So, Who Owns the Crisis?
First, an apology for the depths of ennui that I plumbed in yesterday’s post. *rse. I’d forgotten how mind-numbing the whole preparation deal can be – but, just because it’s teeth-grindingly tedious, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Go away and do it. You’ll be happier when you have. Honest. You can make it more interesting by identifying the things that I’ve forgotten, thereby adding to the wow factor of your preparation experience. OK, that’s nonsense. Just get on with it!
I’m going to divide this section into two and, to the undoubted and unbounded relief of those who are sticking with this out of some misguided sense of duty (thank you so much), I’m going to keep it brief.
First, let’s talk about who actually owns the crisis management plan – the preparation of parts of which you are so deeply embroiled in right now. Well, on the one hand, it should be the top bod. Mr Pinnacle. Your MD or CEO. He, or indeed, she, is ultimately responsible for the direction, development and performance of your business and therefore should take responsibility for the business when things get a bit out of shape. On the other hand, as we all know, these people operate on a slightly different plane to the rest of us and simply do not (mostly) have the focus, or the patience to deal with the detail that’s necessary to get this right. And, although they may not seem it, these people are professional optimists – they cannot allow themselves to believe that anything can go wrong with the business that they are stewarding (it would drive them nuts).
So, in brief, you need to find someone senior enough to be able to lead and enrol other senior people in the business and yet paranoid and detail-oriented enough to be concerned about getting it right. There are normally two candidates – your Head of Legal Affairs, or your Company Secretary. If you’ve got one person doing both roles then, in the vernacular, bingo!
(Apologies to all those of my blog snorkellers who work in companies that have Health and Safety departments or officers. You’ve already got plans, and quite scarily-committed people looking after them. With hi-vis jackets, no doubt.)
Which brings me to the second part of this post – who actually owns the crisis when it’s happening. Clearly – and everything I’m posting here is not meant to be definitive, it requires the fertilizer of your thoughts for it to bloom – it’s going to depend on what sort of crisis you’ve got – whether, in fact, it’s just an issuette, or whether it’s something that is going to have a long-term, company-wide impact. And therefore, in amongst your preparation, you’re going to need an escalation plan – a sort of chart which shows who needs to know what and when.
You see, in this case, the ultimate owner of the crisis IS the MD or CEO – ‘cos he or she is the one who’ll be doing five years in Pentonville if the company’s found to be negligent – but (for all the reasons stated above) she (or he) is not going to want to be bothered by a small glitch on the production line. While it’s not entirely your job to decide how far up the food chain the news of your issue/crisis needs to be escalated, you can be certain that senior people are not going to be terribly forgiving if they read it in the paper before you’ve told them about it. Or worse – if they’ve been stupid enough to give their ‘phone numbers to the media – they get a call about it before you’ve briefed them.
Finally for this post, your escalation plan – which, as I hope I’ve already made clear, will, like the rest of your prep, be formulated with the help of others from around your business who are likely to be involved in the event of a crisis – should show ‘levels of engagement’. Simply put, this describes the teams that come together to co-ordinate the management of the crisis.
Normally called Gold, Silver and Bronze – something to do with the military or the emergency services, I think – they are basically a junior team, dealing with things on the ground, a middle-ranking team, directing things on the ground and making longer-term decisions, and the senior team, formulating strategy, handing down approvals and shaping the future. To be clear – dependent on what your crisis is, you may never need to call your middle and senior teams together – simply keeping them informed may be enough. But you need to be clear on how those decisions are made.
Next time, on ‘I’m an Idiot, Make me a Crisis Management Plan’ – I’ll summarise where we’ve got to. And then it’s on to the fun stuff………..