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MICHAEL MCMANUS: As I mentioned in the first chapter,it's best to think of crisis planningas an essential form of insurance.Crises are inevitably all different,and we must beware of oversimplification.However, in order to impose orderin what is bound to be a chaotic situation,I suggest we think in terms of three basic types of crisis.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: There are those crises that can be avoided.There are those that can be anticipated, but not avoided.And there are those that can neitherbe avoided nor anticipated.I start from the premise that most internally generatedcrises can be avoided.For instance, really good internal financial auditing
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: can help to avoid embezzlement.If a manager is a dud, someone surelywill be in a position to spot this fact before crisis hits.If the market is beginning to turnagainst an important product, there are probably earlywarning signs to be found in the figures.The preparation I'm going to advocate in this chapter
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: has a number of purposes.The first is to help prevent or avoid as many potential crisisscenarios as possible.Nip problems in the bud.If there are problems within the organization,and there usually are, someone, somewherewithin the organization will know about them.These are sometimes termed the unknown knowns.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: And it's in your interest as a managerto create and sustain a culture within whichcolleagues from every level feel comfortable bringing problemsto the attention of their managers.That's how prevention works.The second is to prepare mitigation strategiesfor crises that you know may happen,but that you cannot prevent.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: For instance, the loss of a supplier, a major customer,or some other important source of revenue.Be prepared.Think about how you will deal with these problems asand when they hit.The third is to create more general resilience.For instance, by inculcating within the organizationa can-do attitude and bonds of loyalty between colleagues.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: If your culture encourages peopleto share misgivings and fears with their managers,then any crisis, even if it can beneither foreseen nor entirely avoided,will at least be identified early.This, in turn, will enable a swift response possiblybefore any lasting damage is done.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: So it's a question of wider culture and practices.The initial focus in this chapteris on crises that can, at the very least,be mitigated in their early stages, or ideally avoided.Prevention is so obviously better than curethat it's worth considering in some detail about howcrises can be averted before they even get going.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Any insurer will tell you, if you successfully manageand reduce your risks, then your premiums should come down.And the equivalent is true of crisis planning.Much of this is intuitive and even relatively simple.Just make the time.Some very straightforward techniquescan help you to detect the earliest possible hints
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of trouble to come.For instance, anonymous suggestion boxes,promoting confidential whistle-blowing arrangements,open door policies from managers,managing by visibility, walking around,being seen, and encouraging collaboration,and discouraging secrecy or macho independence.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Do think seriously about this and make the necessary time.You won't regret it.You may never know the value to youand your organization of the crisis thatnever happens precisely because it never happens.If crisis planning and avoidance becomean intrinsic and inherent part of the life and routine
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of your organization, the costs and inconvenience of the crisisplanning will fall.And the likelihood of a crisis will shrink.It will never be zero, but the organizationwill avoid the corporate equivalent of what sportsplayers call unforced errors.I want to emphasize that the policies, exercises,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and approaches I'm advocating are useful to any organization.Whichever type of crisis strikes,or indeed if no crisis ever strikes,they create a mindset which is prepared to recognize and dealwith any crisis.None of that effort goes to waste.When a junior member of the accounts team
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: suddenly acquires a million pound house, comesto work in a Porsche, begins to take regular skiing holidays,it really is not unreasonable for his or her colleaguesto begin to wonder what's going on.It may be that they've won the lottery,but that is not the only possibility.When embezzlement or other misappropriation of funds
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: does come to light, it commonly becomesclear that those concerned have been living openly, perhapseven ostentatiously, beyond their legitimate means.As a rule, that's why they do it.If a manager is behaving inappropriately or concealingshortcomes in performance, this needsto be picked up as early as possible.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Senior management, if one exists, membersof any non-executive board as well,need to familiarize themselves with the warning signs.And they need to be willing to act when they do occur.Don't overreact to faint suspicions.Just be aware with eyes, ears, and mind always open.This is why I believe a positive, enlightened policy
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: towards whistleblowing is essential evenwithin small organizations.It's common for whistleblowers to be portrayedas disgruntled employees devoid of loyaltywho wish only to settle a score against a colleagueor a manager.Sometimes that may indeed be the case.But it's foolhardy to discount the benefits
