Culture of Crisis

I wanted to take a moment and explain my claim on the term “Culture of Crisis”. I had a chance several years ago to do some consulting work. Through this I came to have a new found understanding of what can easily happen at any organization if they don’t keep their operational culture in check.

Every company and group faces a challenge when something goes wrong. Some have a detailed process, including the need to write postmortem reports, assign blame elsewhere or to punish those that were responsible.

When one is hit with a crisis, this distracts from whatever else was being done. While some employees may sit idle waiting for the panic button to be pressed, usually the most valuable employees get involved quickly in a crisis as they have experience fixing things.

One has to be careful to avoid an all-hands-on-deck strategy to responding to problems. This can be useful if your team or company is just 5 people. The problem may actually require everyone to solve it. Generally larger organizations do not require this.

Be mindful of how many people you involve in solving your problem. Don’t have a crisis conference call where the business and technical people are together discussing the impact. Split these, but maintain communication. Have a leader willing to ask questions and direct the response. Ask questions. Communicate with the experts. Engage only those necessary. Having everyone join the 911 call can lead to a situation where everyone is there, but nobody is willing to speak up.

The shotgun approach to problem solving is good if you need a large team to solve the problem, such as cleaning up a disaster site. Responding to a technical issue works better having the right people engaged. Too many people and it becomes any other large meeting with people worried about the “internal or external optics” of the event.

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