Crisis Management

Not your everyday management

If the scale of an incident exceeds the planning assumptions, then this should be escalated to crisis management. 

Crisis Management is different from normal management and requires different skills.

How we can help you

Our senior consultants are not only certified, but also have decades of professional experience, working in a variety of organisations to prepare adequate incident and crisis management. We have run numerous exercises and been through many real incidents. We have seen what works and what doesn’t work in a specific context. We can help you create concise but powerful procedures, interesting training full of striking real-live examples, and immersive crisis exercises for your top-level management.

Our founder, Willem Hoekstra, has been the driving force behind the WISE industry-wide exercises for the financial industry in Hong Kong. The top management of 45 banks in Hong Kong participated simultaneously in these 4-hour crisis simulations. 

Our services are always scalable to your needs. We would love to have a conversation with you, no obligations and strictly confidential. Let us give you (and your auditors) the comfort of mind, that you are well prepared for the unexpected.

Crisis Management

Knowing what to do, when you don't know what to do!

Because the likelihood of something very unlikely happening, is very likely

What is Crisis Management?

The official definition of a Crisis is: “a situation with a high level of uncertainty that disrupts the core activities and/or credibility of an organization and requires urgent action.” A crisis can also be defined as VUCA:

Volatile

Uncertain

Complex

Ambiguous

In other words: something crazy happens, such as exceptional typhoons, riots, terror, confidential data publicised, fire, power failure, infectious diseases, system crash, etc. etc. Anything that you didn’t really plan for: it was simply beyond your planning assumptions.

Crisis Management (CM) is the process by which an organisation deals with a crisis. Intuition can be a really bad advisor during stress or panic. There are too many examples of poor crisis management causing unnecessary reputation damage or financial impact, sometimes with fatal consequences. Poor CM allows a crisis  turn into a disaster!

 We advise to give structure to the crisis management process. Our methodology considers the following:

How to prepare Crisis Management

This Crisis Management Team (CMT) will coordinate the strategic corporate response to the situation. Decisions with far reaching consequences must be made. That requires authority and seniority. To make the right decisions in a crisis, you don’t want a haphazard crisis meeting with the happy few that coincidentally walk past the boss’ office.

  • We can help you identify the right people for the CMT or hierarchy of CMTs, not just based on their job title, but also based on affinity and personality. We also have various ways to help you ensure that all members are aware of their role and responsibilities and familiarise them with procedures and best practice.
The Command Centre is the meeting place for the crisis team. As the normal office may be inaccessible and telephone lines disconnected, we should pre-agree where we will find each other. A busy Starbucks may be a bit too public to discuss the future of the organisation in distress. Also, it really helps if the Command Centre is properly facilitated. You might want to watch the TV News, have access to internet, or simply have a spare phone charger available.
  • We can help you with a comprehensive check lists and advise on best practice and cost-effective solutions for your organisation and your situation.

Making the best immediate decisions under stress, based on unclear or even conflicting information, with team members that strongly disagree with each other, is often the main challenge of a CMT. This requires a swift but structured approach, and a leadership style quite different from normal.

  • We have really good experience with a short but comprehensive CMT meeting agenda that we can introduce in your organisation.

Agreeing on status is a powerful way of communicating with clients, head office, staff and other stakeholders. This simple classification tells people what to expect. 

  • We’re not big fans of a meaningless labels like “code red” or “Level 5”, but prefer titles that every stakeholder will immediately understand, clarifying the status of the CMT and of the Organisation at large

Crisis communication is a profession in its own right, where training, experience and practice are essential. Saying the right words in the face of disaster is never easy.

  • We have training program and simple phrase formulas that will keep you out of trouble. We can also help your spokesperson with preparing holding statements with carefully selected words.

Crisis communication also includes the ability to communicate with all your staff and stakeholders.

  • We have extensive experience with successfully implementing  Emergency mass communication systems, like automated call-trees.

Who does what? This is best agreed before a crisis rather than during. Who will run “accounting for staff safety”? Who will visit an injured staff member? Who takes minutes? Who decides to close the building? Who monitors the (social) media?
Teams can easily “drop the ball” and tasks can “fall between the cracks” without clear R&R!

  • We can help with checklists and good practice checklists for Roles & Responsibilities in the team, including training and awareness activities for the managers involved.
What are the ultimate goals of the organisation, and what are the priority Products and Services? It helps to agree beforehand, and keep this well in mind during a crisis situation, to ensure a common team focus. People health&safety is always the paramount concern, but there is so much more!
  • Based on workshops, questionnaires and/or interview, we can assess business impact, and help build a common understanding of your organisation’s immediate business priorities during major incidents.

What amenities, facilities and equipment are available to the Crisis Management Team?

