During the day you are the mild-mannered billionaire – having long lunches, creating strategic pathways, providing guidance to your charges, occasionally making strategic decisions and generally enjoying life. Your days are for the most predictable and as long as you don’t step on anyone’s toes, you’re cruising.
Then as a famous cartoon character once said: “There is an earth-shattering KABOOM!”
OK technically the kaboom never happened as Batman was always waiting for it, but imagine if in your world it did. Would you be ready to handle the aftermath of this crisis, making all the decisions needed to ensure the safety of your people, the integrity of your data, the protection of your assests and brand, and the continuity of supply from your external suppliers? Not to mention the media and possibly regulator enquiries?
The definition of a crisis-ready corporation is simply your ability to cope with the incident and return to work as soon as possible. Global research conducted on the impact of severe crises highlighted that between 1994 and 2003, 50% of the largest global companies suffered a decline in their share price value of more than 20% in the month post a major crisis. This impact is to be expected as many investors react conservatively to the news of trouble. But the troubling statistic is that nearly half of the aforementioned companies took two or more years to recover their share price. This was primarily due to one fact – they lacked a comprehensive business continuity or crisis plan and a team trained to initiate the plan.
What is a business continuity or crisis plan?
Ask yourself what you would do if your company suffered a major event, would you know what to do, who to call and where to find information? Your plan should be a comprehensive but simple to follow plan that identifies these factors. My business partner Craig Goldberg, one of the leading crisis consultants in Australia, has identified a simple acronym which you can consider when examining your plan (or possibly creating one). It should cover PRISE: People, Reputation, IT/Infrastructure, Sites and External Parties.
Consider each word and the impact of losing access to or a complete loss of that variable. Then consider the acceptable outage time before it would become a serious problem. For example if your IT systems were hacked or a massive DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service – remember the ABS census debacle) occurred, how long could you cope with the systems being down before you initiated your back up plans?
Activating your plan
Your plan is designed to determine how and what you would need to do to ensure: safety, integrity, replacement, repair, continuity and communication across the PRISE variables. It also defines who is on the crisis team and where that team should meet when activated.
Communicating during a crisis
The most important tool you have is your ability to communicate both internally and externally. Years ago many companies relied on the slowness of the media and the close proximity of their staff to contain and spread messages. But with 24-hour media and more sources of communicating than I can mention in the word limit I have for this story, it is essential you have a fail-proof system for contacting your people and relevant external parties. And do it quickly.
As a matter of course you should have a holding statement ready to go within 15 minutes of any major event. This should be widely communicated throughout your business and, when appropriate, shared with the media. While controversial with some companies, the media are always looking for a good story whether you choose to contribute or not. Saying nothing can be as damaging as the actual crisis itself.
Having conducted numerous post incident reviews and crisis simulations for many large organisations in Australia and Asia, one factor always stands out. Having an effective team managing your crisis has a significant impact on a company’s ability to initiate their plan and manage the situation effectively. The reason for this is simple: “No one ever pulls out the plan during the crisis.” This seems counter-intuitive to my early statements, but the plan is simply the process – during a crisis a well-drilled team should not need it or if they do it is for a quick reference check.
Having honed skills will definitely help and our Business Olympian Model suggests the following characterises are needed: Resilience (relentless persistent), Sustained Appropriate Focus (staying the course regardless of distractions), Discipline (Authority to act and accountability to do so) and Motivation to Succeed (every action is a stepping stone to future success, even if you stumble a little).
One final important question is who should lead your team, conventional wisdom suggests the most senior person in the room – but experience tells us you need your senior person to oversee the decisions and be the spokesperson for your organisation, they can’t be running the team.
The final piece of the puzzle is the difference between good and great, which as I define it, is the ability to perform consistently under pressure, and that’s when Batman appears. The business suit is put away, your undies need to be on the outside, you put on the cape and become a superhero, and if you have a cool car it will definitely help.
But remember, even Batman was part of a team as every superhero brings a different and unique skill set, so who takes on the role of Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the team. Unlike DC or Marvel, who I suspect won’t take my advice, sometimes you might need Ironman and Captain America (heroes from another team) to join in.
Gavin Freeman (M.Psych, MBA), author of 'Just Stop Motivating Me', psychologist and keynote presenter. Gavin has more than 18 years’ experience in working with high performing individuals and teams, from Olympians to CEOs.