We recently presented at a meeting of the Association of Fundraising Professionals about crisis management and communications. It was the third session of a four-part series on “Essential Strategies for Effective Non-profit Communications.” The group really engaged with the topic, and we had good discussion.
Many expressed concern about the time and costs involved in developing a crisis communications plan. We’ve certainly learned a number of lessons in our crisis work, most notably:
- You can’t plan for every possible crisis situation
- It is unlikely that every possible crisis will occur
The question then becomes: how do we know what to plan for? Using the Bottom Line Threat Matrix Process, we showed how each organization can identify its own “Most-likely and Most-damaging” crisis scenarios. With this information in hand, it’s possible to focus your time and resources more effectively in the planning process.
Warning Signs Missed or Ignored
As our group discussed, sometimes warning signs are noticed, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes, they are ignored altogether.
Warning signs occur all the time in business. Manageable problems that exist today are tomorrow’s crisis if ignored or worked around. The successful leader has a mindset to recognize the organization’s vulnerabilities as warning signs that have the potential to grow into costly crisis situations. The key to a winning organization is identifying vulnerabilities and assessing whether they are small problems easily managed or potential combustibles ready to ignite at the smallest provocation.
Crisis situations usually result from the simple day-to-day work performed in an organization. They can occur through management mistakes that build up over a long period of time, or by only one slip-up that causes extreme damage to the organization.
Some crises are difficult to predict and foresee. However, most crisis situations are preceded by an incident, a mistake, or a telltale sign that can tip you off to disaster before it occurs. The problem is we get too busy and preoccupied with the day-to-day tasks to take the time to put out the brush fire before it erupts into an inferno. The warning signs either goes unheeded or are ignored in favor of something more pressing or easier with which to deal.
Essence of Crisis Management
Warning signs are recognized through discipline and perspective. This is the essence of crisis management. It includes being aware of potential problems and vulnerabilities that creep into organizations and can erupt into crisis situations.
This is not to suggest that all organizations adopt a more conservative, risk-averse management style. That could cripple innovation. Leaders and managers can be wonderfully innovative and creative when they know that warning signs will be noticed and handled effectively. Risks can be taken successfully in an organization only if the culture includes the discipline and ability to recognize unusual events and address them immediately and competently.
Threat Matrix Process
One of the best and most thorough ways to prepare is to conduct a comprehensive vulnerabilities analysis. Using the Bottom Line Threat Matrix Process, you can identify the vulnerable areas and the threats that are most likely to occur and would cause the most damage. Management can then develop specific plans to eliminate them, reduce the potential damage and manage the situation effectively by planning in advance.
The Threat Matrix Process includes six strategic steps. We shared our matrix process with attendees. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about how the Bottom Line Threat Matrix Process can help you identify potential risks and develop plans to manage or eliminate those risks.