Archive for January 6th, 2010

Twelve Tips of Christmas: #12 Everything in moderation

We can’t actually take credit for thinking this one up as it was passed on to us by a former client several years ago.

The expertise to make good decisions under pressure is developed over years of experience, but at the end of the day you’re only ever as good as your last judgement call. Unfortunately, alcohol can have a remarkably deleterious effect on our ability to make sound judgements.

This obviously isn’t such a problem if your crisis hits at 11:00 AM on a Wednesday (we hope), but it’s an unpleasant consideration when it comes to weekends and holiday periods.

One way of handling this that we’ve seen used to great effect in the past is to have a 12-month calendar of crisis ownership in your organisation. This model maps out who’s going to be responsible for managing a crisis on a month-by-month basis; the designated crisis owner for each month is then required to “stay dry” for the period. It’s not a bad approach, so long as you have the resources to manage the rotation. There’s also a large element of organisational culture at play here.

Ultimately though, there are two considerations that need to be addressed. Firstly, if you’re on call then you really should be in suitable shape to be ready to work at a moment’s notice (as you would be at any other time of year). Secondly, if you’re likely to be letting your hair down, consider whether it’s appropriate for you to be the go-to person in the event of a crisis. If you can be unavailable while you’re on a holiday, you can be unavailable for a weekend. Just make sure you’ve got the fort covered.

Twelve Tips of Christmas: #11 Take a walk down the hall of mirrors…

…and have a good, hard look at yourself.

The Christmas / New Year period is a time for personal reflection – after all, we have to get New Year’s resolutions from somewhere. But that’s not to say we can’t turn the microscope on our organisations as well. How did you perform in 2009? What should you be aiming for in 2010?

Just mentioning mission and vision statements is usually enough to start eyes rolling, but for crisis managers in particular they serve an invaluable function. A written mission statement is the ultimate fall-back position in a crisis because it’s the standard against which the organisation’s leadership has stated it wants to be measured.

The 1986 Tylenol tampering crisis is as classic an example of this as you’re likely to find (click here for a brief analysis by the US Department of Defence). On learning of the tampering the J&J strategy team started from the position of “How do we protect the people?”.

Having such a simple, black and white position to work from makes managing a crisis that much easier, and most crisis management teams faced with a similar problem would (hopefully) start from a similar position. But what helps even more is having an already established corporate identity against which you can measure your decision-making.

By evaluating your crisis management decisions against the identity of your organisation, you can quickly determine how your actions are likely to be regarded in the court of public opinion. Even better, if your company mission is widely known by your audiences, then by demonstrating you’re living it during a crisis you’ll more than likely enhance your reputation with those stakeholders. They won’t love that you’re having a crisis, but being true to your identity throughout will show them that you’re a worthwhile organisation (or investment).

So while you’re trying to uphold those personal resolutions, spare a few minutes to pull out your company’s mission statement and see if it tells your stakeholders what kind of organisation they’re really engaged with.