2008-07-29

Crisis Management

Today we finished a day and a half of training in crisis management. We began with a simulation. In each group we were given very little information about our company, told that we were in charge, and then BAM, the crisis started. We began receiving telephone calls from employees about chemical leakage from our plant. Before we could get a handle on that, news reporters burst into our offices asking accusatory questions to which we really had no ability to respond intelligently.

We spent the next several hours trying to gather information from our employees, the media, the townspeople, and the authorities. All the while the phone was ringing off the hook, the reporters were beating down our doors, and we were trying to figure out what to do given our limited understanding of the situation. By the end of the exercise we had a full-blown environmental catastrophe on our hands and our share price had fallen 50%. Our attempts to communicate via the media were amateurish at best and may only have exacerbated the situation. What a failure!

What a learning experience as well. We spent the next day analyzing what happened during the crisis and how best to prepare for/execute crisis management. This included a significant amount of time focusing on how best to give interviews, hold press conferences, and deal with the media. Our practice interviews were taped, replayed, and analyzed, which helped us understand what we need to work on--especially in situations featuring high anxiety and low information. This was a very good, eye-opening exercise.

In between the crises, we have had a few chances to catch up with one another about our vacations. It's kind of funny; all the girls are showing off new clothes purchased over the break. All the guys look pretty much the same. Three of the guys were married in July. One of the guys had a baby--wild and crazy times!

Our next day will be spent on career strategy/search, followed by two and a half days of negotiation training. Welcome back to school!

2 comments:

David said...

This is none of my business but if you had a real crisis in a real environment
(a)you would know a bit more about your company!
(b)your company would have a crisis management plan, which you would have read, and so would your colleagues. This should make a lot of your decisions simpler.
(c) reporters would not be able to burst in to your offices (and if they did, you'd have security clear them out)
(d)look at the share price of companies that have this sort of incident. Unless they are very small and only have one site, you'll find share prices don't fall by 50% in an afternoon, or anything like that.

Seriously, if you read up any real corporate incident in any reasonably prepared company, you'd find it was very different.

I'm sure you had fun, but just pause to ask yourself what you really learned, and how much research your trainers had actually done..

Bryan Guido Hassin said...

David,

I agree with you that it wasn't realistic--but then I don't think realism was the goal. It is probably pretty hard to create an environment of serious crisis (including all the background, etc. that you mentioned) in just a few hours.

I believe the intent was to create an "atmosphere" of crisis so that, post facto, we could see how we reacted in such situations. Then we spent most of the time learning how to react better in such situations and, more importantly, how to prevent them using tools such as the crisis management plan that you mentioned.

We also examined real cases of crises handled well and not so well to learn in a more realistic context. Without putting us on the Exxon Valdez and punching a hole in the wall, though, the company that conducted the simulation did a pretty stand-up job.