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of a positive policy on whistleblowing.It is also unwise to ignore persistent rumorsof wrongdoing.Every company should test its policies and proceduresfor points of weakness or vulnerability.One approach which has become popular in recent timesis to use employees or small teams of employeesas internal guerrilla agents.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: No one knows the organization better than they do, soask them to find any weaknesses within the structure that couldbe exploited causing a crisis.If more than one group is engaged to do this,it could become very competitive.No, if more than one group is engaged in this,it will become very competitive.That could be an excellent thing.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Now, this serves to emphasize the great valuein crisis planning by always having broad input.The more you listen, the more you learn,the better your chances will be of cutting off potential crisesat the pass.What you learned about your organizationduring a vulnerability audit may surprise.You may turn up problems that demand
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: immediate expensive action.You may avert a likely crisis in the first dayor even the first hour.However large or small an organization may be,if you as a manager believe you know everything, trust me,you are wrong, and you always will be wrong.Face up to that, and keep your eyes, your ears, and your mind
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: open.And you will surprise yourself with what you learnand with the importance of what you learn.An honest and open vulnerability audit will prove that to you.So to reprise briefly, think in terms of three types of crisis.Those that can be anticipated and thereby avoided,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: those that can be anticipated but not avoided, and those thatcan be neither anticipated nor avoided.And addressing the first two beginswith a vulnerability audit.One obvious way of preempting and avoiding crisesis to audit your risks, your workplace culture,and your operational practices.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: A vulnerability audit can be very informal,and it need not take very long.A rough and ready audit may require just an hour or twoof your time and energy.Even that brief audit could produceinsights that astound you.I'll make some suggestions.First of all, should you find yourself in your workplacelate one evening when no one else is around,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: have a walk around, and just see what'sbeen left on desks, in wastepaper baskets,or in open receptacles for shredding.See if any non-passworded computershave been left switched on.During the working day, master the old politicians artof having one conversation while listening to another.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: As a manager, get a feel for the moodamongst your colleagues and their attentionto the need for discretion and security.Many people prefer not to have all their meetingsin their workplace.They prefer the ambience in the local deli,or they simply like to go where the coffee is better.Well, this is fine, OK, up to a point.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: But there really must be a company policy on this.Because outside the building, or indeed inside it,you never, ever know who may be listening.My father and I used to meet for Sunday lunchin a pub in the London suburb where he lived.One day as we drank our lemonade or possibly something stronger
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and ate our pies, he told me that he sometimescame into the same pub for lunch on weekdays.He would regularly find himself sitting adjacent to a tableoccupied by a group of employees from the big office next doorwho were dealing with confidential material.Within his earshot, those employeeswould discuss highly sensitive matters closely related
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: to their work.I've overheard so many conversationsthat I should not have overheard.I'm sure you have too.And it's only human nature to assume that what you dois too technical, to esoteric, to obscureto interest the seemingly random people around you.But you never know for sure how random those people really are.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: The management of that company should have beenaware of what was going on.But this the level of indisciplineis shockingly common.It would also have been very easy for the managementto sort this out.Not necessarily by punishing anyone,but through training and clearly stated policies.In any vulnerability audit, this shouldbe one of the first aspects of employee culture and behavior
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: that you check.The majority of information security breachesare caused by human error or simple carelessness.Once again, prevention is better than cure.And don't get angry if the result of these exercisesis that you discover problems.This isn't spying, nor am I advocatingany approach that would create paranoia in the workplace.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: You will probably find a breach or two.Remember, at this stage you are stillin the business of prevention.So it's not too late to redeem matters.Don't wait until it's too late before youestablish whether your colleagues being discreetor not.Don't end up kicking yourself whenyou're on the wrong end of a crisis purelybecause you failed to undertake some very
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: basic, preventative checks and measures in good time.You could easily create a checklistto be revisited regularly.How often are personal passwords changed,and how secure are they?How often entry passcodes changed?How rigorous are policies towards visitorsin the building?Is the paper shredding policy up to scratch?
