Manassas, VA (PRWEB) October 15, 2005
If recent events have taught us anything, it is that we must be prepared to react to crisis in a timely and efficient manner.
Crisis, by definition is: “A crucial or decisive point or situation: A turning point”.
Crisis will occur on a regular basis. It is a fact of life. It is as inevitable as birth and death.
Reaction to crisis varies widely among individuals and organizations. It is the unforeseen event that carries great risk. Crisis is the wellspring of confusion, emotional and physical stress and invariably sets in motion our “fight or flight” response.
Those individuals and organizations that prepare for the unforeseen tend to remain calm and proactive during times of crisis and greatly limit the ability of that crisis to do permanent damage. Those that are less prepared suffer.
How then do we prepare for the unforeseen?
Any crisis event that occurs will originate from one of two sources:
Internal crisis always begins as a small ripple in the organizational pond. If the ripple is left untreated it soon develops into a tidal wave. The time to correct small organizational problems is when they are first noticed by management. Any organizational issue, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant needs to be brought to the table and discussed. Consensus should be gathered on the best remedy and that solution should be implemented immediately. Waiting or ignoring the small issue guarantees that it will become large and threatening.
Most organizational structures today are highly segmented. This segmentation might be the easiest method by which management maintains control over the work but it fails miserably when it comes to the synergistic relationship required between management, the workforce and the customer.
For every segmented department within an organization there is a specific disconnection of information and a corresponding delay in reaction time.
A good test for determining your level of segmentation and disconnection is to initiate a small process change at the work level. Then measure how long it takes for this change to go up the management ladder to a decision maker. Assess the time required for a decision to be agreed to by the appropriate stakeholders and finally filter its way back down the management ladder. This is your organizational reaction time. We can formulate this as:
Rt = D² or Reaction Time = Decision Time Squared.
Now look at your reaction time in light of your customers changing expectations and needs and you can begin to get a clearer picture of what might constitute an external crisis.
External crisis within the organization usually stem from the inability of the organization to respond to changes in the marketplace.
Organizations wanting to be prepared for rapidly changing customer demands need to look to streamlining their process systems and communication lines to meet those rapidly changing demands. This requires careful planning. Good planning results in faster delivery of quality goods and services at lower cost.
Knowing that crisis will occur is part of the solution to dealing with that crisis. Organizations that are top heavy and have many layers of decision making are always the slowest to react to crisis. Again, the time needed to make a decision and act on that decision is critical to damage control.
Organizations should create and maintain a keen sense of preparation about external crisis. It will happen. Crisis does not care whether you are ready for it or not. It will inflict damage directly in proportion to your state of readiness and the time it takes you to react.
In order to prepare for external crisis the organization must streamline it’s communication lines by cutting out all unnecessary or redundant systems, If your organization takes two to three weeks to decide on a course of action then you will be one or two weeks late in responding.
Any action taken during a crisis should only require one request and one decision. Bypassing all the middlemen who may have a need to know but cannot make the decision is a smart move during external crisis. If you find yourself facing external crisis call the decision maker directly, get the needed authorization, and get to work. There will be time enough to notify the chain of command after initiating your response.
Another way to deal with external crisis is to form a crisis team. This team has a mission to study and prepare courses of action for any foreseeable external crisis. All possible scenarios are addressed and decisions are made by stakeholders as to the best solutions to the crisis. These decisions are then documented and made readily available to the field personnel as the crisis arises.
Crisis teams are intentionally kept small. No decision making is required when crisis strikes as the decisions have already been agreed upon. This tactic enables the organization to move swiftly when needed because their mission is to react quickly to the crisis not to notify the entire chain of command. That notification is reserved for after the team has been given the order to go.
Crisis teams must be given the absolute authority to carry out their mission. Without it they are just another ineffectual group. Absolute control by all management involved wastes time and energy and has no place in emergencies.
Crisis planning coupled with the authority to act quickly is and has always been the best defense against crisis.
Maceda is president of Applied Knowledge Systems Inc. a Washington D. C. metro area consulting firm specializing in High Performance process systems and human systems. He can be reached for consultation at (703) 368-1779 or by visiting the corporate website at http://www.appliedknowledgesystems.com.