Preparing Your Crisis Control Plan

Effective management of risk, commitment to serve the customer and get to a win-win resolution, and a truly competent, empowered team are key to succeeding in crisis situations. But the organizational steps you take before any crisis occurs are the real keys to your company’s crisis control success.

 

The makers of Tylenol thought that it couldn’t happen to them. Arthur Andersen seconded the motion. Firestone got ambushed by a double-digit defective parts per million (DPPM) number on safety critical products that it produced.

Effective management of risk, commitment to serve the customer and get to a win-win resolution, and a truly competent, empowered team are key to succeeding in crisis situations. But the organizational steps you take before any crisis occurs are the real keys to your company’s crisis control success.

1) Create a crisis control team. Most shops have used team-oriented problem solving techniques. Think of crisis control as team-oriented problem solving on steroids. The team may look like your org chart; then again, it might not. The team will need an outline of responsibilities and authority for taking action when the crisis develops. Don’t forget, you may lose the services of some team members if the crisis involves injuries in the shop.

2) Create and stick with a communications plan to ensure that your employees, customers, community and applicable regulatory officials get the same clear, valid information. When formulating your communications plan: 1) Always remember the benefits of telling the truth; 2) look to your corporate mission/vision statement for the goals you need to keep in sight during this crisis; 3) instruct all personnel to refer questions to the member of the crisis control team who has authority and responsibility for all communications; and 4) have contingency plans for communications, and don’t forget to use your company’s Web presence.

3) Develop scenarios in advance. Let your team develop responses on a case-by-case basis. Be prepared to discover that much of the information the team needs to solve the crisis may very well be unavailable to them at the time of the crisis. Back up records of machine capability, APQP, MSDS information, employee rosters and contact information, phone numbers, and customer broadcast fax numbers or e-mail addresses might be key to maintaining fact-based communications—yet they may be unavailable as a result of the crisis. Anticipating what information the team will need will help ensure that they have it when a crisis occurs.

4) Maintain communications and production efforts. If you are committed to making it through the crisis with your customers and reputation intact, you must maintain communications with your customers and manage to produce your products. Not keeping your customer informed of your situation is just as bad as failing to make your deliveries. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. And remember, listening is part of communicating. 5) No man is an island; no business is, either. As a business owner, you know other companies that might have similar capability and may be able to help you work through a crisis. If your team stays focused on meeting your customer’s needs, you will likely survive the crisis and keep the customer.

Of course, there are other steps to crisis control planning. The role of legal counsel; availability and understanding of insurance policies; availability of payroll and other important corporate records; budgeting for services for remediation; counseling for employees and notification of next of kin; environmental remediation—the list could fill a book. The point is that crisis control and team-oriented problem solving are two very similar organizational talents, talents that you may find yourself using sometime in the future. Who is working on this in your organization? Do they have what they need? When was the last time they had a practice run?

Tylenol is still a leading brand because of its crisis control response. Not only is Arthur Andersen no longer one of the “Big 5” accounting firms, but the company is not even in business today. Firestone has worked through its issues and taught us all lessons about communicating during crises. Crisis control plans can be the difference between successful and failing outcomes. Do you have a plan?