Tagged: Crisis Management; Crisis Communication

Complacency can be a Killer


I recently saw an e-mail on the OD List that I want to share verbatim with my readers and I have the writer’s permission to do so. The e-mail is written by Allon Shevat, an OD Consultant from Israel.

My comments straight after this e-mail.

4 years ago, the train station where I board was bombed at 0700 am. (I was to have been on the 0900 am train.) The station was torn apart, the security guard died, and many people waiting in line were maimed.

Ever since then, there is far more security…….but like many things in my country, it is sloppy and undisciplined.

An airport scanner was installed and now, everything goes on the scanner and passengers must personally walk thru a detector after first emptying one’s pockets.

People wait in the sweltering heat to be checked, and at peak hours it is more or less like JKF in peak hours.

The person who mans the scanner is on her cell phone all the time. She yaks and yaks and yaks, and, like many Israelis (and Indians), she has more than one phone; as she yaks, she send text messages on the other phone.

A few weeks ago, I yelled out “what good is this check point when she is not looking at the screen”? She pulled me aside and told me “I will make sure you take the bus”. I showed her my card with my military reserve rank, and she almost passed out. Within two days, I had a written apology and she was given 2 weeks suspension.

Now she is back again, and…..on her phones.

I was faced with a real dilemma. Since our society is VERY VERY tolerant of bad discipline, (life is hard so we all deserve breaks), I know that I have no chance with getting her off her phone or dismissed.

Yesterday I made my decision and filmed her on her phones and sent the clip to the head to the train hq.

Last night I got a call that “she really needs her salary but you are right; we will have a good talk to her and ensure corrective action is taken……in other words……there is to be no change.

Some societies and cultures are sadly more resistant to random acts of responsibility.

My response.

Until the next bombing……

For the past 16 years I have been an independent consultant focusing on Corporate Reputation. Yet, there is another side to me. I am also a trainer and consultant in Occupational Health & Safety – and it is a passion of mine.

For the past 16 years I used to perform Health & Safety training and consulting a few days a month on behalf of an ISO registered OSHA Compliance consultancy.

What I find so enticing is to raise people’s awareness of health & safety issues (dangers) in the workplace. After these workshops delegates cannot express enough gratitude and the statements are always universally the same:

“Thank you for raising my awareness”!

How do we make people more aware about potential crises in the workplace?

This question should interest all managers.

I believe that it is necessary to expose managers to that type of thinking, that we educate and train them, and we share knowledge. The South African Occupational Health & Safety Act has a number of conditions and issues that has made it one of the most benchmarked Acts in the world. One of the interesting requirements and questions that arise from it:

Have you given the employee adequate information, education, and training in his task considering the task, the hazards, potential outcomes and consequences of non-compliance?

jpg_00004473A few years ago I had the opportunity of standing at the top of the Empire State Building in New York. Standing there with the wind blowing me nearly off my feet, I could not help but visualize friends jumping of the burning World Trade Centre.

911 has come and gone. Yet for many organisations the impact, reality and lessons from it does not remain. How many organisations have not slipped back into the normal mode of doing things? Assuming that an incident like 911 will never happen to them?

Recently I was in a building in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa when I decided to use the fire escape instead of the lift, but between the 3rd and 4th floor was a locked gate. When I called the Facilities manager he said the following words to me: “Deon, you worry too much. If a fire breaks out, someone will come and unlock this gate!” No way, in my experience most people look out for number one in any crisis – themselves.

Standing at the 911 site, the thought arose in my mind as to what should an organization do if you are faced with a situation that is beyond an organisation’s normal scope to act? Health & Safety experts teach that 2% of accidents are “Acts of God”, 10% caused by unsafe conditions but that 88% of accidents are caused by unsafe behavior.

How does a company deal with the hand of fate and at the same time protect its reputation and integrity? How can a company come out “smelling like roses”.

One simple lesson is that stakeholders will forgive you for mistakes, but they will not forgive a company for not caring. Therefore in line with industry experience a company who aims to be a good corporate citizen should prepare for any eventual crisis.

But for what and how? Since 9/11, nearly every emergency preparedness and business continuity regulation and industry best practice in the USA has been strengthened, several even mentioning the threat of terrorism as a prime motivation for their enhancements. In South Africa, interest seems to be only to cope with the demands of the latest sporting events.

Considering the following points will help you prepare your organization for the worst.

1. Remember that the very things you believe cannot happen to your organisation can. Professor Ian Mitroff, who for more than 20 years headed up the Institute for Crisis Management ran a crisis management workshop in New York about two weeks before 911 happened. Most of the executives present, represented multi-national companies. In compiling likely risks, car bombs featured at the top of the list. However no one mentioned “flying bombs”. Mitroff goes on to say that something is lacking, and that “That something is our ability to think comprehensively about crisis”. Are you thinking comprehensively about crisis?

