How to prepare your crisis management team

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Crisis management plans should provide good guidance 

Crisis management plans should provide good guidance for the crisis management team when a potential crisis happens. In potential crisis situations however, even experienced executives don’t use their plans. 

I’m Steve Hather from CrisisClarity and I know after 30 years in the crisis management world, that when an incident happens it is conflict and confusion that can quickly escalate into a crisis and we you build the processes and the capabilities of your people to make sure that doesn’t happen.

In this fourth in a series of posts on effective crisis management teams and leaders, I’m speaking with Dr Gerold Knight, Chief Risk Officer with the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company about the findings from his phD study into effective crisis management teams. 

In this post, Gerry talks about how to best prepare a crisis management team. The best plans in the world will mean little if the team can’t implement it when the phones are ringing, emails are flying back and forth and social media is going viral.

Here's part 4 of my discussion with Dr Gerold Knight:

Steve Hather: Gerry how do we increase the likelihood of a crisis management team actually following their plan?

Gerold Knight: Training, training, training. Look I'm very lucky in my organization. Over the last several years ago we do a number of validations, we call them validations or simulations on an annual basis and I got asked by our CEO a few years ago- - we were doing eight a year and bear in mind at the time we had 19 business units.

And why do we do 8 and the answer was resources because with resourcing we can expand that and I was actually directed to do 12 a year and I was given the resources to do it which is a really strong commitment.

So one is you need commitment from the top that this is an important topic because you can train but people will come to training reluctantly unless there's a great time from the top. So we had that, saying we're going to invest in this is important but you need the training and you need to be innovative in the training.

Social media inputs to make the simulation realistic

I know you do a lot on social media and we had to change the way we do our simulations to make them more realistic as the social media is happening fast.

The training is important, making it real life, we base our training on real cases all the time. So someone can't turn around and say to me, “I will never have to do that.” I've lived a variety of crisis situations and I never cease to be amazed at how organizations can- -things can pop up out on the field that you were never expecting.

Training is crucial

So the training is critical if you get people to focus and as part of the training get to identify the process but not that it is you had the danger over the process is that it becomes a tick the box. I've got this checklist here, I do step one before I do step two, the process and the tools really need to be a mental guide.

Even I after my 20 years of doing this in the private sector, I still forget things. I always have a checklist and I have the stuff in front of me and I'm flicking through as we go because you've got so much even as a leader or as a member going through your mind you need to go back and double-check.

Our training focuses on process, how to follow the process and achieve the end result. What I'd also like to see is that when we construct our teams in the future we use that personality understanding as well.

Not so much about the team selection but understanding who you've got on your team and what do they bring to the table because if we're all the same personality type we're all going to come up with the same answer and that's not going to help anyone.

So having the right balance and composition of your team you need- - I look at my personality type, I'm more the analytical command-and-control type but you need the creative people there, thinking,  “How else can we fix this?”

So you have got to get the balance of the right people and the training brings that into context.

Steve Hather: Yeah, it's an interesting one. I often make the point that sometimes when you're sitting around the boardroom table and you're talking about crisis management, things sound intuitive but when the phone's start ringing, the emails are flying, social media starting to go viral and regulators are calling and everything else is going on, things are not intuitive after all.

Crisis management plans and checklists

That's where plans and checklists really come into their own because they require you to take a little step back and say, “Okay well let's think through this process and start asking the right questions and get back on track.”

Good crisis management teams in good companies get in front of the incident. They are anticipating what's next. That comes from good plans, good training and simulations, a team that works well together and team dynamics is such an important part of that.

Next post - 4 tips for managing online crisis meetings

In the next post I’ll be going to wrap up this mini-series with 4 tips for managing crisis management team meetings online. 

If you’d like to make sure that your team has the plans and the capabilities to use those plans under crisis conditions, you need training.

Our online training and coaching will help make sure your team performs when it really counts. 

For more information head over to our website

for more information on our online training, small group coaching and simulation exercises.

Alternatively send me an email and I’ll be happy to talk to you about how we can help your team prevent a crisis.

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