Posts Tagged ‘crisis management’

Since the IS-perpetrated terrorist strikes in Paris there has been surge of “advice” and debate on the best strategy to adopt against the Islamic State in the Middle East. The problem is that most of the discussion confuses tactics with strategy and then presents these as mutual exclusive. Air strikes are not effective. No, air strikes are the way to go. No, we need to put boots on the ground. Actually, no. We need to concentrate on humanitarian action.

In reality, all of those approaches are needed in order to create dilemmas for IS and its operatives. You have to take the fight to the enemy by seizing and maintaining the initiative. Air power must be combined with ground forces in order to achieve maximum synergy and effect on the battlefield. You can knock out a command post, but that only creates a delay and temporary confusion. You can buy a bit of time, but it’s all much more effective when you can hit a command post and use the ensuing confusion to launch a ground assault. Moreover, you have to realize that a command post is a physical entity, but a headquarters with its commander and staff are a team. Command, control and communications (C3) can be degraded, but it is much harder to eliminate them entirely, especially if the enemy has a very decentralized structure with competing factions.

Here is a non-exhaustive listing of other thrusts in the strategy:

  • Economic warfare to disrupt the enemy “home front” such as it is,
  • Financial warfare to disrupt and interrupt the flow of funds, because gold is the sinews of war,
  • Humanitarian aid to support the non-belligerent population and refugees,
  • Psychological warfare against foreign and home-grown terrorist threats,
  • Information warfare to degrade the enemy’s psychological and media warfare capabilities and build up domestic and foreign support to fight IS, and
  • Numerous other aspects of combat, kinetic and non-kinetic.

The basic point here is that you need a strategy that attacks and “pinches off” IS wherever it tries to operate. IS combatants in a theatre of war must be treated as prisoners of war, while those who have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity must be treated as such. IS and allied terrorists operating in other nations must be treated as criminals.

Another critical point is to realize that there is no such thing as a “war on terrorism.” You can fight an identified enemy, opponent or belligerent group. You can’t fight a tactic, much less a vague concept.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

I’ve developed the following model to guide leaders in when and how to be decisive, delegative, consultative, or participative.

Decisive-Participative Matrix
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Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

The principles of crisis leadership:

  1. Take full responsibility.
  2. Be visible and in the forefront of action.
  3. Solve the problem.
  4. Make rational decisions.
  5. Lead by example.
  6. Take care of people.
  7. Carefully monitor morale.

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

This week I’ve decided to provide a diagram which shows the distinct phases and requirements of leadership before, during, and after a crisis hits.

Leadership Action Framework

Richard Martin is The Master Strategist. An expert on strategy and leadership, Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Every year the Institute for Crisis Management in the United States puts out a report on corporate and business crises that made the news in the preceding year. This organization has been tracking such information for over 25 years and it is truly interesting to see how little change there is from year to year in the nature of corporate crises. This knowledge has contributed two of the five “myths” about crises that I’m writing about this month. Here they are:

Myth # 1 – Most crises are caused by factors or the environment outside the company or organization.

Wrong! In fact, it’s the exact opposite. According to ICM, year in and year out, approximately 80% of crises have internal causes. Of these, fully half are caused by management actions and decisions, whereas employees cause the remaining 30% or so. These causes run the gamut from fraud and theft, to poor decision-making, industrial and workplace accidents and hazards, and defective products.

We just have to look at the most recent problems with GM and it’s recall crisis. It turns out that GM cars have been experiencing severe quality and safety problems since about 2000. The reigning corporate culture hindered or prevented the recalls from going forward. Most crises are therefore self-inflicted. Although the vast majority are not necessarily threatening to the public or the organization’s continued existence, this certainly doesn’t help external and internal perceptions. Which leads to the second major myth.

Myth # 2 – Most crises are unpredictable and appear quite suddenly.

Wrong again! And once again it’s almost the exact opposite that is the case. ICM’s data shows that in an average year 60% of all crises are what they refer to as “smouldering.” In other words, the crises don’t just erupt out of nowhere but instead gestate for a certain period of time before crossing a threshold into significance. This means that crises can be predicted and characterized before they become threats. This also means that they can be managed to a certain extent, through various preventive and mitigating measures.

When we combine the data on the causes and development of crises, we can note that almost 50% (80% times 60%) are caused internally and are susceptible to prevention and mitigation before they occur or grow into major problems.

Myth # 3 – Instinct can save my hide.

