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Crisis management

Graphics | March 1, 2008 | By:

The phrase “What if” is usually associated with financial spreadsheets; however, managers must carefully look at all aspects of their business and constantly ask themselves “what if…?” You can fill in the blanks, since all sorts of unplanned events happen all the time.

“Crisis management is doing everything we can to prevent those crises that are preventable, and to manage those that can’t be prevented,” says Dr. Ian Mitroff, professor at Alliant International University in San Francisco, and the author of Managing Crises Before They Happen (Amacom Books).

Moreover, Mitroff asserts: “Crisis planning, or crisis plans, are not the goal of crisis management. The goal of crisis management is the development of the capabilities to manage any crisis. The reason why we confuse crisis plans with crisis management is denial! What good are plans without the capability to execute them? Would anybody confuse a marketing plan with the capabilities to execute it? Complete nonsense!”

In developing crisis plans, managers need to take long, in-depth looks at their organizations to plan for the unthinkable. Just as the Boy Scouts are supposed to “be prepared,” managers, too, need to know in advance what to do when the unexpected happens. Crisis plans can be something as simple as having the names, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses of your accountants, lawyers, and key executives programmed into your Blackberry or cell phone.

The next step is to put together loose-leaf binders or computer discs, which are kept off site, or in a bank box, listing all the chemicals and fabrics stored in your plant. This CD-R or binder should also have a complete, up-to-date list—as current as possible—of employees,clients, suppliers, tax records, and other important industry contacts. The key to effective crisis planning and management is to have at your fingertips all the information needed to keep your business up and running after the unexpected happens. This, at its most basic, is the goal of crisis planning.

Granted, crisis management planning is much more complicated than these first simple steps. The best place to start is by looking around and asking yourself those very powerful words, “What if…?”

Roy Katz, M.B.A. is a business journalist based in Las Vegas, Nev.

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