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Is there a clean desk policy in the evening?If you share a building with other companies,is access securities sufficiently rigorous?How carefully do you look into the background of your staff?Do you know who your cleaners are and how they are vetted?What happens to office trash when it leaves the building?A vulnerability audit can provide a welcome forum
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: for employees to give voice to any concerns theymay have about weaknesses in the organization.It mustn't be for venting gossip or settling vendettas.But do you think carefully about the degreeto which it might be possible to involve employees widely,regardless of seniority.And do include both open and confidential sessions.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Don't forget to look upward for advice as welland engage non-executive board as a valuable resource.Informal vulnerability audits are a useful complementto formal audits, but they're no substitute for them.Regular formal audience by risk assessment professionalscan make it much more straightforward
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: to monitor risk management improvementswithin the organization.Many managers feel it is difficult to findfresh eyes internally and prefer to engage external consultants.There is no hard and fast rule, but using external consultantscan be very expensive.Personally, I think it's more cost effective and sustainable
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: to offer incentives to staff to think in terms of crisisavoidance, not least by encouraging them to believetheir concerns will be listened to,taken seriously, and then acted upon.I have dealt with basic staff policiesand the value of audits.More formal risk assessment requires a clear structure
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: to be effective.Your goal here is to identify potentially controllable risksin advance.There are various ways of analyzing wherethese threats may be found.The list that follows is by no means exhaustive,and of course, will differ from organization to organization.You'll want to do your own thorough study
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of each area of your business and listout potential sources of risk.The first group of potential weaknessesare what I would term operational,risks that are inherent in what an organization doesand how it does it.This heading all the processes of the organization, plant
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and machinery, shop floors and offices,byproducts of production and their disposal,internal and external policies, corporate governance,and methods of appointing people to roles and positions,especially in senior management, and relations between managersand less senior workers.These are just a few examples of operational questions.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: They differ from place to place, and naturally, youknow what you do far better than I ever could.An important first step in assessing riskis to make sure you have the most useful possible dataavailable.Listening to your staff is one important sourceof information.But you can also spot signs of impending crises
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: in the numbers-- rising failure rates,declining sales, a sharp increase in staff turnover.I suggest you try to rank potential risks accordingto two simple metrics.First of all, how likely is the risk?Secondly, how severe is the damage the risk might cause?
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Risks that are both likely and severeshould naturally rise to the top of your list.Then look at those risks and makesure you have the data you need to inform your preparation.We all know that any organization can fall victimto a single calamity, a fire, a failure of the IT system,a lightning strike, a road accident, or the sudden death
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of a senior employee.But the chances of these can be reducedand the impacts lessened through preparation.For some risks, a cost benefit analysis may be possible.For instance, take the example of a sudden power failure.It should be possible by extrapolatingfrom existing data and past experience
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: to calculate the likelihood of a power failure.It should also be possible to estimatethe cost of losing power to the organization,the loss in revenue, the cost of repairs, and so on.Compare that to the cost of hiring a reserve generator.In such a calculation, science can and shoulddefinitely trump art.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: If the cost of a power failure is, say, 100,000 pounds,and the chances of it happening in a given year are 1 in 10,then the expected loss in a year is 10,000 pounds.If it costs less than that to hire a reserve generator,then it's probably a good idea to hire a reserve generator.Similar calculations should be possible for a number
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of other calamities such as a total loss of IT systems.Really, all you're doing is a cruder versionof what actuaries do for insurance companies.At least they would tell you it was cruder.In fact, it's a form of very rational self-insurance.Diversification may be important in a numberof operational areas.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: For instance, if a company is heavilydependent upon a single customer or supplier,then its well-being is out of its own hands.Wherever possible, minimize risk by expanding your customerbase.Otherwise, a serious shock to just one customercan have fatal repercussions for you.With suppliers it's a similar story.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: But there's perhaps more that can be done.To ensure that problems with a supplierare less likely to prove catastrophic,do develop relationships with other potential suppliersbefore a crisis happens just in case.You may also want to stockpile certain supplies within reason.The same goes for staff or systems.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Avoid, if possible, a single point of failure.At least two people must know your secret recipe.Back up important documents.If the departure of a particular employeewould cripple the company, that'sa problem you need to address.But keep your reactions proportionate.Don't spend more preventing a risk than you would