This is true, but only to a point, and certainly only during the incipient stages of a crisis. Humans and all other animals have an innate ability to react to danger through the fight, flight, or faint responses. If someone comes at you with an axe, there’s a pretty chance you’ll make like a gazelle and high tail it out of there. If you’re backed into a corner, you’ll try to fight your way to safety, like a wolverine. On the other hand, a small minority—and most people once exhaustion and despair set in—will just lie down and play dead, like an opossum.

Whichever way you look at things, though, the only purpose of these reactions is to get you—and your immediate group—out of imminent danger. In no way can instinctive reactions actually solve the underlying cause of the crisis or help you through the decision-making and problem-solving processes needed to get through the crisis. This is why rational thinking and carefully honed and inculcated intuition are the only sure way to weather the storm.

Myth # 4 – It’s about managing our image and PR.

Once again, this may be true, but only as a component of a much larger approach. Unfortunately, when most people think or talk of crisis management, they automatically think of PR and communications. A lot of crisis management firms tout their abilities to help clients communicate with the public, the media and other stakeholders. The real purpose of crisis management, however, is to solve the problem!

Myth # 5 – I can manage through the crisis from behind my desk.

This is probably the most insidious of all the myths, simply because it shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of crisis and what is needed, to wit, strong leadership. Executives and managers have to lead from the front; they have to see what is happening and be seen. You can’t do this from behind a desk or in a “war room.” Yes, you need to make tough decisions and you have rational decision-making, planning, and problem-solving procedures in place. But you also have to show the world and the people in your team or organization that you know what is happening, why it’s happening, and that you’re trying to regain control of the situation. You have to inspire and motivate your team and those in your care. You have to exercise judgement, evaluate and guard their morale, and manage their welfare.

Richard Martin is The Master Strategist. He is an expert that brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for exe-
cutives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.
© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

When a crisis strikes, you can’t just manage in the normal manner, you also have to exercise effective crisis leadership. Too often executives see their role during a crisis as managing the organization’s image and communicating with the public through the media. This is a necessary function, but it is only one small part of crisis leadership and management. Crisis leadership involves the following principles:

  1. Take charge of the situation.
  2. Recognize what is happening.
  3. Confirm information before reacting.
  4. Maintain situational awareness.
  5. Lead from the front.
  6. Implement contingency plans and procedures immediately while initiating deliberate decision-making about the next steps.
  7. Continue planning ahead.
  8. Act, assess, and adjust.
  9. Care for yourself and for your subordinates.
  10. Maintain morale and cohesion within your team or organization.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

The best time to prevent or mitigate a crisis is, not surprisingly, before it occurs. Most crises are smouldering, which means that they develop slowly but become apparent suddenly, just like a slow-burning fire that erupts into a conflagration seemingly out of nowhere. Here are principles to guide in leadership before a crisis occurs:

  1. Mobilize your team by anticipating and identifying potential crises before they strike.
  2. Implement rational risk management measures.
  3. Establish priorities for prevention and preparation on an ongoing basis.
  4. Create robust contingency plans to deal with the most likely and most dangerous situations you can envisage.
  5. Implement sound policies and procedures for the most likely crisis situations and events.
  6. Prepare yourself, your team, and your team through diligent practice and training.
  7. Employ trusted advisors and associates and ensure they are well qualified and working as a team.
  8. Build as flexible and resilient an organization as possible within the constraints of time and resources.
  9. Work on becoming more self-aware as a leader and seek to acquire the competencies to lead in a crisis.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

It’s unfathomable to me how Pearson International Airport, Canada’s major international airport, can be so negatively affected by harsh winter weather during the last 2 weeks. After all, we DO live in Canada. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, GTAA, has set the goal of making Pearson an international hub. If they want to achieve this lofty goal, it seems to me that they have to make allowance for the possibility that it might get colder than -10 degrees Celsius at some point during the winter. I’m quite sure the airport’s leadership has contingency plans and has exercised how to react to crashes and certain types of security risks. But the most likely threats, such as bad weather, pandemics, and various business scenarios must also be foreseen and exercised. What’s more, there are many other airports in Canada that are used to dealing with harsh winter conditions, such as Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Quebec City. I’m sure they could provide a lot of knowledge and information to help with developing procedures and plans for the winter months.

