The first of three posts on what the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us about crisis and issues management.
#1. Don’t let terminology be an obstacle to a good response
Not all organisations invoked a full crisis management capability to respond to Covid-19. Why? Surely this was/is the crisis of the millennium?
In fact it is completely understandable. Covid-19 is not the typical ‘acute’ corporate crisis that strategic crisis management capabilities are designed to deal with. The intense pressure and stakeholder scrutiny are diluted because, as one client put it, ‘this is everyone’s crisis, not ours’.
So if it is not a crisis, what is it? An issue, an incident? Does it matter?
A crisis management capability is really just a special way of working, trained and rehearsed, that makes life easier in difficult situations. It helps get decisions made quickly and effectively, allows the organisation to see things through multiple lenses, aligns different parts of an organisation around common objectives and facilitates communication. It should help bring order to what could otherwise be chaos.
If such a capability is not used because the optics of the terminology are wrong, and if there is no issues management capability to invoke as a back-up, there is a danger of missing out on the organisational benefits of the very thing you have created for such situations. There is of course a risk in not using the term ‘crisis’, which grabs the attention of senior executive teams and boards, but the bigger risk is perhaps failing to respond with structure to extraordinary circumstances.
If terminology is an obstacle to good response, it is at least worth a conversation about whether it needs changing, and/or whether a more flexible approach to responding to adversity is needed.