Recently I hosted and facilitated a Nano-seconds Crisis Response workshop in Johannesburg.
For those who could not make it, here are 10 lessons that we discussed and dissected.
Lesson 1: Planning for Real-time Response is vital. In an era where information flows 24/7 real-time response is crucial. A Paramedic arrives on a scene, checks out the patient and provides emergency medical care to try to save a life. They know instinctively what to do, they have had extensive training and experience. There is no chance for second guessing.
Lesson 2: Regular Training and Refreshers are vital to remain ready. Tip – Make it as realistic as possible. Sometimes some managers and staff may not co-operate as they do not understand the urgency and realism. Tip – It is vital to get CEO buy-in for this process.
Lesson 3: Understanding the concept of Nano-seconds is vital. How long can a person remain without oxygen? Experts tell us that after 3 minutes brain damage can occur. In today’s interconnected society members of the public were tweeting video footage of the plane landing in the Hudson River long before traditional media arrived on the scene. A Company therefore have to be ready to deal with both the reality of a crisis response as well as the perceptions that are created during it. The key – Planning for a nano-seconds response.
Lesson 4: Velocity is now a Key Risk Concept. The speed or velocity with which information flows can be likened to how quickly fire spread and do damage. A Company should therefore really understand that response to velocity means having protocols and plans well tested in place in case things go wrong.
Lesson 5: The upkeep and protection of Reputation and Integrity in a crisis is crucial. Money can always be made, but trust – like a “vase once broken, is not easily restored”. There are hundreds of case studies available to show what happens to companies who didn’t care and their struggle to restore their damaged reputations.
Lesson 6: Show that you care. Words must be followed with action. There is a golden rule in Crisis Management – People will forgive you for making mistakes, but they will never forgive you for not caring.
Lesson 7: Have Pre-approved Budget and Protocols. Do you have a war room fund set up before a crisis? There is no time to seek Board approval in a crisis. In the same vein protocols such as what actions to take when dealing with a particular crisis should be determined beforehand. This goes for actions and holding statements.
Lesson 8: Choose Team Members with Care. Members should be chosen based on competencies and responsibilities not seniority levels. Specific job specifications and descriptions should be completed, and I would recommend crisis specialists and SME input such as psychologists and OD experts in this process. For instance, manages who cannot take pressure will just add to your woes in a crisis.
Lesson 9: Open your mind to risks. New threats are forever emerging. Right now the Aviation Industry’s model of Crisis management has been shaken by the Malaysian Airline incidents. They have to rethink everything. Isn’t it time to renew your plans? In South Africa, bombings are not an everyday occurrence but in certain countries they are. In this country if someone sees an unattended bag they may think it is lost property and take it, and unknowingly carry a bomb.
Lesson 10: Think In the Box, Think out of the box. I liken this to thinking that takes into consideration your organization’s peculiarities and modus operandi – that is thinking in the box. You could also learn a lot from thinking out of the box by for example learning from the Aviation Industry and how they approach crises and emergencies. Just by going to Boeing and the Airbus websites you can learn how to set up a media room, etc.