Jason Dykstra

Crisis Management: Plan for the Worst

By: Jason Dykstra | November 11, 2013 | 
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Crisis Management: Plan for the Worst

By Jason Dykstra

Crisis management is important – especially when dealing with children.

Heart pounding, I took off after him – dragging the dog on the leash with one hand and trying not to spill my travel mug of freshly brewed coffee all over myself – towards the busy intersection.

Seconds before he went barreling across the car-infested road, I stuck my foot out and brought his tricycle to a jolting stop as he almost flew over the handlebars.

“Whew, that was close!” said my three-year-old son.

Ahh, the life of a parent.

If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about: That moment your child does something that puts him or her in an unsafe situation that you have to quickly react to so that no one gets hurt (well, until you know they’re safe and then have the urge to strangle them, which is a whole other story).

This point is: I should have seen it coming.

When things are going well, it’s hard to imagine that good time being interrupted. We fall into this line of thinking all the time in our businesses and our personal lives. When business is going great, it’s hard to imagine an angry customer avalanche or a storm of complaints. But they can happen at any moment, so it’s important to prepared.

Crisis Management: Plan for the Worst

You’ve heard the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  In other words, it’s better to be prepared then get caught with your pants down.

I don’t need to feed you examples about crisis situations that have happened on social media to companies (some of them are even covered here at Spin Sucks like the one post about Five Epic Twitter PR Fails or HMV’S mass firings or even The City Of Hamilton). You know that crisis can happen at the snap of a finger (or with some serious blinders on).

If we know our businesses have the potential to roll down the hill on a tricycle, why wouldn’t we hold on to the bike to ease it towards the intersection instead of running like a crazed Justin Bieber fan?

Don’t Ruin Your Clan, Get a Plan!

Wow, that’s a pretty bad rhyme isn’t it? The point is, Po (the Kung Fu Panda) didn’t become one of the Furious Five overnight, he had to learn the secrets of Kung Fu before he could kick major butt.

The same is true with your business: It’s not a crisis if you have a plan.

So what types of things should be in your crisis management plan? Here are five things to think about as you prepare:

  1. Identify. How will you know you’re in crisis mode? When does a conflict mode turn into a crisis situation? By identifying what your business considers a crisis will help you know when you are in a crisis or not (weird, huh…). Also, where are we most likely to encounter crisis? Is it internally? Externally?
  2. Assemble a Team. Who needs to be there when you’re responding to a crisis situation? What cross-section of your organization will be helpful to address various types of crisis? Who do you want on your team?
  3. Respond to the Crisis. I’m not talking canned responses here, but you can start working on the questions you need to ask to make sure that you understand what the crisis is all about, then practice, practice, practice how you might respond. Think of potential situations that you could find yourself in – how might you respond to them?
  4. Follow-Up. An often missed piece to a crisis situation is the follow-up that happens after a crisis is over. This can be a key piece to building a conflict resilient community and some pretty hard-core brand advocates!
  5. Document. What went well? What didn’t? What can we do to improve if we ever face this type of situation again?

I go more in-depth with this free ebook (you can get it here), but what I’m really interested in is, what do you have in your crisis management plan?

About Jason Dykstra


Jason Dykstra is the guy you call when you're knee-deep in conflict. He's a conflict management specialist who helps people turn conflict situations into creative solutions. He specializes in relational conflicts and works closely with organizations, churches, and families using various tools such as mediation, coaching, group facilitation, and training.

  • Great post, Jason! I know at our organization our leadership isn’t especially big on social media, so one of the challenges is driving home the fact that even if THEY don’t see the crisis looming, it’s important to be monitoring the “little things” to be prepared for the eventuality that they turn into the “big things” (when you would activate your crisis management plan, if you had one :-)).

    • jasondyk

      biggreenpen I don’t think your organization is alone in that! For some leaders their minds can be put at ease if they have a plan put in place before venturing into the social media waters. 
      Couldn’t agree more with the monitoring! The quicker you notice it the quicker you can respond and handle the situation and nip it in the butt! 🙂

  • So many orgs don’t have any crisis management plans in place, and then *blammo* the proverbial you know what hits the fan. So important to think of this BEFORE you need one! LOL Often times, it’s wayyyy too late by then.

    • jasondyk

      belllindsay ha…then you end up scrambling and make the front page of reddit :-0

  • Yes to #4!!! So important – you can always improve your crisis plan. And when you go back, you discover things you can do differently if there is a next time.

    • jasondyk

      yvettepistorio never underestimate the power of a good debrief of the situation…it’s amazing what can happen when you become a self-reflective practitioner!

      • jasondyk Exactly! Great post Jason – lots of food for thought here and in your ebook 🙂

  • I love lessons kids can give us in the business world. I can actually picture you, hands full, trying to catch the tricycle. I would also add to your list…be willing to admit when you’re wrong. And not in a Home Depot copy and paste way.

    • jasondyk

      ginidietrich That’s a whole other post about admitting when you’re wrong! Absolutely! And definitely not in a copy and paste way but a way that builds relationships (i.e. personalized, understanding the actual problem, etc.)

  • “It’s not a crisis if you have a plan.” 
    I like that! I certainly agree. A good offense is sometimes the best defense, as I would say. If you’re preparing for that potential crisis, it’s not much of a crisis if you know how to handle it. Thanks for sharing this!

    • jasondyk

      JRHalloran Thanks JRHalloran! Always good to run “fire drills” as well to make sure that the plan is still working!

  • Pingback: Crisis Communications: How Chick-fil-A Weathered the Storm by @clay_morgan Spin Sucks()

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