Food for Thought
The difficulties of dealing with uncertainty are understandable, but staying in the dark or failing to cater to various emergencies and threat scenarios that are foreseeable is unexcusable. Especially if the information and knowledge are readily available or can be “wargamed” and contingency plans developed.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

It seems to me that every year at about this time it gets really cold in Canada and the northern U.S. But every year the media trumpets this fact as if it’s surprising. Global warming skeptics use the cold snap as an argument against global warming while global warming advocates use it as further proof that the global climate is out of whack.

Managers in organizations go through a planning and budgeting binge at the end of the fiscal year so they can get their estimates in for the next year. It’s as if the yearly cycle of planning and budgeting is a surprise to everyone. Most of what organizations and businesses go through in a year is cyclical in nature, so there is really no excuse to be surprised by normally recurring events and conditions. We know that we need lead time to order materials and get organized. We also know that it takes a certain period to get everyone ramped up to change focus and reorient to new goals and challenges.

I advocate combining cyclical and phased approaches to forecasting and planning. In a newsletter in 2012, I had referred to waves of strategy. In any company or organization, we should be planning at least one year ahead at middle levels while higher levels and the strategic leadership should be looking out two to three years ahead. The idea is to anticipate changes in the environment and strategy while the organization executes current plans and prepares for the next cycle.

Here is an example of how this can be implemented in parallel with current operations (assuming the organization follows the calendar year):

January: Review the previous year’s results and compare them to what had been anticipated and planned. Prepare for the annual strategy and forecasting retreat.

February-March: Conduct the annual strategy and forecasting retreat. The aim is to confirm the current year’s plans, develop guidance for planning the next year (starting in 9-10 months’ time), and develop outline forecasts and plans for the following one or two years after next. In other words, the organization should be following a rolling 3-year forecasting and planning cycle.

April-May: Issue guidance for next fiscal year so that the entire organization can identify their planning focus and prepare to his the ground running when the next year starts. These plans should be briefed up the “chain of command” so they are fully aligned with the strategic and operational guidance and direction. The mission analysis and mission leadership framework are extremely useful in this regard, as they allow leaders at all levels to hone their respective missions and plans and ensure they are operating with the senior leadership’s stated intent and strategy.

June: Review performance of first half and adjust plans and focus to end of current year. Submit initial budget forecasts, especially for funding of special projects, new product development, marketing initiatives, etc.

July-August: Senior leadership reviews long-term plans and projects under the 2-3 year forecasting framework. Budgets and plans at all levels are reviewed and adjusted in accordance with strategic forecasts and intent for next fiscal year (starting in 4-5 months).

September: Senior leadership confirms overall budgets and plans for next fiscal year and issues updated guidance and direction to organization. Subordinate elements of the organization adjust their plans and forecasts to align with this guidance.

October: Senior leadership reviews year-to-date and issues guidance and direction to end of current year. Can hold a visioning and scenario-based planning retreat to identify potential opportunities and threats in next 3-5 years and to feed planning and preparation for next year’s forecasting and strategy cycle.

October-November: Organizational elements conduct detailed implementation planning and organizing to be ready to implement projects and initiatives in next year.

December: Overall review of cyclical process with recommendations to amend for improved efficiency and effectiveness in next year.

This is not necessarily a comprehensive example suitable for every type of business or organization. However, it can provide a template for creating a planning and forecasting cycle that integrates current operations with future planning that anticipates changes and positions the organization to thrive in the short and medium terms.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back and to adapt to threats against lines of communication and disruptions of supply. Robustness is the ability to avoid or withstand these theats in the first place.

2013 ended with a lot of disruptive weather throughout North America and Europe, and 2014 is starting in pretty much the same conditions. This is a good reminder to develop resiliency and robustness in your organization and business. From Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles, here are four key to resiliency and robustness:

  • Redundancy: Multiple means of supply and transportation, routes, stockpiles, etc. In other words, there should always be multiple logistical means in effect, or at least the possibility of alternatives that can be put into action quickly.
  • Reaction: Rapid detection of changes in conditions, new threats and risks, and the ability to react and spring into action quickly with contingency plans and/or problem solving.
  • Responsiveness: Capacity to adapt to changing requirements and conditions, especially those that are generated internally by the company or supply chain as a result of new products or processes.
  • Anticipation: The foresight to imagine potential future scenarios in order to create contingency plans or adapt in advance of changing requirements and conditions.

Food for Thought
How vulnerable is your organization or business? Do you have continency plans to deal with disruptions and dislocations in your business, supply, distribution network, etc.?

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.