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How to bring crisis management back to the basics

This is a continuation of my Business Continuity Basics article.

Consider the Basics for Crisis Management Program - as with most initiatives and programs, we tend to over think when we design them. The basics reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Let’s keep it simple: crisis management

When it comes to crisis management the majority of crisis teams need seven means to make timely and effective decisions based on applying judgment to available information. We need a command and control framework, critical information requirements (identification of gaps in our knowledge), intelligence, situation awareness, common operating picture, common ground, and intent.

Crisis management is a problem solving process with decisions that have material impact to the organization. Gary Klein best describes a crisis environment as a situation with high stakes, time constraints, inadequate information, ill define goals, poorly defined procedures, unclear starting and end points, and that is dynamic in nature. We ask the crisis management leaders to answer six basic questions to build their plan:

  • How do you define a crisis?
  • What is your crisis team structure?
  • Who’s in charge? When? How? Why?
  • How do you collect, analyze, disseminate, escalate, and communicate information?
  • How do you make decisions and solve problems?
  • How to you institutionalize lessons learned?

Need to consider the type of Environment

There are two types of environments. One type is called well-ordered domain. These are environments that are familiar to us; that is, we know how they work. We can think systematically through these situations as well as make accurate estimates and decisions. Procedures and detailed plans work well in this environment. Centralize decision-making works well in situations where we do not have to take the context of the situation into account.

The other type of environment is called complex domain. This environment is not structured, stable, or predictable. We have difficulty thinking through these situations because we don’t know how they work. We have difficulty making accurate estimates and sound decisions. Frameworks. Intelligence, and stories work well in this environment.

Our crisis management program needs to accommodate both environments. For situations that we are well familiar with, we will have greater control and detailed procedures. It should be integrated into normal business. For situations we are not familiar with, we will rely on frameworks, intelligence, and tacit knowledge.


Lootok is an industry leader in crisis management and business continuity. Contact us to assess, enhance, or manage your crisis management and/or business continuity program(s).

Back to basics Lootok Crisis Management