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Introducing Crisis Management Standard BS 11200 to Your Clients

In the wake of COVID-19, your clients probably understand the importance of being prepared for what have now become near-inevitable crises. But have they taken the next step, developing a best-practice crisis management capability that hews closely to prescribed standards in the field?

Unlikely, when it comes to crisis management. But there’s something you can do about it.

Well, international standards have traditionally been the source of best-practice guidance. But in the case of crisis management, the national standard, British Standard (BS) 11200:2014 is probably your best shot of good practice for the provision of a crisis management response.

What does it cover? BS 11200 summarises the core areas of crisis management, setting up themes and key areas that your clients should consider when building or enhancing their crisis management capability. Specifically, it covers core concepts and principles, crisis leadership and decision making, crisis communications, as well as training, exercise, and learning.

Most importantly, though, BS 11200 details what capabilities your clients need in order to consider themselves crisis ready. Here, a forward-looking, systematic approach will enable your clients to create structures and processes, train personnel to work within those structures and processes, while ensuring continuous improvement. To that end, the standard provides guidance for the following:

  • Understanding the context and challenges of crisis management
  • Developing the a crisis management capability through planning and training
  • Recognising the complexities facing a crisis team in action
  • Communicating successfully during a crisis

Understanding concepts and principles helps your clients develop a best-practice crisis management capability, especially since the competency to be developed is not typically part of routine organisational management.

One distinction that underscores that fact is the relationship between incidents (which your clients might already be prepared to address) and crises (which they usually aren’t).

Where crises are abnormal, unstable situations that threaten your client’s strategic objectives, reputation, or viability, incidents are adverse events that might cause disruption, loss, or emergency. Incidents, however, do not meet the criteria for, or definition of, a crisis

Why do the distinctions matter? Well, incidents can, in fact, beget crises. That’s why it’s so crucial that your clients understand all the traditional ways in which crises come to be. That list includes:

  • Extreme disruptive incidents that have immediately obvious strategic implications. These can arise from serious acts of malice, misconduct or negligence, or a failure (perceived or actual) to deliver products or services that meet the expected standards of quality or safety.
  • Those stemming from poorly managed incidents and business fluctuations that are allowed to escalate to the point at which they create a crisis.
  • The emergence of latent problems with serious consequences for trust in an organisation’s brand and reputation. Problems can incubate over time, typically as a result of:
    • A lack of governance allowing gradual and incremental slippages in quality, safety or management control standards to go unchecked and become accepted as a normal way of working
    • Convenient, but unofficial, “workaround” strategies becoming the normal routine due, for example, to overcomplicated processes, unrealistic schedules, chronic personnel shortages, and lax supervision
    • Flaws in supervision and process monitoring, which promote an expectation of “getting away with” undesirable behaviours or being able to survive minor failures without reporting them, or over-reliance on controls to catch all errors, rather than an expectation of quality checks that catch only occasional problems
    • Blame cultures that encourage risk and issue cover-ups and the lack of a shared sense of mission and purpose, which generate a defensive (if not actually hostile) “them and us” attitude between staff and management, between different parts of the organization and between the organization and external interested parties
    • Poor training and development of staff and managers, or incremental loss of skills and knowledge. 

And that’s not all. The crisis management standard goes on to tackle other key elements of a best-practice crisis management capability.


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