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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • August 3, 2006
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Use Your O-V Ratio for Crisis Management 

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When faced with a ‘must-be-fixed-today’ emergency – particularly an external one (with customers, other stakeholders, press etc.), it’s vital to ensure the issue is dealt with by the right team members.

Here’s your Predictable Success guide to getting it right first time…

Sending out the best team members to fix your urgent crisis depends on mapping the chronology of the issue you are trying to fix to the core strengths of the ‘crisis team’ members.

The key is to remember that almost certainly, the same members of the management team cannot effectively manage all phases of crisis management.

"The key is to remember that almost certainly, the same members of the management team cannot effectively manage all phases of crisis management" - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success

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An ‘O’ [Operator’s] management style is ideally suited for the initial, ‘get it sorted’ response, but is wholly unsuited to the detail work needed in fixing the process so the problem isn’t repeated.

Similarly, your best ‘S’ [Synthesizer] is vital in the ‘reputation recovery’ stage, when the upset stakeholders need stroked, but will only get in the way and prevent the heavy lifting being dome that is needed in the first few hours after the problem has been identified.

Here’s the ideal deployment sequence:

The First Few Hours/Days: ‘O’ & ‘V’

Imagine your most important customer has called with details of a major screw-up. At this stage, the only thing the customer is concerned about is a solution – fixing it now.

Excuses, new systems, requests for forgiveness – they can all wait. What you need to do is fix this problem – right away!

This is a job for your best ‘O’ and ‘V’ [Visionary]. The O’s relentless task focus, and the V’s imagination and creativity, are exactly what’s needed at this point.

Remember, both ‘O’ and ‘V’ are focused on being effective, not necessarily efficient, so they won’t get caught up in time consuming post-mortems, or unnecessary forward planning – they’ll just get out there and fix it!

The Mop-up Operation: ‘O’ and ‘P’

You’ve staunched the initial bleeding and got the initial problem resolved. Now it’s time to make sure that the same problem doesn’t recur.

This is a job for the ‘O’ and ‘P'[Processor] to work on together: The ‘P’ for the obvious commitment to, and skill with, processes, policies and procedures, the ‘O’ because [s]he will keep the ‘P’ task focused and within reasonable boundaries.

Don’t let the ‘P’ and ‘S’ work on this phase together! They’ll get so far into the joys of ‘efficiency’ that they’ll never get out of it!

Recovery Mode: ‘S’ and ‘V’

Now the final phase – time to meet the customer(s) (or stakeholder, whoever…) and do what’s necessary to repair any damage done by the incident.

This is the time to bring in your best ‘S’ – the individual on your senior management team with the biggest heart for people.

But not on her own!

Meeting with a strong ‘S’ can often feel like being ‘schmoozed’. The ‘S’ needs the ‘V’ in this phase to keep her focused on an outcome (not just pleasing people), and to help with creative thinking and flexibility.

Also, if you’re a smaller or medium-sized organization, the ‘V’ is typically also in the ownership group, which will provide the necessary authority to make concessions and speak definitively on behalf of the organization.

I’m indebted to the work of Itchak Adizes on the management roles.

What About You? How Do You Deal With ‘must-be-fixed-today’ emergencies?

Let Me Know In The Comments Below!


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