Moving from crisis to greatness

Leo-Stan-Ekeh, Chairman, CEO, Zinox Group.jpg

Even in the best managed organizations, unexpected occurrences still throw a spanner in the works. A new government policy may create a serious crisis for an organization just as a new technology may disrupt the plans of another while a natural disaster may be the undoing of yet another organization. The truth is that no organization is immune to crisis, but what distinguishes great organizations from ordinary ones is how they respond to, and handle crises.

The effect of crisis on any organization is usually great because a crisis means different things to different stakeholders in an enterprise. The leaders may see the crisis as a normal occurrence in the life of an organization and take it in their stride, while the shareholders may interpret it as incompetence on the part of those managing the organization, believing that they ought to have seen the crisis before its emergence and should have prevented it. The employees may interpret it as the likelihood of a job loss and become agitated, while the crisis may also erode the confidence of the public in the organization. So, crisis time is a trying time but the onus is on the leadership to provide a way out of the situation and return the organization to its winning ways. The same crisis that sweeps some organizations under makes some stronger. The same crisis that leaves some organizations broke may promote others to prosperity. A crisis that relegates an organization into the backwaters may propel another into prominence. It is a matter of how the crisis is handled.

When there is a crisis, leaders must be creative and leave nobody in doubt that they understand the challenge and are on top of the situation. Anything short of that could worsen the situation and a seemingly run of the mill crisis will leave the organization worsted.

Crisis and opportunity

It has been said that when written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters; one represents danger while the other represents opportunity. That means that every crisis has an opportunity embedded in it. But the fact is that it is not every crisis that automatically results in opportunity. Resolving a crisis does not translate into the creation of opportunities for an organization, rather resolving a crisis only returns an organization to the status quo ante. So, stopping at crisis resolution does not take any organization into greatness, it is going beyond resolving the crisis which provides the ladder that takes organizations to greatness.

But before looking at the post-crisis resolution activities, let us consider how crises are resolved.

 

Steps in crisis resolution

These are some of the steps involved in crisis resolution.

 

Identify the issue

In resolving a crisis, the starting point is identifying what the problem is. Crises linger mainly because of the failure of leaders to identify what the real issue is. Oftentimes, what is seen as the problem may just be the effect of the real problem. For as long as attention is focused on the effect rather than the real issue, the crisis will persist. Therefore, efforts and resources must be deployed to identifying what the real issue is so that the crisis could be uprooted.

 

Find the cause without apportioning blame

The cause of the crisis must be found so as to guard against a repeat. The purpose of finding out the cause is not to apportion blame but to learn as much as possible from the situation. Apportioning blames during a crisis will create a schism in the organization and may scale down the enthusiasm of the workforce. Great leaders use crisis time to motivate and forge cohesion among team members. Blaming anyone at this point will frustrate any effort aimed at achieving cohesion.

However, the leadership must find out if the crisis could have been prevented. It should also be found out how if there had been signals about the situation which were ignored. The leadership must also draw attention of the team members to how to prevent the occurrence of similar situations in future.

 

Develop a plan

Then the leadership must develop a plan to address the crisis and redress the situation. Spending time to develop a plan rather than engaging in an off the cuff system of resolving the crisis will save time and resources. The natural inclination during crisis is to switch to panic mode and do that which will appease the people but that does not always work. During crisis, the primary responsibility of a leader is to be calm. By being calm, he sends a signal to others that the situation is under control. But if the leader shows that he is as confused as the people he leads and resorts to panicky measures, the crisis will get escalated because everybody will either do nothing or engage in activities which would be counter-productive. So, the best thing is to take time to develop a plan. It may appear slow at the onset but the result will justify the time taken to develop a plan.

 

Harmonise communication

This is very critical for any organization. When there is a crisis, all ears will be itchy for information; the workforce will want to be updated, the public will be interested in what is going on, customers and clients will want to know what the issues are, investors will require assurance about the safety of their investment, competition will want to scoop as much information as possible so that they know how the development could impact on their own operation. Therefore, the organization facing the crisis cannot afford to have wrong information getting out because that could be more damaging than the crisis itself. Therefore, every communication must be harmonized, not with a view to misleading the public and other stakeholders but with the intent of guarding against the misinformation of interested parties.

So, all members of staff, with the exception of those who are saddled with the responsibility, must be barred from speaking with any member of the public with heavy sanctions meted out to those who violate the instruction. Those given the responsibility of communicating with the public must make themselves available to everyone who seeks information because hoarding information could be wrongly interpreted by those who seek information.

However, those managing the information should guard against sending out falsehood or half truth as doing so may destroy the reputation of the organization beyond measure once there is a leak. Apart from the services or products that an organization markets, what sustains it is its goodwill and reputation. If those are lost as a result of trying to cover up during a crisis, the effect may cost the organization years of hard work and good deeds.

 

Work the plan

Having done all of the above, the next thing is to work the plan. In working the plan, all stakeholders including the public should be carried along. Let the whole world know all efforts being made to address the issue. During a crisis, passing out the right information is essential. Giving the right information about what is being done will create confidence in the public and may result in those concerned lending a hand of support to the organization.

If proper thinking went into developing the plan, getting out of the crisis should not be difficult.

 

Post-crisis activities

As mentioned earlier, resolving the crisis will only restore the organization to the pre-crisis stage. If that is the point that the organization stops, it does not get the best out of the situation. After resolving the crisis, with all hands still on deck and all members of the organization still gung-ho, the leader should create a new challenge for the organization. Without letting the steam cool, he must come up with a new product or a new marketing plan or any other thing that will shoot up the profile of the organization. The workforce at the time of the crisis resolution will be brimming with positive energy which should be harnessed by the leadership to achieve greatness for the organization. Resolving the crisis, as good as it is, is not the time for glass-clinking or back-patting, it is time to get to work so as to make up for the time devoted to getting out of the crisis.

As soon as a plan to resolve the crisis is developed, the leader must move to other things by developing a blueprint on what to channel the positive energy and the enthusiasm of the workforce to immediately the crisis is over. It is doing so that creates opportunities for the organization to go higher than it was before the crisis.

 

Last line

Success is never accidental. Those who climb on the back of crisis to greatness do so by taking deliberate steps that propel them beyond their pre-crisis level as soon as they find a way out of the crisis.

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