2. Equip yourself with knowledge so that you can help your organization be better prepared. One of the most frequent comments I hear from clients is not that they do not know the answers, but that they don’t know the right questions to get started in their planning or to persuade management to allocate resources for this planning. You can read the various good books out there in bookshops or you could equip yourself in the short term by attending training workshops such as my Crisis Management & Communication workshops.

3. Talk to the specialists (consultants, local authorities and emergency management service providers) in your area. If possible, contact your suppliers and find out who has done this type of planning before so that you can reduce your organisation’s learning curve.

4. Revisit the basics of crisis management. I walk into many organisations to do OSHA Compliance workshops only to find out that the organisation have not recently conducted any fire drills, if any. To assume that everyone will be able to escape the building and be accounted for is dangerous. One large firm affected by 9/11 took more than three days to account for its personnel because they lost their primary means to track and contact employees.

5. Appoint one person who is responsible for crisis preparedness across the organization and communicate his or her identity to managers at all levels.

Ensure each crisis planning team (strategic crisis management, business continuity, crisis communications, disaster recovery, emergency response, employee impact, etc.) knows the relationship between their plan(s) and the overall organization’s crisis management goals and objectives. (I provide a two day training course that enables managers to create one integrated crisis management action plan that can assist you. Or, you can purchase my Crisis Toolkit).

6. Audit your organisation’s crisis plans. The audit should cover evacuation/egress planning, personnel accountability, emergency system shutdown procedures, correct names/numbers on emergency phone lists, media and other stakeholder communications guidelines, family communications guidelines, expectations for employee communications and support.

6. Consider holding a table top exercise or discussion around a likely event.

Brainstorm likely crises; determine the roles each team member is expected to play while responding to an incident will help identify strengths and weaknesses in your organization’s ability to respond, especially for teams requiring interaction during the response. Scenario planning is a helpful tool leading to overall preparedness. No organization does everything well, and exercises are a terrific way to highlight improvement needs for multiple areas at one time.

(I work together with organisations to design, develop and facilitate likely scenarios unique to that organisation. I assisted ATNS with that before the World Cup Soccer event, and assisted the Department of Statistics during the Census 2011)

7. Nearly every survey taken after 9/11 has shown that the most overlooked area of crisis preparedness is the human and communication side. When Saambou, the South African bank closed down one employee committed suicide.

Work closely with EAP (Employee Assistance) experts, psychologists, the church and other specialists to determine modes of action prior to problems happening. Communication is integral to making any plan work and should be factored in from the outset.

8. It isn’t enough to know that your organization is better prepared. The impact of a crisis may become an industry issue and affect your business.

The Marikana shooting incidents and riots have placed an unnecessary burden on the Mining Industry in South Africa and has the potential to negatively impact investment in South Africa, and this at a time, just as we are getting things right.

Build alliances with suppliers and industry experts before a crisis breaks, so that you can make use of this expertise when the time comes.

There is lots can be done, but the biggest danger is that of Complacency. Complacency to the extent that people tell me they attended a first aid workshop 8 years ago.

Is your capability/competency still current? If not, you may just hurt the other person.

How sharp is your axe? How current are your Crisis Management & Crisis Communication plans and Capability?

Let me share with you a story written by the late Stephen Covey.

Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job to a timber merchant, and he got it. The pay was good and so were the working conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Carry on that way!”.


Very motivated with the boss’s words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could bring only 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but could bring 10 trees only. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. “I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought.
He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your Axe?” the boss asked.

“Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my Axe. I have been very busy trying to cut more trees for you.”

Complacency is akin to not sharpening your axe.

Updating of Crisis Management & Crisis Communication Response Plans


36322_3149Got a call from someone asking for some help and/or a checklist on how to update their crisis crisis communication response plan.

Without giving away all my knowledge for free (Hey – I also need to make money), I referred the prospective client to my Crisis Management & Crisis Communication Response Toolkit, I shared this:

1. Take a close look at all the other plans in the company – Emergency Response, Health & Safety, Disaster Recovery, Security & Business Continuity plans. Each of these have communication components which you may want to incorporate.

2. Take a close look at definitions. The words transparency, disclosure and public opinion needs to be carefully defined and brainstormed. For instance, transparency is affected by close periods(share trading), laws and regulations and stakeholders perceptions. By voluntary, mandatory and involuntary responses like WikiLeaks moments.

3. Compare your Crisis Communication plan to best practice when it comes to strategic communications planning. Some tips:

Who are your target audiences? Writing a Crisis Plan is a Strategic Communications & Stakeholder Management planning exercise.

My advice would be to proceed as follows:

  • Diagnose the current state of communication including the key messages and main targets /stakeholder groups. With other words who needs to know what? What do they know already, etc.?
  • Identify key stakeholders or your target audience. Segment key stakeholders groupings.
  • Identify contact points i.e. best points or places to reach your target audience.
  • Develop communication strategy – now only do you decide on the methods and media to use.
  • Identify communication objectives for each target audience/stakeholder.
  • Select media best positioned to deliver the message. Take a look at both basic methods as well as social media technologies.
  • Develop message strategy for each target audience (stakeholder).
  • Decide on implementation strategy (Tactics).
  • Compile a Communication- Strategy Matrix.
  • Do a Budget.
  • Implement & Deliver messages
  • Monitor, evaluate and adjust communication program as necessary

For me the biggest problem occurs when people immediately think of the tools to communicate with.

