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Note: The following is an excerpt taken from my new book, Crisis Ready–Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, which is available for purchase on Amazon.
The importance of solid and practical crisis management governance model
A crisis management governance model dictates who within an organization makes up the crisis management team. This is the team responsible for the organization’s crisis management and response. Governance models define everything from the structure, roles, and responsibilities of a crisis management team, straight through to the internal escalation processes.
There are three critical attributes of a strong crisis management governance structure that I want you to keep in mind moving forward. These three attributes are:
1- Alignment with the governance structure of your organization
It is important for your crisis management governance to be a natural and fluent fit for the organization. I have seen consultants try to use fancy terms when helping an organization develop its governance model. For example, some folks throw around terms like “Crisis Leadership Team,” “Crisis Action Team,” “Regional Crisis Management Team,” or “Global Crisis Management Team.” On top of this, they tend to use acronyms throughout the plan, which just makes it all that much more confusing! No one wants to have to figure out who the RCMT is, and how to contact them, as a crisis is unfolding.
Taking this approach, in my experience, is neither practical nor ideal. In fact, the last thing you want to be doing in a crisis is using terminology that isn’t natural to the organization, and that people may not understand or may be confused by in the heat of the moment.
Instead, your crisis management governance should reflect the organizational structure with which all employees and team members are already familiar. This applies to everything from the decision-making and approval processes, to the language you choose to use.
2- Ensure each stakeholder group has a representative at the table
When assessing the scope and impact of an incident on your organization, you want to ensure that each stakeholder group, along with every potential business impact, has a place at the table to be considered and assessed. The way to ensure this is to have a well-rounded crisis management team.
For example, one of the most common and frequent frustrations I hear from HR departments is that employee communication is often an afterthought in times of issue or crisis management. Yet, employees are one of your key stakeholder groups and poor communication with them throughout the management of a crisis is detrimental to your crisis management success. The best way to avoid making this dire (yet common) mistake is to ensure your employees are represented; have HR be a part of the organization’s crisis management team and you will be good to go.
3- Responsible vs. Accountable
These are two important distinctions. Everybody within your crisis management team will have specific roles and actions they will be responsible for implementing or overseeing. However, only a select few will actually be accountable for the organization’s overall crisis management. This accountability falls on the shoulders of your leadership team. They are the decision-makers, and ultimately bear the weight of the organization’s crisis management. Accountability can be delegated to one person, such as your CEO, or a collective few members of the c-suite. The answer depends on the current structure of your organization.
For example, take the case of Wells Fargo [discussed briefly in chapter three]. No matter what the bank did to try to manage their crisis, nothing worked until the CEO was truly held accountable and lost his job. As another example, in 2017, over a year after the Volkswagen scandal was discovered, six of the car manufacturer’s executives were criminally charged for their role in the crimes committed during the emission scandal. These six executives were held accountable for their part in committing these crimes.
Identifying and understanding who is accountable versus who is merely responsible for the organization’s crisis management will help guide the right actions in the heat of the moment. By the way, had the CEO of Wells Fargo known that he was going to lose his position and his reputation, and had the six Volkswagen executives known they were going to face criminal charges, maybe both organizations would have been smarter in preventing and managing their respective crises. A thought worth considering, if you ask me.
Interested in learning more?
If you’d like to learn more about developing a solid and scalable crisis management governance model, as well as how to implement a crisis ready culture that will enable you to build an INVINCIBLE brand, order your copy of Crisis Ready–Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, on Amazon, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about bulk pricing for your entire team.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.