A recent cover story in Bloomberg Businessweek examines the crisis management style of the Obama White House. It mirrors what we see in business. When there is bad news, decision-making lags, despite the “right now” environment that is not likely to get any slower. Customers and media often are vocal, via Twitter and other platforms, while waiting out a response that is caught up in a process of “analysis paralysis.” As Businessweek reports about the White House, “Administration veterans describe Obama’s crisis-management process as akin to a high-level graduate seminar.” The same could be said about corporations and other institutions.
Here are some ways we recommend that you work as fast as the marketplace dictates during a crisis:
1) Quickly bring in an outside resource with the experience to know and practice the fundamentals but the vision wide enough to recognize and account for the nuances of your situation. Give this expert (it doesn’t need to be a team, especially when you have to work fast), latitude to offer counsel and relationships that can help you.
2) Keep the decision-making group small. Organizations are often plagued by the “too many cooks” syndrome. Instead, consolidate power in a crisis.
3) Minimize the involvement of lawyers. Yes, their voice can and often should be heard. But putting them in charge or involving too many of them distances you from your audiences and lengthens the process as the attorneys obsess over commas in statements.
4) Remember the ticking clock at all times. Even the biggest organizations can work quickly when tasked with a goal, as long as egos and insecurity are checked at the door. A constant focus on the vision for success should be balanced by a need to communicate fast or, better yet, get in front of your audiences.
The Businessweek piece ends with a quote from former White House advisor David Axelrod. He says, “As Obama used to say all the time, this sh** would be really interesting if we weren’t right in the middle of it.” All of usewho work with crises have felt that way at one time or another. But we don’t have time anymore to think that way when it’s time to get to work.