  • We’ll help you provide practical solutions and procedures to the team. Depending on your organisation, the CMT may need a fully equipped dedicated crisis command centre, inculding red satellite phones and lock-down survival kits. Other organisations may be best served with only a list of phone numbers and a simple mobile phone charger. In any case, this can be orderly presented in a handy mini booklet, or a dedicated smart phone app.

An Emergency Notification tool is a system that can communicate with a broad audience in a short period of time. Following disaster or threat, this allows to efficiently and effectively account for the well-being of all staff in a matter of minutes, rather than days.

  • We have successful experience introducing and operating different systems, integrating them with HR data and running awareness campaigns to fully embed the system in the organisations Business as Usual. Single digit fail rate during tests!

The Crisis Management team should be well aware of the (im)possibilities of the Business Continuity Solutions that are available, so they can choose to use it as and when relevant. Most common solutions include Work Area Recovery (WAR), IT disaster recovery (ITDR), Infectious disease plans (Pandemic plans), Work-From-Home,  but there are many other options.

  • We can help you with very concise and focused training and awareness activities to make the CMT well informed of options available, whilst allowing them to understand where potential gaps might loom.

Crisis Management and Business Continuity Management procedures must be in sync with all adjacent procedures such as those in Security, Human Resources, IT, Operations, Compliance, etc.  For example, there should be clear hand-over points after building evacuation to start BCM, and cyber-security incident response structures should be aligned with Crisis Management procedures.

  • We can help you align your Crisis management with policies and processes from all other departments, as well as public authorities, first-responders, and regulators.

Crisis Management Exercise

Knowing what to do, when you don't know what to do!

Crisis Management is different from normal management and requires different skills.

Crisis Management requires urgent decision making under very difficult circumstances:

  • The situation is unclear, and information scarce or even conflicting.
  • Management team members may have strong, emotional conflicting opinions.

Yet, without the luxury of time, you must make immediate and far-reaching decisions. This requires a skill set, quite different from normal management.
Crisis Management skills can be developed through exercise. Many different exercise styles exist, but it starts with defining objectives:

Exercise objectives

Training evolved around the development of a skill set or knowledge. Most of this can be accomplished through formal training, but scenario exercises allow it to be put in practice and learn from experience. Just like reading a book on musical theory won’t make you a concert pianist; classroom training cannot make you a good crisis manager.

We have extensive experience with Crisis Management training for top management. The main objectives of our programs are:

  • Teamwork & co-operation under stress
  • Crisis decision-making:
    • Making optimal swift decisions despite poor information and conflicting opinions.
    • Recognising group bias and tunnel vision
    • Media bias and fake information
    • Recognising false risk perceptions
  • Crisis communication and media management
  • Structuring Crisis Management

Telling a person where to find the emergency exit is much less impactful than actually showing the exit, or even better: using it. 

Our exercises allow CMT members to get acquainted with relevant plans, procedures and facilities, such as:

  • Crisis Management Procedures
  • Emergency notification options
  • Business Continuity Plans
  • Command Centre facilities
  • Business Continuity Facilities
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Cyber Security procedures

Ultimately, there is an element of validation or testing in every exercise. However, a test is an exercise with a specific pass-or-fail element in it. A test requires pre-set thresholds or success criteria, and usually focusses on procedures and/or facilities.

We like to help you organise tests that can give you and other stakeholders the comfort of mind that plans will work, and that you will know where potential gaps are. You can also share test outcomes with external stakeholders, as well as internal and external auditors. They’ll all be pleased with these reports.

Exercising, or practicing, is a way to build a ‘habitual understanding’ of Crisis Management. It is a good way to prevent complacency, and will prevent people from using intuition instead of procedures.

As every civil airplane pilot or military combat staff will confirm: Intuition can be a very poor advisor in difficult situations when under stress and outside the comfort zone. For some procedures you better diligently follow a checklist, whilst other procedures you should learn by heart.

Our consultants know exactly how to develop and deliver exercises that fit your needs (and your wallet). In addition to being an eye-opener for senior management, we can turn a CMT exercise into an enjoyable team building experience.

Exercise style

Discussion

The simplest version of an exercise. The team gathers and has a low-pressure, structured discussion about the feasibility of the plans.

Scenario

Here, the discussion is structured by talking or walking through a specific crisis scenario, usually in a table-top setting. This type of exercise can be realistic, cost-effective and efficient.

Simulation

The simulation is a more elaborate, realistic and immersive type or exercise. During the event, details are given in a way that mimics a real incident, preferably real time and interactive. It requires CMT members to take real action and can involve role-players in a simulation team.

Live

This can range from a small-scale rehearsal of a response, such as an evacuation or an IT application fail-over, to a full-scale rehearsal of the whole organisation, involving all parties, including vendors.

Test

A test has an element of "Pass" or Fail", and usually applied to equipment, recovery procedures or technology, rather than people. For example restoring a back-up tape, or running a Call-Tree procedure.

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