Want to skip to the how-to? Find my framework here: https://bit.ly/3m5yFNu

In response to a potential recall, the response team assembled waiting for the results of our investigation. The inventory team was able to account for every location of the product both in-house and at customer sites. The customer service and sales leads were ready to advise customers of a potential disruption and course of action to mitigate the supply. While I hate to admit it, I was grateful for legal counsel and corporate communications ready to advise next steps in managing stakeholders and industry perception. When the meeting was done, I was able to confirm all systems functioned as expected and we successfully completed our mock recall. This wasn’t a real situation, but it could have been. 

While no one wants to live through a crisis; whether product related, natural disasters or a cyber security threat, knowing you can successfully survive a crisis can afford a leader peace of mind. The key question you should ask yourself is, do you know all your systems work as expected?

As a senior leader if you are reading this, have you given all your people the tools needed to be successful in managing a crisis? If you’re an expert within an organization, have you ever tested everything to be sure it works vs. checking the box and saying everything is in place? What is written down on paper and neatly tucked away vs. reality in action are two different things. 

I never want anyone to have to go through a crisis, but for some it is a testament to good planning and testing your systems. For others, it may be their demise for which they ask the question, “How could this have happened?” I want you to be prepared and give you something to think about how to be successful in managing a crisis. 

Framework for a Successful Crisis

  • Prepare your People for a Crisis – this is far more than simply a fire drill or annual training. Leaders need to integrate conversations about crisis and risk management in everyday conversations. Ask yourself if you are comfortable speaking about it, ask your people what then need to be successful and ask an expert to get the additional insight you need to assure your systems are designed well. 
  • Planning for a Crisis – once you’ve curated all the expertise and documented the systems to manage a crisis, again ask your people if they understand their role in response to a crisis. This goes far beyond the annual on line training needed for compliance and checking the box. I’m talking about true conversations with people to confirm understanding and their important role in supporting crisis management. 
  • Pressure Test the Crisis – the schools see the value of preparing children to respond to emergencies, but other than a fire drill at work, I don’t see many companies testing their systems. In the world of flavors & food manufacturing we regularly conduct “mock recalls” to test our ability to manage a crisis to mitigate any harm to humans. At your next leadership meeting, ask your team what systems need to be pressure tested to give you peace of mind the team is prepared? 
  • Post mortem the Crisis – after the event is complete whether real or simply a pressure test, always evaluate what worked and what did not. Be sure to give thanks to those that engaged and how they performed. When things didn’t go as expected, seek the opportunities that can better prepare the team. No one likes a crisis and there is often emotional damage in response to such an event. Leaders need to not only take the situation seriously, but the people dimension is critical to get through the current crisis and future events. 
  • Performance Improvement to close gaps in the Crisis – this is where a lot of companies simply move on to business as usual and lack the structure to keep gap closure top of mind. This is as critical as your top line growth initiatives. Failure to close gaps in your crisis management system will be your next gravely expensive line item on your P&L; negating all the work you did for top line growth. 

For those who have a keen eye for how I structured this framework, I leveraged the continuous improvement methodology of PDCA (Plan, Do, Check and Act). Whether you’re a Senior executive or a specialist on the front line, PDCA is a sound method for ensuring systems perform as expected. If you’d like to learn more about preparing your team for a crisis or learning more about the PDCA framework for continuous improvement, let’s schedule a call to see how I can partner with you. 

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