The Noggin Blog

The Markers of Effective Crisis Decision Making

Posted by The Brain on May 9, 2018 7:44:40 AM


When you ask around, people tend to know what bad business decisions look like – the botched product launch, the acquisition that went pear shaped, the bad hire, the list goes on. What’s more, upon reflection, people tend to understand the factors that contributed to those bad decisions. As a rule, we tend to scrutinize our mistakes, sometimes more than we do our successes. Things aren’t that different in the crisis management context, where the post-mortem is built into the lifecycle. But although crisis teams all know what bad decisions look like, they can’t necessarily visualize effective crisis decision making. So we’re here to help, by expanding on a few signs of effective crisis decision making.

team of successful business people having a meeting in executive sunlit office


Time must be on your side. Crisis decisions have to be made in a time horizon, during which teams can act on them in order to achieve their intended results. Sounds like a no brainer. But it’s not quite that simple.

Crisis decision makers will have dueling impulses that mitigate against timely decision making. On the one hand, there’s the urge to commit to a course of action prematurely. On the other, there’s the desire to defer action. Those are both very human impulses, but neither constitutes effective crisis decision making. Premature decisions are perforce not timely decisions. And effective decisions are by definition decisions taken before they’re too late to make a difference.

Efficient information flows matter – a lot. Corporate crises tend to affect the entire organization. So if crisis response is to be effective, it can’t just be cordoned off to small silos. Teams have to be able to share relevant information potentially across multiple departments. And for crisis teams, that means collecting, organizing, analyzing, and then deploying information as promptly and as usefully as possible. But collecting a lot of data isn’t itself a net-good, especially if teams and people can’t share that data efficiently or use it effectively.

I can’t emphasize this last point enough. The efficient flow of information can help turn a losing crisis into a winning crisis, by giving crisis leaders the ability to identify the broadest swath of practical options at all times. Maintaining that margin for maneuver helps crisis teams keep all their options open as the crisis itself evolves.

I have no doubt that effective crisis decision making seems formidable. But we guarantee that creating effective crisis decision-making practices is still easier than tackling an active crisis. To help in the former, teams have their own innate strengths. A huge strength teams often neglect is the fact that their own members bring their own perspectives to the very act of decision making. That cognitive diversity can’t be overstated. The most effective crisis decision makers will embrace it and demand differing (even diverging) opinions, alternatives, and sources of information from their people.

To learn more about effective crisis decision making, read our Comprehensive Guide to Crisis Decision Making.

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Topics: Crisis Management, Noggin Crisis, Critical Issues Management

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