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: have to spend fighting it.Just be aware.Take into account less obvious costs,such as the risk to your organization's reputation.Be realistic.Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.That's how you'll begin to build in resiliencefor a time of crisis.If the crisis hits not only you, but your competitors too,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: just think about the advantages you'llbe giving yourself through your built-in crisis resilience.You could be the one ship with enough lifeboats, the only jumper with the emergency parachute.You get the picture.It's a philosophy of realism, of open eyes, ears, and minds.It's a philosophy of survival.But it's also a philosophy that could give you
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: a competitive edge in the market.Be on the lookout constantly and embed crisis avoidance, crisisspotting, and crisis mitigation deeply within your culture.The other group of potentially controllable problemsthat can be addressed here come under the broad headingof communications.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: In chapter 4, I'll deal with communications in the mediain much greater detail.But suffice it to say, economic and technological forces havechanged the news media, including the specialist media,beyond all recognition.It's hard these days to know who has clout, influence,or credibility out there.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Sometimes the so-called citizen journalist or bloggercommands greater respect amongst opinion formersthan a well-established writer or a publicationof known pedigree.All this flux.Keep on top of it.And there are few more obvious warning signsin the modern world of a looming crisis
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: than an organization that consistently loses outto its critics on social media and online news sites.This is not a frivolous arena.It matters.If your enemies are gaining ground and makingmore serious allegations against you than ever before,do something about it.Be alert.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: In so-called peace time when there is no crisis,be a considerate, honest, and responsive corporate citizen.It can make all the difference.Cultivate a professional, respectful relationshipwith the media.And by media, I mean all the journalists who matter,whether traditional or not.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Poor public relations or a simple lackof clarity about who is and who is notan authorized spokesperson for an organizationcan result in crisis.Get a handle on this straight away.This will substantially enhance your chancesof killing off any crisis quickly and effectivelybefore it overwhelms you.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Whatever the size of your organization,don't leave the choice of principal media spokespersonuntil a crisis is already underway,and don't leave media and presentation trainingfor a rainy day.When that rainy day comes, it'll betoo late to master the necessary skills.The choice of spokesperson is crucial.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: It's no accident that so many successful larger organizationshave a senior figure in charge of internal communicationas well as external.Ideally, regardless of the size of your organization,your spokesperson should combine a numberof qualities-- authority and seniority, fluency, warmth
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and empathy even under pressure, a ready command of factsand figures, and the ability to put a domestic situationinto a wider context.So no pressure then.Too many executives console themselves with the beliefthat dealing with the media is intuitive,something that any reasonably competent able and experienced
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: person can pull off successfully without any training.Almost without exception, they are wrong.One loose word by a senior executivecan throw a major organization straight into crisis mode.So media training can more than repay its costin the space of a single interview.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Media training teaches you many things.The golden rule is to be constantlyconscious of the fact that you are speaking not for yourself,but for the organization.Now, sometimes it is appropriate to say something personal.But never do so spontaneously, self-indulgently,or irrelevantly.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: It must dovetail perfectly with the messageon behalf of the organization.It should be honed, thoroughly rehearsed,and immaculately delivered.Never allow anyone to perceive a millimeter of differencebetween yourself and the organization,nor indeed between yourself and any other senior colleague
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: within the organization.Regardless of whether there's a crisis or not,your job is not to give the interviewer whathe or she wants.Your job is to communicate the messageyou have chosen to put on the record on behalfof the organization.So stick to your guns and stick to your script.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: You don't have to answer a question.If you're confident you can answer the question honestly,accurately, and compellingly, then do so.Just be careful because it's oftenthe supplementary question that carriesthe fatal sting in its tail.So don't get drawn into a cul-de-sacto please a journalist or to show off how clever you are
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: or how clever you think you are.Less is usually more.Keep it crisp.Now, it's easy to think of communicationsas external-- the creation of messagesfor public consumption.But internal communications are so important too, especiallyduring a crisis.Good internal communications can foster the unity of purpose
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: I discussed at the start of this chapter.So do ensure you give internal communicationsthe high priority they deserve.When you set up your crisis management teamduring a period of calm, of course,not after a crisis is struck, be sure to includeauthorized internal spokespersons along side those
