“You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don’t believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can’t possibly foresee now.”
Harry S. Truman
The crisis management plan is just one aspect in ensuring your team are ready to respond to an incident or crisis. Taking the time to carefully consider the what, when, why and how enables the necessary steps to be taken to ensure everybody knows exactly what to do should the worst happen.
The following six points act as a great starting point in developing your thinking and an organization's crisis management plan.
1. What would constitute a crisis for your organization?
There are many definitions, but you need to consider what specifically would constitute a crisis for your organization and ensure your team fully understands what is expected of them.
2. Define the triggers for activation of your crisis management plan
What are the trigger levels, who is responsible, what structures come into play and how do you expect your team to respond to likely crisis scenarios? Taking the time to really consider these points helps to define the next stage.
3. Develop detailed action plans – ensure your people know how to respond
You now need to get into the specifics and consider the actions that would need to be taken to effectively respond and manage the incident or crisis. It is really important that these points are:
- Specific and very clearly defined.
- Assigned to a particular team or individual taking into account resilience
- Realistic – incident management moves at pace but there must be realism within the plan
- Time related – clearly define when the result needs to be achieved.
- Assured – regularly review to ensure actions have been completed and the approach remains aligned to business need. Things quickly change.
4. Stakeholder engagement – ensure you maintain easily accessible lists of stakeholders and define requirements
There is nothing worse than trying to find contact details for stakeholders during an incident or crisis. Hopefully you have an existing system and back up to access these. If not this is a really important piece of work to progress.
It is also helpful to have considered how you would communicate messages, what you would communicate and the frequency. Remember – the usual method might not be available, have you considered a back-up?
5. Communications strategy – how are you as an organization going to respond
Carefully consider the likely scenarios that may impact your business and develop a communications strategy and your key messages for each of those scenarios now. Ensure that your top team has signed these off and regularly revisit to ensure the approaches remain current. Early assessment to define the best response is vital and having this activity pre prepared will ensure you can quickly and effectively manage your approach.
6. Resources – your response will take time and effort, ensure your team has all that it needs
Any crisis takes time to manage and it is the basic things that are often overlooked. Ensure you have the required resources necessary to sustain activity over an extended period. Nobody wants to be chasing around for the basics when you have far more important things to do.
These six points form the foundation of any crisis management plan, there are many more things to consider, but by carefully considering each stage you can take big steps forward in ensuring your organization improves its resilience in the event of an unforeseen event.
Chris Regan is the Director of Blue Rock Risk Limited a specialist crisis and risk management consultancy. Chris has developed an international reputation working with both private and public sector clients to help them plan, prepare and respond effectively to a wide range of crisis and risk issues. Chris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org