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Strategy Execution

Crisis Management Strategies- The 12 Step Approach

Crisis Management Strategy Overview

It is inevitable. Every organization is going to face a significant crisis once or twice a year and a flurry of minor obstacles. This is why having a crisis management strategy is crucial.

A major executive gets hired away by a competitor. Your supply costs skyrocket. A storm shuts down your factory for 2 weeks. Your ERP implementation is delayed by 3 months. A data breach. A lawsuit. Covid-19 decimates your entire supply chain management.

Any or all of these problems can put your organizational strategy at risk. The challenge is how do we keep our organization on track when it feels like all of the emphasis is on the CRISIS. You need crisis management and crisis communication strategies.

In my experience working with executive teams from many different industries, I have seen ALL of the above. The good news is I have seen leadership teams navigate through uncharted waters using crisis management techniques and find the compass back to their planned destination. The bad news, I have also seen other leadership teams sink into disarray. But first, a definition:

What is Crisis Management?

Crisis management is the application of specific strategies by an organization in response to a sudden and significant negative unforeseeable event. This unforeseeable event that has created risk for an organization could range from an internal to industry or even societal level.

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The 12 Step Crisis Management Strategy 

Crisis Management

1. Create a Crisis Management Solutions Team

crisis management strategies infographicWhen a crisis hits your organization, it is important to get your most effective team members assigned to a small team to manage the situation.

They should have clear authority from management. Management should also communicate who is on the team and clarify their purpose and role in assessing the problems.

2. Facts are our friends

This team should be focused on gathering facts while understanding the emotional impact on the organization. Search for the truth with compassion and empathy. BUT, do not let the emotions drive you away from the root cause of the problem.

3. Clear the table

If the Crisis is big enough, management needs to clear other responsibilities from the Solutions Team so they can get to the root cause.

4. Resolve ASAP

Fear paralyzes teams. Rumors destroy confidence, according to, 86% of organizational gossip is related to obstacles. It is critical that your organization's solutions team gets information that will allow the leadership team to take the next step in resolving the issue.

Crisis Communication Strategies- Leadership

5. Be Poised and Positive

crisis communication strategies chartYour organization will feed off how the leader reacts to the situation. It is incredibly important to show courage and to stay positive while these events occur.

6. Crisis Communication Tactics

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Rinse and Repeat. Whether it is your employees, customers, and/or suppliers - over communicate.  We are way too over-confident about how much people understand what has been said.

A professor once told me that he repeated important things three times because he learned that only ⅓ of people are actually listening when you talk.  A recent study confirmed this with modern communication: Did you realize that only ⅓ of emails are actually opened? (Source:

7. Ownership

One of my favorite recent books is Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. What they make abundantly clear is that every leader needs to take absolute ownership of what went wrong. Great leaders do not point fingers.

8. Be Present

If the Crisis is very big. Postpone your business trips and your golf outings. It is most important for you as a leader to be present when big challenges arise. This is when real leadership is born.

Business Crisis Management- Back on Track

business crisis management diagram9. Stay Focused

While the Solutions Team is identifying the root causes of the crisis and recommending solutions, everyone else needs to stay focused. The ship needs to continue to move forward even if it is damaged.

All other leaders should be identifying what can and can’t be done - and focus on the metrics of success. In normal conditions, 70% of employees feel distracted (Inc. Distractions are Costing Companies Millions, Wanda Thibodeaux).

10. Evaluate Solutions Team

After the Solutions Team has successfully identified the new path to overcome the obstacles, evaluate how the team did managing the crisis and implementing your crisis management strategy. Make sure you bring the right people on board for each situation and keep people off who are unable to keep with the principles above.

11. Real Crisis

Be careful not to create an environment where everything feels like a Crisis and everyone wants to be a firefighter. Organizations need to be able to properly discern when the creation of a  Solutions Team is needed. As opposed to existing teams in your organization overcoming routine obstacles themselves.

12. Refresh Your Goals

After resolution, the Solutions team needs to get back into their routine. You may find their existing goals are behind due to the issue. It is critical that the goal expectations of the employees in the solutions team are handled well.

  1. Push out objectives as appropriate
  2. Add resources to “catch-up”
  3. Clarify leadership roles for everyone so teams can get back on track.

Please use our crisis management strategy to help manage a crisis when it crashes into your organization.

This is inevitable for every organization and we are always working on new ways to reach your mission while modifying your strategies to overcome the obstacles that will always appear.

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