Carpenters have used hammers since the dawn of their trade. Even the ancient Egyptians used them. The design has changed very little over the centuries. Why? A hammer is a very straight forward device, easy to use and everyone understands its purpose. We have something similar for crisis management – some simple tools that will work every time.

In some of our previous blogs we’ve discussed ‘visual plotting’, a technique to enhance ‘Team Situational Awareness’ by making all available relevant information easily accessible to all team members, by ‘writing on the wall’. In most cases, the best solution for this is the use of whiteboards, as flip overs easily fill and corrections frequently become messy.

The problem with whiteboards without a prefixed format is that every team member uses his/her own format (if that) and that others will have difficulty finding the information, because they do not exactly know where to look and what to look for.

If you want whiteboards to work efficiently under time pressure, it’s very useful that every team member uses the same format on his/her whiteboard, so other team members can easily access the information vital to them. A proven technique is to use pre-printed whiteboards with a predefined structure on them, that only needs filling in. That work very well and the same way every time, but requires the purchase of a lot of dedicated whiteboards which are not of much use for other purposes than crisis management. A purpose not frequently needed – fortunately. We find that most companies do not make that purchase, leaving them without a proper visual plotting system during emergencies.

An alternative is to agree on using a standard format which is easily remembered and easily duplicated onto blank whiteboards. It comprises of a simple quadrant with the team member’s function above it, and 4 categories in each respective corner. That could look like the following:


The “?” stands for Question marks. In this part of the quadrant you plot all relevant open questions that need answering. If your colleague sees that you have an open Question mark, he or she can help find the answer or he/she might even know the answer but wasn’t aware that it needed answering.

The “Issues” box will be used to plot all open problems that still need solving in your department.

The “Tasks” box will display all tasks that have been allocated to you and are still open or that you’re working on. Completed tasks may be marked with a mark.

The “Facts” box will display all relevant available information regarding your department.

If you start every entry on your board with one of the letters of the anagram PEAR.RL[1], it’s easy to categorize every bit of information.

If every team member uses the same quadrant, others will have no difficulty in finding information, sharing information or help each other to find answers.

With some simple tools, you can nail it down!

Crisis management – keep it simple and flat.

[1] PEAR.RL – People, Environment, Asset, Reputation, Revenue, Legal&Liability

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