Straightforward question? You can answer that can’t you?

Most organisations use a definition of crisis they have developed themselves or obtained from a reliable source such as a standard or good practice document. The definition selected will invariably fit with the organisation’s attitude, perception and appetite for what constitutes a crisis. It provides a reference point.

But each organisation is unique so as a consequence crisis definitions may differ from one organisation to the next. A crisis for your organisation may not be a crisis to another. That’s not to say anyone is wrong, just different.

One of the intriguing considerations is the point at which an incident becomes a crisis. Doesn’t the organisation’s definition of a crisis sort this out for you? You could decide an incident has developed into a crisis because of the scale of impact being realised or maybe when the incident target recovery time has been exceeded. Both of these can be a challenge because it’s easy and probably natural to continue focussing on resolving the incident so it takes someone to step back from the action and take a broader view to recognise that the incident has become a crisis.

But there are other factors to consider such as the timing of the incident or crisis event. I know there are organisations which have breathed a sigh of relief when a failure or outage has occurred at a time when no stakeholders were impacted, or when they wouldn’t have noticed. Equally there are organisations which have suffered failures or outages at the worst possible moment – this may be a particular time of day, week, month or year or even when a number or sequence of events have created a ‘perfect storm’. So the timing of the event can also determine whether or not a situation is a crisis.

Many of you will be reading this whilst thinking, ‘we have defined what a crisis is, so if the incident or event satisfies the definition then it’s a crisis, simple.’ My point is we need to remain alert to situations which may delay us in applying our definitions. The consequence is we could be tricked into not invoking our crisis responses at the most appropriate time.

‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing’ – well not if you didn’t invoke your crisis management procedures when you should have it’s not! The media is full of examples where failure to make the required call at precisely the right time, or where failure to intervene resulted in tragedy. Our challenge is to make sure we are not the next case under scrutiny for failing to recognise a developing, emerging or present crisis when required.

In summary, keep your crisis definition but also keep a broad view on what is happening. Ultimately a crisis is a crisis when you decide it is a crisis and it’s better you make the call than your stakeholders.

As always if you need help in this area please contact me.

October 25, 2015 at 10:32 am
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Category: Crisis Management
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