Crisis management is a far-reaching term, it conjures up images of individuals and teams besieged by problems – but in reality, it is any occasion in which we find ourselves operating outside of “business as usual” or caught off guard. Effective crisis management spans preparedness through to recovery.
Lack of certainty can cause massive concern, and in turn managing any sort of “crisis” is about calmly and objectively assessing the situation, delivering understanding of all elements involved, their identity and intention, and returning to a status quo where control is regained. Having re-established this control, the final part of the process is to return to a proactive paradigm, getting back to business instantly and stronger – having successfully leveraged lessons learnt.
At Kiris Group, we advocate an intelligence-led approach. Why? Surely crisis management is more about imposing frameworks and structures on a problem set in order to ensure that a process-led approach is implemented as early as possible? We believe that real, practical understanding is key, therefore no matter how good your process (and having a good one is pivotal) this must be underpinned by first understanding the environment. Beyond providing an understanding function, vitally, the inclusion of a third party also provides the external objectivity that any stressful situation is often crying out for. It is the juxtaposition of both of these elements that delivers really effective crisis management.
This perspective is delivered through the embedding of an expert consultant alongside our clients throughout the process. Not only do we believe that there should be a familiar face on hand should a crisis materialise, who knows and understands how the business operates and what the priorities are, but we advocate an approach that considers “through-life” planning. Crisis management is more than a reactive endeavour; the essence of preparation is about leveraging the confluence of intelligence and consultative expertise prior to any potential crisis materialising to understand how and when crises may occur and pre-emptively preparing a response. This preparation is a significant catalyst for the speed with which we can react should a crisis occur. This engagement is also key, because no two clients and no two crises are the same. Understanding our clients’ risk appetite and risk tolerance to create a set of bespoke solutions is the key to success.
This preparatory phase of consulting also has other tangible benefits. The nature of in-depth pre-emptive planning for any sort of crisis necessitates real stress testing of key business functions in order to understand criticality and potential vulnerability. This allows for real, immersive training for staff in order to properly plan for such an eventuality. In turn, this increases the efficiency of processes such as internal communication, quality management frameworks, operations processes, technology and infrastructure management.
For us, intelligence-led is the cornerstone of our approach to everything, but of the utmost importance in crisis management. The great majority of the time, crisis management in 2021 is delivered in the information domain, this means that the ultimate end-state is about seizing control of the narrative, as well as the situation. To do this, we must first understand what the information environment looks like, what actors are present in it, what their intentions are towards us and ultimately how to affect their perspectives for our advantage. To deliver this understanding, we employ the time-honoured principles of the intelligence cycle. However, the unique context of crisis management requires a shift in focus to stages of the intelligence cycle that are often overlooked.
We assess collection tools and priority sources of information for delivering rapid insight, providing the flexibility to focus response on any location in the world at short notice. Having conducted this collection activity, our next priority is to process the information for the client in order to facilitate real decision advantage. Finally, we focus on dissemination; this is perhaps more pivotal in crisis management than in any other activity, a real appreciation of the information environment facilitates incredibly targeted dissemination of information by appreciating how this messaging needs to be delivered.
So, how does this in depth, intelligence-led approach translate for our clients, and what does it mean? In essence, we apply three phases to crisis management: Secure, Engage and React.
The secure phase centres on securing our clients’ most valuable assets, priorities and sensitive information. It is about providing reassurance, conducting rapid response and intelligence delivery in order to lay the foundation for everything that comes after. Fundamentally, this phase is what buys us time to act effectively. This is the first step in effective crisis management – understanding the nature of the threat or issue that we are dealing with. We identify the 5 Ws – who, what, when, where and why – to determine the source and type of crisis our clients are dealing with.
After understanding the nature of the threat and risks involved, we engage with our clients to create a bespoke crisis management plan. Engagement is about building on a secure foundation; taking the building blocks we have put in place during the secure phase and developing these so that our clients can seize the initiative and react. This phase is a transitional phase involving pivotal expert consultation and advice, this is the point at which we consolidate defensive activity and set conditions for the offensive. This phase is also about returning to normality and limiting the effects of any crisis so that they don’t have more widespread repercussions. It is the presence of expert consultants – on hand throughout, that ensure that this can happen; ultimately, allowing any crisis to be managed concurrently with day-to-day business.
React is about decision advantage; the mechanism by which all of our insights come together to deliver real effect for our clients. This is the point at which our understanding regarding actor and audience analysis is combined with internal or external communication to get our clients back on the front foot. To achieve this, we focus on maximising the effectiveness of our clients’ OODA loop – Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act – ensuring that our clients can make effective decisions fast and first.
While there is no doubt that no two crises are the same, we aim to provide clients with an enduring understanding of how they can manage a crisis in the future. Our crisis management provides an in-depth overview of the environment in which our clients work, allowing them to pre-empt potential threats in the future. Like anything within the security and risk space, this requires a team of professionals leveraging a number of methods and practices as well as deep expertise to deliver truly effective crisis management.
Ultimately, this translates to marginal gains that add up to substantial effect over time. Investing in understanding in the initial stages of any “crisis” therefore is absolutely key, and in conjunction with persistent insight and consultation, this is often the difference between emerging from a crisis much stronger, and not emerging at all.