Crisis management

Raising the stakes

Pushing the envelope of normal practice to more specifically address HCLP events will take the cooperation and support of a larger portion of the organization and will likely require more capital resources. Here are some suggestions on how to proceed:

1. Initiate Discussion: Initiate discussion within the organization on the differences between traditional crisis management plan development and how the landmark HCLP events noted above should affect that approach. The goal of any attempt at crisis management planning is to limit consequences as much as possible.

2. Identify Potential HCLP Events: While we have in some ways been cautioned to be reasonable and not think worst-case, this is the time to break out of that box. What new technologies or processes are we employing in our production activities? What strategic partnerships have formed with other organizations that could result in direct (financial, damaged products, increased labor costs) and/or indirect (loss of reputation, negative media coverage, poor morale, increased recruiting and labor costs) exposure? What events would threaten and maybe guarantee the demise of the organization?

3. Categorize the Identified HCLP Events: For planning purposes, it is useful to categorize the HCLP events as new sources of risk or existing - and presumed manageable - risks that become HCLP events. The approach for each is different. For new sources, it is imperative that subject matter experts - either within or external to the organization - be consulted to characterize the risk, failure modes, and consequences as well as appropriate and effective mitigating measures. For existing risk sources, it is essential to understand the factors that could result in what is considered manageable becoming unmanageable. Is the risk properly understood and characterized? Are the existing mitigating factors sufficient to address the emerging crisis? What mitigation activities would be necessary to halt the progression? Are those actions feasible within fiscal, environmental, legal and societal constraints? Are the proper tools available to the crisis management team to recognize the transition from manageable to a truly unmanageable crisis? The answers to these questions will come from those that are directly with the design and operations of those portions of the organization that own the risk sources.

4. Push for Recognition or Resolution: In many cases, there is no definitive approach to prevent HCLP events, especially those that arise from natural sources like earthquakes or tornadoes. In that case, crisis management planning efforts need to recognize and document the existence of the risk, the potential consequences of the risk, and a resultant emphasis on consequence mitigation and recovery. HCLP events arising from terrorism are similar to those arising from natural events in that prevention does not solely rest with the organization. However, HCLP events that arise from internal activities are prime targets for extensive analysis. What contributes to this risk source? What factors initiate the crisis from this source? What historical data exists on this source and its performance? What operational factors contribute to mitigating the risk from this source? What system or process design changes can be considered to reduce the risk from this source?

5. Emphasize Recognition, Mitigation and Recovery: With the ultimate goal of preserving life, planning activities also need to proceed with a view toward early recognition of a major event, implementing whatever measures are available to mitigate the progression of the event, and push the organization toward crisis resolution and recovery.