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: who will be authorized to speak to the outside world on behalfof the organization.And always remember, internal communicationscan and often do find their way into the public sphere as well.In summary, please don't wait for a crisisto hit before appointing and traininga senior spokesperson who can speak
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: on behalf of your organization in a crisis.Invest in his or her skills and confidence.Your spokesperson may become so good they can helpyou to dodge a crisis or two.Even if you hardly ever need to communicatewith the outside world during the good times, believe you me,in a crisis you will have to.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: And the tenor, plausibility, and effectiveness of your messagemay decide your future.In fact, it may decide whether or not you have a future.Your crisis response team is a designated groupof first responders within the organization, peopletrained and ready to react immediately to any crisis.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Now, this team usually encompasses four broad roles--leaders, communications professionals, legal experts,and technical experts.I'll suggest how the team might be constructed,and I hope this will give you a broad idea of how you mightwant to proceed when you start to thinkabout the structures and the allocation of responsibilities
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: that would work for you and for your organization.The demarcations of responsibilityare crucially important, so do you make them crystal clear.There should be no surprises about each team member'sduties.They should all be settled in the organization's crisismanagement handbook.First of all, there will be those all-important leaders.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Leaders must understand the nature of the challengeand take charge of ensuring unity within the teamand within the organization more widely.The leaders set the tone.They are the internal and external spokespersons.They must exude confidence and determination.The stresses of a crisis will inevitably
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: change relationships between teammates and colleagues.Tempers may fray.Angry words may be uttered in the heat of the moment.The leaders must keep calm, show understanding and compassion,but also resolve.Do you have potential crisis management leadersalready within your organization ready to help
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: avert crises, but eager to step up and deal with them if theyoccur?Or do you have a leadership team made upof ostriches who prefer to operate on the basisthat crises are once in a lifetime experiences or bridgesto be crossed as and when you come to them?In most organizations, you'll know who your potential crisis
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: managers are well before you encounter a crisis,or at least you should.If you don't, then that should be the first priority for you.Find and nurture your crisis managers,those who relish the challenge and won'tbuckle when it gets tough.You're going to need them one day.A crisis team also needs communications specialists
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: or PR people.By temperament, PR people tend to be diplomats and persuaders.Their work is invaluable, but in a crisis,their judgment may be flawed if they don't havethe right specific experience.The problem with many mainstream PR peopleis that when there isn't a crisis to fight,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: their job is to market something, an idea, a product,a brand where they can manipulate the message.They like to work proactively.They're accustomed to controllingwhat gets said where and when.What some PR and communications folk don't much likeis what the military call incoming.In a crisis, it's all about reacting to events
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and monitoring what others are saying,rather than projecting a well-honed messageinto the market using your preferred channelsof communication.So your PR person will need the proper trainingin order to be effective in a crisis situation.Or else, you may want to bring in outside experts whospecialize in crisis communications.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Your senior communications specialistmay possess a talent for promoting unity within a crisismanagement team.But if the PR team starts advocatingwhat seems to be a solution to the crisis,the leaders should be cautious, aware of the beliefthat improved PR alone can bring a crisis to an end.It can't.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: In times of turmoil, you're certain to need legal advice.Once again, be conscious of the nature of the beast.Lawyers often recommend silence, fearful that any statement willbe worse for the organization than no statement,especially in a crisis.Now, this advice can provide a valuable counterbalance
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: to the communications team, but it should nevergo unchallenged.Step back for a moment and consider the role of the lawyerwithin an organization in crisis.The lawyer's job is to protect the organizationand its senior employees from legal actions,defamatory statements, allegationsof regulatory noncompliance, and all other forms
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of hostile outside activity that could force youinto court either as a plaintiff or as a defendant.Now, this contrasts with the role of the crisis PRmanager who will worry more about the nebulous arenaof social media, online reputationmanagement, stakeholder confidence, and public opinion.These skill sets are fundamentally different,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and the leader's job will be to balance these viewpointsinto a coherent, single picture.Only mutually consistent campaignscan provide any guarantee of success.Having said that, the legal presenceon the crisis management team is essential.Consult your lawyers on every statement.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Avoid making statements that may please the public,but expose the organization to litigation.The temporary boost in popularityjust won't be worth it.The lawyers should support the teamduring a crisis in encouraging employeesto practice higher levels of discretion than usual.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: The lawyers on the team should also remind their colleaguesof the importance of keeping records during the crisis,both because of the possibility of legal actions later,and also because of the need to learn lessons from the crisis.Collecting, protecting, and preserving documentationhopefully is wired into the DNA of every lawyer.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Finally, a crisis management teamoften needs to include technical experts.This is critical when the crisis involvesa product failure or a technical issue of some kind.They're valuable in ensuring, so far as possible, the accuracyof the information upon which management decisions are based,and also of course, the accuracy and robustness
