Tips for ONLINE Crisis Management Team Meetings

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

How are Crisis Management Team Meetings different now?

Well before coronavirus, most crisis management plans included arrangements for members of the crisis management team to call in to a meeting or take part in a video conference if they weren’t in the office. With today’s dispersed workforce, travel and working from home; remote meetings have long been part of the senior managers toolkit. 

What is very different right now is where every member of the crisis management team is out of the office and in a different location - even the team leader. Think about that for a moment. You always been able to call in to a meeting but the majority of the team is still sitting around the meeting room table. This brings a whole new dynamic to a crisis management team meeting.

Hi, 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.

I’ve run a few crisis simulations over the past few weeks and they have all been online and the management team has called into an online video conferencing facility such as zoom. What really hit home is how different it is when every member of the team is out of the office rather than just a few. 

In this final post on my mini-series on effective crisis management teams and leaders, I thought I would end with some quick tips on running your team meeting online.

Here’s four key takeaways, four seemingly very simple but not well practiced tips from that experience.

1. Share a Key Issues Board

Firstly, one of the most important things crisis management teams must do is manage information effectively. In a complex incident, there are plenty of small pieces of information floating around, some facts, some assumptions, things that people are working on, key issues that need to be addressed. If these snippets of information are not brought together and reviewed, misinformation can quickly lead to confusion. 

We often see effective crisis leaders use a whiteboard or flip charts to record key issues, identify further information needed, any deadlines and so on, so the team can constantly refer back to to those key issues. 

It’s also common for teams to nominate a scribe and keep an incident log - an running log of information, actions and decisions for the team to keep referring back to. 

These are particularly critical in an online environment. 

Tip 1 then is to share a key issues board and an incident log in a way that everyone can see it at all times. The simplest way to do that is to simply share a document so everyone can see it and see it being updated at all times. Apps like zoom also include a whiteboard that the crisis leader can share with the rest of the team and even have other members of the team edit it. The key is to have one single source of truth


2. Crisis Team Leader needs to be more directive

Secondly, one of the challenges of any online meeting is making sure everyone is engaged and contributing. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to mute the microphone, turn the video off and zone out and miss something important. 

Tip 2 then is for the team leader to be more directive than perhaps they would normally be and regularly and actively seek views and perspectives from all team members. 

3. Use breakout rooms

Third, effective crisis management teams establish work streams to work on different aspects the incident to make more effective use of your functional specialists. If it’s a product related incident, you might have a smaller group working on the investigation, another on alternative supply, another on planning for a recall, another on communications. 

In an online environment, you can use break out rooms on zoom for example. The crisis team leader can dropping in and out of the breakout rooms and the team leader of each of the workstreams can be drawn back into the broader crisis management team meeting regularly to provide and receive updates.

4. Share key tools and guides

Fourth, one of the most difficult things about online meetings is to manage the discussion. This is where it’s even more important to have a structure around the core activities of the team - the investigation, the assessment, the development of your strategy, your communications and monitoring the achievement of your objectives. Every member of the team should have a copy of these key tools and be following along as the crisis leader takes the team through them. In an online environment, these tools can be shared and updated by the crisis leader. 

Stress test your crisis management plan

If you’d like to practice using your plan and building the capabilities of your team, take your team through a realistic crisis simulation. This is the closest you will get to a real crisis but in the safe learning environment of a training exercise. We run these completely online. 

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