By thinking through this process you will include measurement and delivery evaluation techniques, therefore ensuring impact of message and return on investment.

Announcement: The Crisis Manager Toolkit


They say that when a crisis strikes, how you act in the first few minutes determines the final outcome. With more companies developing crisis or disaster recovery plans they can turn to if the unthinkable ever happens, service providers are not far behind, hoping to offer them the right solutions for the job.

Numerous crises ranging from product Recalls to Oil spills to Social Media crises have again highlighted the importance for companies to be prepared. REPUCOMM has launched a crisis management toolkit that can assist companies to create a workable crisis management and crisis communication response plan for the business.

‘If you have an emergency situation that needs to be dealt with, the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about how to deal with it or worry how to keep all your stakeholders informed.’ said Deon Binneman. ‘Being prepared is an ethical responsibility to stakeholders’.

The Toolkit

The Crisis Manager Toolkit is a highly effective, low cost solution to assist any company to develop workable crisis management action and communication response plans and is a useful resource that can assist any manager in this phase and during a crisis, and can serve as a benchmarking instrument. It consists of a ZIPPED file format that contains useful information such as the following:

  • Detailed questionnaires, articles and checklists to prompt thinking processes whilst planning and preparing response plans;
  • Various guidelines and tip sheets ranging from stakeholder communication templates to dealing with the Media tips sheets;
  • Handy templates and forms;
  • A Copy of a 2 – day course consisting of a PowerPoint presentation that can be customised for internal training and information sharing use with the Board, executives and staff;
  • A 40 page Crisis Management & Communication Response Plan Template as well as a copy of an Emergency Response plan template;
  • Guidelines on how to respond to Internet Reputation Crises, including Social Media Guidelines on Twitter, Facebook and Blogging crises.

The Benefits

The benefits of the toolkit are numerous including:

j04022261. It allows for preplanning and development of a plan instead of employing outside professionals at the outset of such a project. Whilst having independent input is essential, it can save a lot of costs if the groundwork have been completed.

2. Many organisations do not have the capacity to have a fulltime Crisis Manager position but that does not absolve them of the necessity of planning for dealing with the hand of fate. Today stakeholders of an organisation expect an organisation to be ready to deal with all calamities as well as the unique communication challenges that these situations bring. But in many organisations plans exist in various forms and guises. Plans exist as Disaster Recovery (IT related), Business Continuity, Occupational Health & Safety & Emergency Response plans, and Communication Response plans (PR/Communication). Sometimes these plans are coordinated, sometimes they are not. I believe that all of these plans should be integrated in an overall crisis management response plan for the organisation.

3. Self- Study. The toolkit is a tremendous aid for those who want to bring themselves up to speed with the latest development in crisis management thinking & crisis communication response. The kit contains a complete PowerPoint presentation with leaders guide notes prepared and facilitated by Deon Binneman the past 14 years.

4. Benchmarking – What works? What does not? What does international best practice and experience teach us? The CM Toolkit is a useful product that you can use to see if your plans stand up against best practice. Are you ready?

Why

The rationale behind the toolkit is as follows:

Recent media reports and other business and natural disasters have again just illustrated the need for companies to plan for all eventualities including the communication challenges that is created during these eventualities. The actual process of emergency planning and crises communication management is a vital one if companies want to safeguard their assets, minimise their risks and uphold their hard-earned reputation.

Two thoughts can guide us in this process, the words stated by Benjamin Disraeli “What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least, generally happens”, and the fact that Noah built the Ark days before it rained.

Years and years of experience have proven that the companies who copes the best with crises of all kinds are those who are prepared to deal with the hand of fate. Those companies who have set in motion processes to minimise potential crises. Companies who cope successfully with crises are normally companies who have a predetermined plan of action including communication response plans.

Crises management is defined as the ability of an organisation to deal quickly, efficiently, and effectively with contingency operations with the goal of reducing the threat to human health and safety, the loss of public or corporate property, adverse impact on normal Business continuance, and damage to it’s good name – it’s Reputation.

The toolkit is a useful resource that can assist any manager in this phase and during a crisis, and can serve as a benchmarking instrument.

Here is a quick questionnaire (Based on a very detailed 11 page plus one in the toolkit) that can guide your decision to purchase the toolkit – See my blog post How up to date is your Crisis Management Plan? as well as the post How Reputation Event/ Crisis-Ready is your Organization?

Pricing

POA – The toolkit is in a PDF and PowerPoint Format can be e-mailed to customers.

To find out more about the Toolkit, contact Deon Binneman.

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