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of any statements to the media.In fact, in their own way, the technical expertsare every bit as important as the lawyersin the role they can and should play checking and vetting eachand every public statement.Crisis management is very largelyabout reassurance and the restoration of confidence,a cause that is hardly going to be helped
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: if you get your facts wrong.If and when crisis does strike your crisis planis going to be all important.Crisis prevention is naturally basedon identifying the sources of potential crises.But a crisis response plan should be more outcome-based.There's an old saying, it's much the samebeing hit at speed by a bus, a van, or a car.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: What matters is that you've been hit.And the best plan is to avoid being hit.In other words, the consequence ismore important than the means by which the injury, damage,or crisis was caused.More importantly, for our purposesin considering crisis scenarios, any remedial actionshould focus more on the nature of the injury
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: than upon the source of the blow.At some point, it will be criticallyimportant to work out exactly what happenedand to take that into account when planning for the future.But during the acute stage of a crisis,that will rarely, if ever, be an overriding priority.Your immediate priority is to survive.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: For instance, if your power supply is cut,your immediate priority shouldn'tbe to figure out why the power failed.That will be the power company's responsibility.Your job in the interim is to deal with having no power.You might have an emergency generatoror a fallback arrangement with another provider.You might need to make emergency provisions to find a generator.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Just deal with surviving and worry about the sourceof the problem later.If the cause of the crisis is internal,a similar principle applies, except that addressingthe cause is going to be your responsibility,not someone else's.If your share price and your reputationhave plummeted because of the behavior
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: of your chief executive, yes, of course,you must deal with the chief executive.But he or she can be suspended within a matter of hoursand a full and open investigation announced.Before worrying about where to place the blame,your energies should be devoted to restoring the company'sshare price and reputation.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: In other words, to ameliorating the outcome.So a crisis plan should focus much more on outcomesthan on causes.Causes may be addressed.Indeed, they should be addressed,but once the acute stage of the crisis is over.The crisis team needs to focus on managingthe crisis and the consequences of whatever has occurred.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: I do believe it's important for an organizationto have an up-to-date crisis plan.Here, I'm talking about a physical or perhapsdigital handbook of guidelines for how the organization shouldreact in the event of a crisis.Many organizations that do take crisis planningseriously produce a crisis war book.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: All the protocols and processes for dealing with a crisisare set out.And in most crisis scenarios, they literallydo it by the book, and they all do it by the same book.Indeed, to use the timeworn phrase,they are all working from the same page.The crisis handbook must be kept up to date.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: And I think this should be the responsibilityif a specific named individual.It should be an integral part of their job description,their routines, and of their entire approach to their work.The core crisis team should meet regularly.They should make it their businessto be aware of what's going on throughout the organization--
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: the state of morale, the level of discretion and discipline,the rigor of management.Managers should cultivate the habitof listening and picking up useful intelligencefrom their fellow employees, whichcan then be reported at the crisis planning meetings.Gathering that information is a crucial partof the crisis team's job.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: The crisis team should then take the information gatheredto create a comprehensive set of guidelinesfor the organization.I'm going to suggest a few topicsthat I believe should be in the crisis handbook.If it's your job to prepare a similar bookfor your organization, think about how you might adapt these
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: to your specific needs.Start by brainstorming the likely crisis scenariosfor your organization.Create a brief scenario for each so youknow what challenges you're likely to face.List contact information for key external resources--your bank, your lawyers, utility companies,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: your internet service provider.You'll also want information about servicesyou may need in an emergency-- police, fire, ambulance,building security, and building maintenance.Include media contacts, major news outlets,those journalists who specialize in covering your industry,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and your external media consultants if you have any.Make sure you have contact information for all your staff.Have a contact plan for when a crisis hits.Who gets that first telephone call?In addition to planning responsesto business-specific scenarios, have more standard emergency
