The Noggin Blog

Overcoming the “Set It, and Forget It!” Bias in Crisis Planning

Posted by The Brain on Aug 31, 2018 4:25:12 AM


In some contexts, like when you’re making a Rotisserie chicken, the impulse to “set it, and forget it” makes sense. It’s been market tested, after all. In other domains, like crisis preparedness, the “set it, and forget it” instinct only leads to long-term ruin. So why then do so many teams fall prey?

SetandForget@2xRon Popeil, creator of the Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ.

There’re a couple of likely culprits. For one, planning is often mandated from above, perhaps by new regulations or legal statutes. There’s an unfortunate (but human) instinct to treat crisis planning as a box-ticking, compliance exercise, instead of a strategic, cross-functional initiative.

As a result, unengaged plan writers end up copying existing crisis management plan templates word for word. Sure, there’re a lot of valuable resources out there, but you want to customize your crisis plan to your organization’s specific risk factors.

Why? Your organization might think it’s fully in compliance. In fact, it just feels no real ownership over the crisis management plan. The result: your plan ends up getting shelved, only to be resuscitated, untested, when crisis actually strikes. Sound familiar?

There’s another pitfall in which the “set it, and forget it” bias comes into play. This time when planners create overly detailed plans, i.e. plans that address every single contingency – even the most remote.

Though it can be tempting, creating an encyclopedic catalogue of every single, solitary risk factor is assuredly not the point of crisis management planning. As well intentioned as those plans are, they tend to frustrate the people tasked with executing them. Worse still, writing an overly detailed plan is often a surefire way to ensure that your team won’t test its assumptions.

So rather than building a plan that’s too dense (or too lean,) develop a more flexible module that can dynamically adapt to the crisis situation as it changes quickly.

Not only that, the best way to overcome the “set it, and forget it” bias is to test your plans routinely. Crisis simulations help bring your plans to life. What’s more, they let others find flaws in your thinking and approach.

Crises are becoming more complex. That’s reason enough to keep your plans dynamic. Also, your individual organization’s risk factors (including their assets and market conditions) are changing all the time as well. Only re-testing a dynamic plan will help you prepare for new, potential crisis triggers.

Keen to learn more? Download our Guide to Overcoming Crisis Planning Pitfalls.

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Topics: Crisis Management, Noggin Crisis, Critical Issues Management, Crisis Plans, Crisis Planning

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