Crisis Management: Why it Will Fail

When serious, life-threatening or business-critical incidents occur, enterprises all too often fail to manage the crisis correctly. Why does this happen, time and time again? 

Is it because we simply don't believe that these kinds of extreme incidents can happen to us, or do we just lack the sufficient training? 

Could This Possibly Happen to Us?

Human nature can sometimes trick us into believing everything will be all right. But if you want to be well-prepared to handle serious incidents, you must challenge these optimistic tendencies. Failure to do so will lead to your enterprise being unprepared to handle crisis situations.

How prepared are you to handle an incident? Take our Incident Preparedness Test  in just 3 minutes.

It's quite possible that the risks uncovered by your risk analysis and described in your preparedness plans – also forming the basis for your training – will remain speculative. Even so, it's crucial to think through the consequences and plot a course of action to prepare for any eventuality. Prepare for the worst.

Early in 2011, I was involved in the execution of a large preparedness exercise. We practised handling a situation where explosives were planted in a van. After the exercise, we heard from participants about how the scenario seemed unlikely – people felt the whole drill was irrelevant.

But this was more or less exactly what happened on the 22nd of July 2011, when a terrorist attacked the government building in Oslo, killing eight people and leaving the building destroyed. 

It's true that some of the crisis scenarios you train for may seem too dramatic, but this story stands as a testament to the importance of preparing for the worst possible scenarios. You never know when it will happen to your enterprise, and you simply must be prepared for it. 

Make Use of Your Crisis Team

It's typical for organisations to have their own crisis management team in place, but we've seen, time and again, that it's left unclear as to how and when they should be summoned. In fact, the fundamental routines for notifying and summoning are the ones that most often fail during crisis management.   

If your enterprise is lucky enough to have a dedicated crisis management team, don't be afraid to deploy it. Most crisis management errors take place at the outset of an incident, before the crisis management team is summoned. 

Therefore, you should practice notification and alerting routines on a regular basis. If you and your enterprise know the answer to the following questions, you're well on your way to being properly prepared:

  • Who will receive the initial notification of an incident?
  • Who will notify the staff about the incident?
  • Who will be summoning the crisis management staff?
  • How are your alerts and notifications followed through?
  • When the crisis management staff have been summoned, who does what, and in what order? 

Crisis Management Doesn't Have to Fail

There are two reasons crisis management tends to fail – managers don't prepare for the worst and crisis management teams aren't properly utilised. Thankfully, it doesn't take much effort to remedy these things.

Firstly, all possible situations need to be practised thoroughly, no matter how dramatic or unrealistic they may seem. Secondly, crisis management teams must be well-informed and alerted at the earliest possible moment during incident management.

Is your organisation well-prepared to handle a crisis? Try our free crisis management test today to find out. 

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By Yngve Dyrøy

Yngve is partner at One World AS. He has more than 25 years of experience from Safety & Security, Contingency and Crisis Management. Former employers include Oslo Police, The national Police directorate, Teleplan Consulting and The Central Bank of Norway. Yngve has a bachelor's degree from Police Academy and a master's degree in Safety and Security Management from the University of Stavanger. His key qualifications are project management, risk management, crisis management, contingency planning, training and exercises.

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