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: response plans.How would you evacuate staff?Where should staff shelter if youneed to lock down the building?Include specific guidelines for IT issues, connectivity issues,data loss, or security breaches, or common crisis scenarios.Have a plan in place for a disruption in business
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: operations.How might a complete shutdown in one areacascade through the organization?You may want contact information for important suppliersor clients that might be affected.Consider succession plans for important roles.Who will assume interim duties should you lose a team member
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: suddenly?Plan support services for employeesin the event of a serious incident.Coordinate how you would contact families and supportemployees post crisis.And finally, you'll want to make sure the crisis isa useful educational resource.Include information about training resources
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and detailed notes on past crisesso the organization can avoid repeating errors.Make sure staff know where to findthe handbook in an emergency.Keep more than one copy on hand.And make sure you won't lose accessif your internet goes down.The crisis response team should know this handbook inside out.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: No crisis is going to proceed nicelyaccording to predictions.But thinking through these important steps in advancewill make your responses quicker and more assured.Crisis drills involving a wide spectrum of staffare an excellent idea.Bring together a team to deal with a fictional crisis
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: scenario.Any such scenario should have a numberof demonstrable characteristics.First and foremost, the scenario must be credible.The crisis should involve a real problemyour business might face.The staff chosen to run the scenariomust take their job seriously.No half measures.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: No I'm too busy today, but I'd do it right in a real crisis.Otherwise, employees will not take it seriously.This is why some organizations bringin an external troubleshooter to run the crisis test.External consultants do bring a useful layer of separation
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: from the permanent staff, which can help to make the drillscenario seem more real.But troubleshooters need to do their researchbefore they get to work.And they don't, as a rule, come cheap.I should also emphasize there is generallya world of difference between a troubleshooter and a crisismanager.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: A troubleshooter can help you expose weaknessesbefore they become critical.Once a crisis has hit, you'll need a crisis manageron the team, not a consultant with theoretical knowledge.Very different indeed.Secondly, elements within the scenariomust change as it unfolds, otherwise
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: it won't provide a useful test of how the team woulddeal with a genuine crisis.It would be a very rare crisis that stood stillwhile the crisis handling team got to grips with ita crisis drill would be of no useat all unless it reflects the unpredictable, fast-changingreality of a genuine crisis situation.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Next, the scenario in war-gaming shouldinvolve not only the nominated crisis team, but alsoemployees at all levels of the organization.It wouldn't be very effective to hold fire drillsfor senior staff only.The same must be true of an effective crisis practice run.So do everything possible to make the team take it
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: seriously.That will make all the difference.Emphasize to the staff that a crisis willbe a crisis for all of them.And they should all plan to be part of the solutionas and when a genuine crisis does occur.Ensure the allocation of responsibilitiesis crystal clear to everyone concerned.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Everyone should know exactly whattheir role is going to be when a real crisis strikes.Fourthly, include communications in the drill,both internal and external.Take the opportunity to remind all employeesof the need for discipline when it comes to communicatingduring a crisis.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Let me reiterate, careless talk costs jobs.Have an up-to-date list of important contactsin case of crisis.I emphasize again, up to date.It should be the appointed task of a named individualto ensure that this contacts list is up to date at least
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: once a month.In fact, I would suggest it shouldbe done on a weekly basis, perhaps every Friday.It's astonishing how frequently changeswill have to be made even to a list with just a coupleof dozen names and contact details on it.Just build this into someone's regular routinelike taking medication or locking upthe house in the morning.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: It may feel like a chore, but that feelingwill evaporate the moment a crisis does strike.This list should then be emailed to the secure external emailaddresses of the senior crisis management team.In fact, really it should be emailedto everyone who might need it.Possibly the list should be printed off regularly too.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: This might seem like a waste of paper,but since one of the most likely crisesto hit a modern organization is a catastrophic loss of ITservices, just be sure the crucially, critically importantcontacts list does exist somewheresafe outside the database.Finally, it is also crucially important to ensure
