Once a crisis becomes manifest, we want solutions. ASAP. So, we call the team together, quickly inform them about what has happened and ask them for their respective solutions. Everyone understands the graveness of the situation and will try their best to help, but no one has all the information they need yet. So the meeting that we’ve called quickly transforms into a mayhem of questions, solutions, ideas, brainstorms, and people eager to contribute their opinions and points of view. Others start to blame and point fingers. At the end, it has taken us 1,5 hours to find some solutions. The team parts in chaos, some know exactly what to do, others are in doubt.

Later it appears that the solutions we found are applicable to 3 out of 5 problems that we had, and 2 have been overlooked. The consequences of one of our solutions appears to be more far stretching than we anticipated, and one solution only partly works, because the problem it solves was only partly clear. By now the problem has gone viral on (social) media – oh, darn, we still have to make a statement…

Come on, we can do better than this! Crises are by definition chaotic situations – they demand structure. Structure your crisis meetings by applying the steps from the Prep TIME Model[1]:

  1. Prepare the meeting
    1. Once you’ve received the first alert that there is a major issue, give yourself some time to think. Call the team together with regards to the time you need. Let’s assume 30 minutes. If this is during weekends and your crew is not on consignation, mobilization of your team may actually take hours…
    2. Identify the purpose of the meeting. Is it a kick off meeting? An information finding meeting? A solution finding meeting or a decision making meeting? What result are you after?
    3. Make a Threat analysis, using the R anagram. Identify any foreseen threats to your People, Environment, Asset and Reputation (Revenue).
    4. Identify your question marks. What are the unknowns? When the incident has just happened, there’s probably more unknowns then knowns. Use to kick off meeting to send your team to find the answers.
    5. Make a plan. Initially, that plan will only be to cover the question marks. For every threat identified, there must be a plan. Only during later meetings you will formulate mitigative actions. Never act too quickly!
    6. Think of who is best suited to execute your plans. Think of which task to delegate to whom.

 

  1. Conduct the meeting
    1. Have the team come together, physically if possible. They should take place in a prepared room, so it is readily visible which competence/role (not person!) has arrived and who’s still missing. Make clear that you’re the only one talking, unless invited otherwise.
    2. Have the entire team hand in their cellphones to the support team for the duration of the meeting. Cellphones have no place in the crisis room!!
    3. State what type of meeting this is and what result you require at the end.
    4. State the present situation. Do not take more than 1,5 minutes to do this.
    5. Present the results of your PEAR.R analysis and state out loud your open question marks. Also not more than 1,5 minutes.
    6. State your plans. This is not rocket science, as long as you have clear which problems need solving.
    7. Now make a quick round. Give every team member just 20 seconds to ask a vital question or add a game changer[2]. Anything else, especially discussions, are to be dealt with after the meeting.
    8. Allocate tasks. Make sure that every plan made is executed by the team.
    9. Ask for feedback: did everybody understand their task? Did you miss anything?

 

  1. End the meeting. It should not have taken more than 15 minutes altogether.
    1. Make sure the team knows when to meet again. Initially, this will probably be within the hour. Later, the frequency of the meetings drops.
    2. Communicate updates to the higher echelon, to the support teams and other stakeholders.

Before the next meeting starts, process the incoming information. Ask your team members to update their status boards with their current situation and the answers to your question marks and the results of their allocated tasks. Start all over again at 1.a.

Finding solutions often requires a small part of the team to do a brainstorm session. This is best done in a separate session in a small group of specialists. The results can be presented in a plenary solution finding meeting.

This particular meeting structure is not very difficult, but it does take a bit of exercise to get used to the structure and get the team disciplined in this strict agenda. If everybody knows what to expect and sticks to the agenda, it works like clockwork.

If you invest some time to think, plan and prepare, you win back that investment double over at the end – both in time and results.

Think before you act. Engage brain before mouth.

 

[1] Prep TIME Model: A crisis management system specifically developed for high risk industries, but knows a wide range of application in other industries.

[2] Game Changer: an event or bit of vital information that changes the plan. Details and numbers are usually not game changers.

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