We’ve said it time and again, but comprehensive, crisis management planning, while essential, is only the first step towards crisis preparedness. No matter how brilliant, dynamic, or intuitive your crisis plan is, when the time comes to execute, staff still needs to be comfortable performing assigned tasks. And that entails, regular training in crisis-like conditions. How, then, to create those conditions?
Corporate crises are noteworthy for the speed with which they overwhelm operations. After all, a signature of a corporate crisis is that it implicates multiple people in (and/or parts of) a business, and that it simply can’t be kept secret for long.
Simulating those conditions so as to faithfully replicate the painful realism of the crisis situation, of course, takes careful planning. For instance, crisis teams will most likely need to recruit external actors to make simulations realistic: those external stakeholders might include key customers, suppliers, emergency responders, regulators, media partners, not to mention relevant business lines (within the organization) as well as senior executives and board members.
As Deloitte points out in “Focus on: Making crisis simulations matter”, the rationale for roping in all of these stakeholders is to trial how key decision makers will react to the onslaught of information during a crisis – information that comes from all directions, flowing haphazardly to central decision makers, not neatly (either vertically or laterally).
Additionally, recruiting stakeholders from outside of the organization, like supplier partners who might also be competitors, gives internal crisis decision makers a taste of how to respond to information which comes from actors who have a different set of (potentially conflicting) priorities. Even before the training begins, crisis decision makers, perhaps after consultation with Risk Analysts, should have a sense of the potential biases that will inform external stakeholder feedback.
What’s more, speed and (multivalent) information flows provide an important opportunity for what I call crisis entrepreneurship. Decisions have to be made and implemented quickly, often without sufficient time for information to pass through all formal channels. This gives rank-in-file crisis team members a wide berth to make individual decisions.
Will they be prepared, though? In a crisis, individual team members might have the propensity to look to others (usually the crisis leader) before executing; this is called the sunflower effect. During crisis trainings, leaders should give their rank-in-file crisis members the latitude to implement decisions (based on conditions on the ground), even if the tactics deployed deviate from the plan.
In other words, trainings should teach members how to go off script prudently and intelligently to get through an active crisis intact. Members should come out of the training feeling empowered to tweak crisis plans if the situation warrants. Though, it’s worth noting, that if your team does indeed deviate from the plan during training, they should document what they’ve done, why they’ve done it, and the results of doing so. Those findings should then be incorporated into the latest edition of the plan.
Another key, crisis training benefit: crisis simulations provide invaluable trial and error learning (in a relatively controlled setting) for all employees. After all, everyday employees are usually the “first responders” to corporate crisis. Trainings are also a good way to gauge the capabilities of all the resources (not just personnel, but systems, tools, equipment, etc.) your team has it disposal.
Finally, training is absolutely crucial to preparing for a corporate crisis effectively. But technology matters as well, especially as a means of providing dynamic access to the crisis training.
What does this mean? Crisis management apps give your team secure access to crisis management content, like plans. Since they’re mobile-friendly, crisis apps also facilitate trainings outside of the office, in locations where it might make more sense to run your simulation.
With the right mobile crisis app, teams can run scenarios and role play, wherever they are. There are, however, other considerations to have when procuring crisis management software. To learn more, download our Crisis Management App Essential Features Guide:
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