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: even in a crisis, especially in a crisis, that you keepclear, honest, and comprehensive records of events, decisions,and actions throughout the duration of the crisis.This should be the responsibility of a namedindividual, perhaps the company secretary if there is one.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: If your organization is serious about surviving a crisis,it must be able to audit its own crisis responseonce the crisis is over.This is something else people simply do notthink about in the middle of a crisis.It must be part of the drill and the routinefrom the very outset.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Unless you write all this informationdown frequently and contemporaneously,tired minds will play tricks on memory.No useful audit can be based upon a tainted source,and you'll risk repeating past mistakesif you do not properly record the actions you took as partof your crisis response.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: The importance of preparation and practiceis once again self evident.But I must close this section by re-emphasizing the factthat every crisis is different.And it is impossible to predict every aspect of a crisis.Preparation should help you to become resilient.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: It helps avoid panic when the spit hits the fan.But your response to a real crisis must be flexible.And the most useful lesson you and your teamcan learn from practicing is precisely that.In a crisis, always remain flexible.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: One critically important responsibilityof the crisis team once it's up and runningis to play a role in the early spotting and diagnosisof any emerging crisis, ideally before it reallystarts to cause significant damage to the organization.Just like an illness in a human being,prevention is better than cure.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: But if prevention fails, then the soonera crisis within an organization is identified,the greater the chances of survival will be.There are known warning signs for most serious illnesses.And so too, there are warning signs for crises.No list is exhaustive, but here aresome possible signs of a potential or actual crisis
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: for an organization.The first possible indicator of a looming crisismight be if there is detectable public resistance, opposition,or hostility to something the organization is doing.A campaigning or lobbying group might come into existence.They could be objecting to almost anything.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: It might be a controversial scientific or medicalinnovation, or it might be some well-established policyor process which has been exposed as inadequate,potentially dangerous to public health,antiquated, or simply not in tune with public taste.The point is, if opposition and hostilitygathering and cohering against you,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: this could be an early warning sign of an impending crisis.Public sentiment is detectable in various ways-- social media,focus groups, the growth of pressure groups or campaigns.And you can initiate crisis management strategies longbefore these hostile ripples in the undergrowth
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: manifest themselves as a full blown crisis.There is no need to panic at the first sign of trouble,but be alert always and trust your instincts.If you sense smoke, look for a fire.If you don't find one, all the better.A second example of a warning sign,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: specifically within a big organization,would be a detectable, discernible patternof slack standards amongst managers.Senior management should be highlysensitive to any such signs whichsuggest that the outer reaches of their empireare not meeting the standards they should set for themselves.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: This could take the form of complaints about poor service,a failure to apply equal opportunity policies,a decline in site cleanliness, almostanything that could rapidly escalatefrom a series of local shortcomingsto a company-wide crisis.This is an instance where the visibility of senior leaders
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: can make a crucial difference.A fourth important source of warning signsthat I want you to consider comes from much closer to home,indeed from your own staff.Have you noticed any patterns of persistent rumors, gossip,or disquiet?Could it be that someone within the organization
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: is living either covertly or overtlybeyond his or her means?Is someone in a position of authoritymisusing that all authority, perhaps bullying junior staffor covering up inadequacies in their own performanceby putting unfair pressure on others?
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Of course, any hearsay could just be sour grapes,but don't make assumptions.Investigate and follow up.In a diplomatic way, of course, but do investigateand follow up.It's human nature to want there not to be a problem.But you cannot in real life just wish problems away.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: Similarly, if junior employees are anxious,their managers, supervisors, and colleaguesshould be under instruction to take noteand to report this up the managerial line.Remember the human factor.Most people don't want to be perceived by their colleaguesas stool pigeons, gossips, or troublemakers.
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: It's your responsibility as a managerto ensure that your staff, all your staff,from the most junior hires to the most senior executivesdo you feel comfortable reporting genuine concerns.That means you must set up confidential and easilyaccessible systems through which concerns can be passed upwards
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: within the organization.There is a myth that whistleblowingcan be made too easy, in which case, the systembecomes overloaded with trivia, frivolous complaints,and point scoring.In reality, that doesn't happen.Set up an effective, user-friendly system,
MICHAEL MCMANUS [continued]: and monitor it closely.A whistleblower could save your organization.
Crisis Planning, Prevention and Avoidance
View Segments Segment :
In chapter 2 of this series on crisis management, Michael McManus explains how to prepare for and prevent crises. He outlines the steps in setting up a crisis response team and identifying crisis warning signs.
In chapter 2 of this series on crisis management, Michael McManus explains how to prepare for and prevent crises. He outlines the steps in setting up a crisis response team and identifying crisis warning signs.