When Handling a Crisis, Remember to Remember!

April 16, 2015
Grand Childrens' Park, Seoul

Grand Childrens' Park, Seoul

I was walking around Seoul the other day and noticed the cherry blossoms in full bloom.  Usually I am too busy to really notice, but on that particular occasion I took the time to appreciate the cherry blossoms.  I vowed to remember how beautiful the trees were as well as the park I walked by.  Sometimes, when we are too busy we fail to remember the little things that make life magical.

From a risk management standpoint, sometimes we get caught up in the moment and fail to remember the processes and procedures that were put in place by our predecessors or colleagues to ensure that the corporate strategy of the company is properly implemented.  And, of course sometimes, during a major crisis we are so busy that we fail to remember to follow or implement those processes that have been created just for that occasion.   Many companies have in fact created processes to implement a crisis management strategy, but then go about business never remembering to actually test the crisis management strategy or simulate a crisis to determine the viability of the strategy that has been developed.  Maybe the processes or policies were just filed away in a filing cabinet with no one remembering such polcies even existed.

Does the crisis management strategy work?

Has it been tested?

Did anyone remember to run crisis scenarios with management involved?

If your company has already created  a list of risks that it may face in a crisis scenario with plans to address them, has anyone remembered to fully vet them.  A company and its management will be under a great deal of pressure once a crisis occurs- remembering to implement the crisis management team that was created in the past or remembering to implement the crisis communication protocols that were discussed last year may not only help prepare management for such a pressure filled situation but will help prepare the company to properly manage the crisis.

Companies that successfully manage crises have used four or five basic steps to prepare for a crisis to the extent possible. They include the following steps:

  1. Identify the major areas of vulnerability the company faces.
  2. Develop a plan for dealing with potential threats.
  3. Form a crisis management team to deal with or handle threats.
  4. Simulate crisis scenarios of potential threats to prepare the company.
  5. Learn from the experience of managing the crisis.

Other companies have used a variety of steps to handle crises, including:

  1. Avoiding the crisis through proactive steps
  2. Preparing for the crisis through preparation and planning
  3. Properly reacting as soon as the crisis exists, and
  4. Resolving the crisis

Notice that successful management of crisis usually involves preparing for a crisis through preparation or planning, avoiding the crisis through proactive steps and learning from the experience of managing a crisis.  All of these steps require remembering what has been done in the past whether successful or not, acting proactively or using processes that have already been planned or implemented.

When facing a crisis today, many companies are suffering from the employee turnover caused by the 2008-2009 financial crash. It may have impacted a company’s ability to handle a crisis.  The risk management institutional memory may have been reduced or in extreme cases no longer exist.  With layoffs happening today, maybe policies develped 5 years ago have been forgotten.  What risk managers and in house counsel (or management) must do today to circumvent the negative impacts of a crisis is to remember what was done in the past.  What worked- use.  What didn’t work- don’t repeat! If a crisis management plan was created- use it or at least re-examine it. Use what was implemented if possible.  Under a high pressure situation dont try and re-invent the wheel.

In other words, a company’s risk management department must not only remember if crisis management policies exist but also to remeber to use them or at least re-examine them.  In other words, risk management or legal must remember to remember!

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