If 2020 taught businesses one integral lesson, it would be to have a crisis management plan available. COVID-19 left many companies scrambling as a global public health pandemic impacted financial, economic, and social life, proving the ability to make sound business decisions swiftly can prove critical to business success.
Moving forward, here are some considerations in developing a crisis management plan.
- Define “crisis.” A crisis can vary to some degree across businesses, but often is defined as an unexpected situation or event that disrupts or impacts normal business operations. Defining a problem is the first step in establishing an effective crisis management plan.
- Calculate risks and determine goals. Risks may include organizational, environmental, personnel, financial, or technological issues. Each risk should be evaluated for potential impact to the business, as well as effective strategies to address the crisis and restore normal business operations. Determining goals refers to the intended outcome of resolving a crisis. For example, if experiencing an environmental crisis, such as an earthquake, one goal would likely be to assess and repair the physical damage to ensure a swift restoration of your business.
- Develop a crisis management team. This team is responsible for evaluating the crisis, determining the threat level, and responding appropriately. Identifying a third-party service to assist with response efforts, coordinating with respective authorities, implementing proper communication strategies, and regularly auditing the crisis management plan for improvement can help companies streamline their processes in this area.
- Establish stakeholders and communication procedures. Stakeholders refer to the individuals and entities involved, such as clients, employees, media, general public, corporate and other business management, investors and shareholders, and board members.
- Designate alert levels for crisis response. Alert levels can help organize the crisis management team in their processes for addressing crises of different severity levels.
Assess the crisis at hand will likely demand the following questions to be asked:
- What happened?
- When and where did the crisis occur?
- Why did the crisis occur?
The answers to these questions can provide a better indication of whether the situation falls under your company’s definition of crisis, the alert level for such a crisis, and the appropriate response to the crisis.
- Initiate your crisis response plan. Once a crisis is identified, teams must activate their crisis management team by covering objectives and respective duties.
- Respond immediately and appropriately. You must always respond as promptly and appropriately as possible, no matter the severity of the crisis.
- Implement and adjust the crisis management team involvement. Once the initial crisis is addressed, you may gradually resume normal business operations. Be sure to debrief your crisis management team before dismissing to discuss best practices and suggestions for improvement.
- Determine if follow-up communications are appropriate. Sometimes companies deem it best to notify relevant parties the crisis has been resolved, expressing gratitude for the support and your team’s efforts, empathy for any hardships or hiccups in the process, and a statement about moving forward.
- Analyze, and modify if necessary, the crisis management plan. Examine what went well, what needed improvement, analyze data (i.e., stock prices, client and employee engagement, etc.), status of business relationships, and determine if any follow-up actions are necessary.
What is most important to understand in any business is that it doesn’t take a global pandemic event to create a crisis. Technology, financial missteps, personnel issues, and organizational changes can also create instances which require proactive planning for problems that will arrive. Having a crisis management and business recovery plans can help you and your business bounce back quicker from a disaster of any magnitude.