only might pose a serious risk to employees, but also impact on the operations of the business. Just because a crisis is unpredictable does not mean it is unexpected. This means that there is proactive planning that can be undertaken to make what might seem like the unmanageable that bit more manageable.

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