Sunday, August 22, 2004

Agility in Adversity- Communicating in Crisis

Duck and cover or learn and grow - your choice!

"It's tempting to try to get out of a jam by whining, pointing fingers or covering up the problem. But such responses undermine your credibility and strength as a leader. Let's take a look at some responses to adversity that you should avoid. An agile response will be speedy, action-oriented and will rally support from your organization for what may involve significant change."
In her article, Agility in Adversity, Patricia Wallington describes the common response to crisis communication - whine, blame and cover up. "It's not fair. It's someone else’s fault! It's not that bad and anyway it's not that big a deal. "Any examples come to mind?

Apart from the obvious loss of credibility when the real situation comes to light as it inevitably does, the focus is kept squarely on the problem. We know (see Writes of Passage - Appreciative Inquiry at Work) that we get more of what we focus on so it should be no surprise that the energy and attention of the public and the organization stays on the problems and in the negative. We look for, and usually find, more problems and cover up or "spin" results in the continuing erosion of credibility, micro-analysis of intentions and the worst possible interpretation of any shreds of fact that emerge. In the absence of believable information we will simply make it up.

Trying to bolt this particular stable door after the horse is gone just makes it worse. Regardless of what is said later about what is being done to correct the situation, no-one is listening inside, or outside, the organization.

Back to Patricia, who recommends starting with a positive attitude to inspire the organization and taking an agile leadership approach with 5 steps to navigate, deal with and recover from the crisis. (Please note, I didn't say "manage it"!). With these steps, she says, you will emerge from adversity in a position of strength.

1. coming or at least name it clearly when it has arrived
2. Think... before you plan. Analyze the situation from multiple perspectives, involve the right people and listen to them. Select from alternatives and plan actions.
3. Tell... as much as you can. Stay calm, accept accountability and inform the people who maybe impacted. Clear and open communication is critical.
4. Do... and don't be distracted. Do what you say you are going to do, if it changes - see step 3.
5. Review... for learning, and as soon as possible. This is not a blame game. Ask for feedback, find root causes - solve systemic problems. It's not enough to make a rule that this can't happen again. What are we doing or not doing that allowed this crisis to develop?

Resilience can be defined as our self righting capacity, our ability as people and as organizations to bounce back stronger after difficult events. See, think, tell, do, review is a way to learn about our organizations and ourselves and grow stronger and more resilient through that knowledge. Don't be tempted to skip the last step.

The story that is told at the end of the day does not have to be
a tale of what went wrong. It could be about how the organization pulled together through the storm and used the crisis to learn and emerged as a better, more authentic place to be.

How do you want to be remembered in your corporate history?

Thoughts sparked by original article
Agility in Adversity - Total Leadership - CIO Magazine Aug 15, 2004

Also see next week – Upgrading the Quality Process. Adding Communication to Plan, Do, Check, Act


Post a Comment

<< Home