A common failing in crisis is the tendency to seek only information that confirms what the crisis team thinks is happening or expects to see happening. It, therefore, misses the true nature of the crisis and makes decisions that can be counterproductive or flat out wrong.
The paradox of information collection is decision-making is improved with the more information you have; however, there will never be a situation where you have all the information needed. At some point, you’ll have to make decisions based on incomplete information. So collection cannot become an end in itself that delays decision-making.
Overcoming denial and moving through deliberation leads to action. In most cases, the quicker you’re seen to act and provide information on the crisis and your actions, the more likely you are to mitigate the effects of the catastrophe. Effective action depends on two elements:
- Create a crisis-management team. The first action is to isolate the crisis by identifying a crisis-management team and dedicate them solely to the event at hand. Other parts of your organization can be devoted to business as usual, but your crisis-management team must be focused exclusively on the disaster and have the authority and resources necessary to act.
- Act quickly. Speed is essential, particularly in crisis communications. Depending on the nature of your organization, you may have only minutes to get your story out. Even if it’s just acknowledging the crisis has occurred and that you’re assessing the situation, it’s critical the public, your employees and your shareholders hear from you. Acting quickly, demonstrating empathy with anyone affected by the crisis and, above all, being honest can go a long way to countering the negative effects of a crisis.
Surviving a crisis requires you quickly recognize and accept it’s occurring, gather sufficient information to make decisions regarding the crisis, and move quickly to implement those decisions. Incorporating these three keys into your preparations for crisis may not guarantee success, but they’ll certainly go a long way to preventing failures.
Lucien G. Canton is a consultant specializing in preparing managers to lead better in crisis by understanding the human factors often overlooked in crisis planning. A popular speaker and lecturer, he’s the author of “Emergency Management: Concepts and Strategies for Effective Programs.” For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ; visit www.luciencanton.com .