COVID-19: Crisis Tips

Determine whether you’re in a crisis & form an accurate view of how the situation may evolve. Ask yourself: What might this mean for the organization?

Develop & Decide on a strategic model for moving forward. Ensure your model is flexible & based on adequate stress-testing. Testing should be based on rigorous scenarios and hypothetical models. In your planning, communicate clearly and behave ethically-- not just operating on what’s legally efficient.

Legal requirements often have a lower standard than what’s ethically acceptable.

During crisis, operate from the perspective of what’s “right” for your employees, your community and your stakeholders rather than solely your stakeholders. You’ll burn bridges if people think & feel as though you’ve been deceitful.

Behaving unethically will likely cause you to lose revenue, lose employees and lose your reputation. Take for example Boeing's disgraced former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, who mishandled multiple plane crashes that killed hundreds of passengers.

Deliver your plan in a pragmatic manner, with mental, intellectual and emotional flexibility. Since your organization's crisis isn’t a controlled situation, it may not fit perfectly into your framework.

Framework Flaws:

Bad Planning

As the saying goes: garbage on; garbage out. Some companies simply do not take the time to develop crisis plans altogether. Meanwhile, other companies with developed crisis plans are often overly optimistic about their capability to respond to crisis or do not adequately or routinely prepare for crisis.

Internal teams often water down their crisis simulations as a result of not wanting to make the “bosses look bad.” Although the fears may be rational, the notion does little to help organizational leaders because leaders do not discover their blind-spots or crisis flaws until an actual crisis. And then it’s too late and the leaders' goose is cooked. As a result, it's best to err on the side of intense simulations rather than not intense.

Analysis Paralysis

The majority of mismanaged crisis plans stem from bad decisions. Deadlines, financial incentives and egos can clog an organization's strategic model. Take for example, NASA’s space shuttle Challenger where leaders suppressed and disregarded staff concerns regarding a technical issue with O-rings.

The actions resulted in the Challenger exploding in front of live television audiences across the world.

Paralysis of analysis often happens when:

(1) Decisions can’t be made “until all of the data is in”

(2) Incomplete information occludes execution

(3) Political pressure or group think influences your strategic model

Limited Design & Fractured Deliver

A recent applicable example of limited design & fractured delivery is the U.S. government’s handling of COVID-19 where misinformation and the suppression of testing kits delayed time required to bend the pandemic’s curve. Germany produced an effective test-kit for the virus in January 2020 and began to scale--two months before U.S. elected officials took preventative measures or acknowledged the magnitude of the issue. The patchwork pathway U.S. government officials pursued ran counter to best-practices for crisis communications.

Communication Lifecycle:

Pre-crisis stage

Initiation stage

Maintenance stage

Resolution stage

Evaluation stage

The pre-crisis phase is where the most important planning work should be done. While pre-crisis planning and preparation will not ensure successful crisis management, the lack of it puts your organization at an extreme disadvantage.

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