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Every Avalanche Starts Somewhere

Strategy

Large crises often have their roots in small incidents

It’s painfully common for organizations to only learn invaluable crisis management lessons AFTER they’ve experienced costly problems of their own.

Thing is, there are plenty of people messing up out there, and you can save a lot of time, money and headache by learning from THEIR mistakes before you make your own.

In a recent Bloomberg article, James Moorhead, of Steptoe & Johnson, LLP, reviewed a case that presented many opportunities for learning, including this lesson:

Big Things Come in Small Packages

Komen’s grants to Planned Parenthood in 2011 were relative pocket change for the breast cancer charity, around $700,000 from a budget of more than 400 million dollars. Yet the Planned Parenthood flare-up illustrates a classic phenomenon: big disasters are often triggered by small events. Large companies routinely dig out from messes created by small business units that broke the law and had been ignored by the companies’ otherwise strong compliance programs. The takeaways? No part of your organization should escape scrutiny; every decision that has broader ramifications must undergo a rigorous, disciplined process.

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That “small issue,” whether there was an employee with questionable ethics, the customer complaint that went ignored, a piece of machinery that’s past its inspection date or any number of other bits that an incautious organization might brush of as no big deal, has the potential to snowball into a crisis of epic proportions.

How can the leadership of large organizations stay on top of every detail? Well, they can’t.

Wait, what?

That’s right. While it may be possible in a very small operation, at some point there are simply too many boxes to check off for company leaders to monitor every single potential crisis point.

That is the reason that it’s critical to train your employees to act as crisis managers. In fact, you need to not only train them, but also empower them to actually make decisions on the spot and then enact those decisions.

Combine this with an internal communications structure that allows sensitive issues to be rapidly seen and addressed by the necessary parties and suddenly every member of your organization is an asset to crisis management.

Of course, if you enjoy losing money and dragging your own reputation through the mud then you can always stick to the old model of climbing the ladder and an overstuffed “to do” box, it’s your call.

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