How to stop worrying and build a crisis management plan

Management Lucas Deal October 28, 2013

When it comes to handling a crisis, Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is the textbook example of what not to do.

And while it’s safe to say the movie’s plot — U.S. Air Force general orders an unapproved nuclear attack on Russia because he believes it is responsible for, among other things, the pasteurization of milk — is highly unlikely, the communication mishaps and utter lack of preparation shown in dealing with the crisis is all too common.

To effectively withstand and survive a major crisis, even a fictitious movie one, there has to be a plan.

A crisis management plan is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for combating and surviving a crisis.

POLL: Do you have a detailed crisis management plan for your business?

In the aftermarket, a crisis management plan can be the difference between a recovering from a debilitating incident and being put out of business. Every business should have one.

Successfully constructing a crisis management team requires research, discussion and time.

But before building one, it’s a good idea to first define what qualifies as a crisis.

Getting a stock order three hours late or forgetting to call a customer when his service work is complete doesn’t quality. Neither is ideal, and it’s a good idea to have a strategy for both, but those are problems that can be addressed and quickly solved.

A crisis isn’t just a problem; it’s a problem on the largest possible scale.

A crisis is a problem that puts your entire operation in jeopardy.

“Everything that goes wrong is not a crisis,” says Bill Wade, managing partner at Wade & Partners, an aftermarket consulting firm. “When you run a business things are going to go wrong. A crisis is when something goes terribly wrong.

“It’s when something unthinkable happens.”

Natural disasters and workplace casualties qualify as crises because of devastating affects they have on businesses. Severe financial and employee misconduct also can become crises.

But crises are not limited to these categories alone. Wade says successfully building a crisis management plan requires advance planning for any possible situation.

View this article on one page