Crisis management, recovery and future preparedness

Crisis management, recovery and future preparedness

The CEO of a global organisation once used a curious analogy to sum up crisis management:

  1. “getting the cow out of the ditch,
  2. understanding how the cow got into the ditch,
  3. and preventing the cow falling into the ditch again”.

There are plenty of longwinded ways to explain the principles of crisis management, but few so straight-forward to a wide range of people.

Without wishing to unnecessarily complicate this great analogy, three simple, circular steps are fundamental to success through any crisis:

  1. Act - deal with the immediate requirements of the incident. Follow a crisis management plan, assemble the crisis management team, get the right resources into the right place (and fast)
  2. Understand - once the incident is contained and effectively managed, get to the heart of how the incident happened, the circumstances that led to it, and review how it was handled
  3. Prevent - close the loop (vital and often the aspect that is least effectively actioned), learn to mitigate the incident from re-occurring, or at least the impacts if it can’t be prevented. Improve systems, processes and people for future preparedness, and don’t forget to update / rewrite your original crisis management plan

Crisis management and recovery are fascinating subjects. If you have worked in and around large crowded places, such as airports and shopping centres, you will have experienced frequent testing of business continuity plans through your crisis management exercises. And if you have led a crisis situation first hand, you’ll know that such management requires high levels of resilience, agility, attention to detail, and business acumen.

Such circumstances require super-effective leadership. Great leaders clearly establish purpose, “the why”, and align everyone’s objectives so that each person has a direct contribution to the goal. They surround themselves with a great team, people with the right balance of skills – particularly soft skills - great communicators with social and emotional intelligence. These leaders promote simplicity and clarity in the team outputs, and engender trust from the wider team. And of course, they place the customer as the top priority in every endeavour.

In my own experience, most recently operations management in shopping centres, large, multi-agency crisis simulations were invaluable in preparing for real-life incidents such as the terror attack in Manchester during May 2017. They enabled the whole crisis management team to anticipate the likely demands of such an incident, and to assemble resources to mitigate risk. It proved the importance of preparation, developing (crisis management) team experience, and the critical requirement to close the loop and update the crisis management plan. 20 years ago in government data centre environments, similar thinking and preparedness was critical to the success of first and second generation outsourcing.

Crisis management training rams home the importance of planning and preparedness. Find time, make time and utilise it well. Time is the advantage, it gifts the opportunity to plan, prepare and ready resources, to locate and mitigate the bottlenecks. It is pretty obvious, but once you are in crisis mode, time is in short supply, and that is where the skills of agility and resilience in the team really come to the fore. These situations require flexibility from all involved, they require people to change quickly, and without wishing to sound contrived, change brings opportunity.

The Covid-19 crisis is terrible for people and families across the globe. The evolving restrictions in the UK are challenging for everyone. But these challenges do present opportunities for businesses, teams and people to learn, to improve and potentially stride forward. So, when you consider the ramifications that the Covid-19 crisis brings to your team and business, take a moment to reflect on the “cow in the ditch”. Figure out how to simplify your own situation, assemble your team, and best wishes as you get back to business.

If you would like to discuss any of these points, please feel to get in touch through Linked In.

Geoff Grateley MIWFM


Special thanks to Geoff for preparing this blog for us. We know people will really appreciate this brief guide. If you wish to contact Geoff, you can reach him via  Linkedin here  Geoff Grateley Linkedin