Crisis Management: Responding to a crisis

To help readers align their crisis response plans with the British Standard for Crisis Management, we have produced a series of articles which focus on the key areas of the standard. Each article explains the importance of each key area and sets out practical tips for implementation. Please see creation of a Crisis Management Plan and information management during a crisis for more information. 

In this article, we focus on how a Crisis Management Team (or CMT) should respond. Covered below is:

  • The make-up of a CMT;
  • How a CMT should respond; and
  • The steps a CMT can take now to prepare for a crisis.

The make-up of a CMT

A successful CMT should have five key qualities:

  1. Authority
    Without the ability to make major decisions within short time-scales, a CMT will be limited in its effectiveness. Therefore, a CMT should comprise members of the main board or (at the very least) operate with the authority of the board;
  2. Capability
    As established in our previous article, situational awareness is crucial during a crisis and the ability to interpret and analyse information from across the business is key;
  3. Experience
    The chair of a CMT should be a respected senior executive that is trusted within the business to be decisive but not at the expense of the long-term vision of the organisation;
  4. Flexibility
    As a crisis changes and develops, a CMT may need to bring in heads of departments from affected areas and utilise internal specialist teams such as IT and security; and
  5. The ability to maintain day-to-day business operations
    A top-heavy CMT may provide the perfect response to a crisis but it may starve the wider business of normal leadership and affect the day-to-day running of the organisation.

We have created a diagram to explain the key elements of a CMT and their roles within your Crisis Management Plan (or CMP). Please click to view diagram - five key elements of a CMT

How should a CMT respond?

In the vast majority of cases a crisis will arise with a unique set of facts and circumstances, requiring a unique response from a CMT. However, there are some standard processes that should be followed in response to every crisis. These should not be carried out in isolation from one another and may become more or less important as the crisis unfolds.

The CMT should:

  1. Achieve situational awareness (as suggested in our previous article);
  2. Define the strategy underlying the CMT response and ensure that this is constantly reviewed as the crisis progresses;
  3. Identify the key issues, make decisions, delegate actions to the operational team and review the results of those actions;
  4. Ensure that CMT meetings are as efficient as possible;
  5. Determine how “interested parties” are identified, to ensure that the right people are informed and consulted during a crisis;
  6. Establish a clear media plan to ensure a coherent public response to a crisis, detailing when conferences and press releases will take place;
  7. Monitor internal and external communications;
  8. Examine how the crisis (and the CMT response) impacts upon the day-to-day operation of the organisation;
  9. Ensure the various teams managing the response are monitored and are not working in isolation;
  10. Review how the CMT has responded to the crisis in this instance, to improve the CMP for future incidents; and
  11.  Ensure that the recovery plan (as detailed in our upcoming article) begins as soon as possible.  

How can an organisation prepare?

Due to the nature of a crisis, CMTs should focus on the internal processes that they can review and monitor to reduce the number of potential problems that may arise. They should also ask themselves if they could carry out the tasks listed above.

Members of the organisation should know how to report to the CMT during a crisis, to improve the team’s situational awareness. The CMT should be balanced to ensure that senior executives play a role within the crisis response but the rest of the organisation is not starved of leadership. Finally, the CMT should ensure that all of its members understand the media processes outlined in its CMP to ensure organisational efficiency and a clear, united front when faced with an incident.

DWF have experience designing and advising upon bespoke Crisis Management Plans and delivering training sessions for members of a CMT dependent upon the size of your organisation, industry and means available. If you would like more information about this service please contact Nicholas Barker or Steffan Groch.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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Steffan Groch

Partner and Head of Regulatory - Head of Sectors

I head up DWF's national Regulatory team as well as leading the firm’s ‘go to market’ sector expertise. I am also Chair of the UK Health and Safety Lawyers Association.