I am currently writing a book on issues/crisis management, so I have been doing a lot of thinking about the topic. What I have come to realize is that issues management is really a cycle: prepare, manage, recover and repeat.
Since this is a cycle, people and organizations can enter at any point. I’ll wager that most enter at the manage phase when a catastrophe hits them and they just have to deal with it. Through that experience that most never want to repeat, they value the importance of the preparation and recovery phases.
Why? Because in my experience, people don’t like to think about what could go wrong or how they will manage when “stuff happens” and as a result, they only appreciate the other parts of the cycle when they have experienced the trauma.
Prepare for the predictable. Can you really prepare for a crisis or an issue? I don’t own a crystal ball nor can I predict the future. What I can tell you is that most accidents, issues and crises are predictable at least in terms of their probability. For example, if you own a trucking company, it is predictable that at some point, there will be a highway accident or if you conduct business using computer technology, you are likely to have a security breach.
There is an old saying, “not planning is planning to fail”. That applies as much to preparing to manage an issue as it does to achieving more positive goals. Organizations that simply ignore the possibility of something going wrong are deluding themselves. A little bit of preparation and forethought can certainly help mitigate damage and speed recovery after a disaster.
Master the moment. It is easy to spot those who have not prepared. They are the ones who stumble through a media briefing or say the absolute wrong thing and make a bad situation worse. That doesn’t mean that there should be a script to cover every situation, rather, there should be values, principles and guidelines that fit. Knowing how to give an effective apology, showing empathy and making commitments to improve/prevent a recurrence are all part of an effective plan that can give an organization precious time and possibly better control over the situation.
Persist in the follow-through. This is perhaps the most difficult for organizations. Typically, they want to put the bad stuff behind them and get back to normal. Here’s the reality check – the old ‘normal’ is past. The issue or crisis changes what normal is and organizations need to go through a transition period to adjust. It can take months and even years to achieve a new steady state and I will guarantee that it won’t look much like the pre-issue ‘normal’.
The Resilience Cycle. No matter your business, regardless of the issues you face, you are always in the cycle of resilience. There are many lessons to be learned in each phase. Failure to learn the lessons could lead to disaster.