If you adorn yourself with a c-level title, you are by extension responsible for how your business handles a crisis, even though you have the best crisis manager in-house. Faced with a serious incident; would you, hand on heart, be able to follow the established routines and procedures for crisis management?
As the senior manager, you will be the public face of the crisis and held accountable no matter how objectively you can allocate the blame internally.
The importance of management buy-in
Traditionally speaking, crisis management is considered a back-office task in a lot of businesses, with minimal involvement from the senior executives. It is to a certain extent a box-ticking activity where the underlying attitude is: The crisis management team does not hold the same value as the rest of the organisation because they do not directly generate income.
Consequently, management does not engage with the crisis team, leaving the c-level unprepared for handling a crisis, and the team with insufficient time and funding to be fully prepared. A weak foundation for emergency crisis response.
As a senior manager, you can only delegate tasks, not responsibilities. Hiring a crisis manager without allocating time and resources is much like shooting yourself in the foot because, in the public eye, you will always be the one accountable if bad things happen.
Management buy-in is about you investing enough of your time to know how things work and to ensure that the necessary systems and exercises are in place to implement an adequate response. Knowledge will take so much pressure off of you when you have to face a high-stress situation.
Thanks to the internet and social media, information exchange is faster than ever, which means that having the processes in place to establish a response quickly is no longer a competitive advantage, but a vital necessity.
Here are some signs indicating that the contingency work needs management buy-in:
- There are no routines for rehearsing crisis management
- You don't know who's responsible for crisis management
This person cannot contribute if he/she is not given a seat at the table
- You have a high staff turnover in the department responsible for crisis management
People grow frustrated with the lack of buy-in from senior management and quit before they are fully operative.
- Senior management is not present during crisis management exercises
- You discover significant gaps in the contingency plans during these exercises (no media management training, for example).
- If a meeting overruns the risk/crisis management part is the first thing to be cut from the agenda
Knowledge is king
Firstly, you need to invest your time in exercising and training established crisis management processes. Be present during exercises, go through the drills, understand the procedures, make sure you know what to do in the event of a crisis.
Secondly, allocate enough personnel and funding to make the organisation fully prepared to deal with a response. In an ideal world, a separate department within the company is responsible for contingency, but just establishing the term as a valuable asset is a step in the right direction.
Ultimately, if you know the structure of a response and have access to your plans, managing a crisis will become a lot easier. Good luck!