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Gone is the time when crisis management was solely for the largest of organizations, says Thunderbird School of Global Management Professor Christine Pearson, Ph.D. Today, organizational crisis management is critical for businesses of all sizes.

Pearson is a professor of global leadership who has worked with such organizations as PepsiCo, NASA, Kraft Foods, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, BellSouth/AT&T, Chevron, and the Red Cross (among many others). She explains how organizations can prepare to manage through crisis in a webinar.

A crisis, Pearson says, is defined by its potential dire outcome. “An organizational crisis is an event or trend that has the potential to shut down the entire organization,” she says. So, crisis management is essential – and it shouldn’t be a learn-as-you-go exercise. “If you’re not prepared to deal with the crisis,” Pearson explains, “your stakeholders will sense it and they could pull away as a result.”

A ‘4 Ws’ framework for organizational crisis management

“The goal is to be able to make timely decisions, to draw in the facts that you need so you can understand what’s going on and to use clear thinking,” says Pearson. Preparedness is key. “Put more effort into signal detection and learning so when a crisis hits you don’t have to put so much effort into containment.”

 Pearson explains how to prepare for a crisis in terms of a ‘4 Ws’ framework:

  1. Who are the individuals, groups, and organizations that affect or are affected by your ability to get through the crisis?
  2. What types of crises might you experience? Which of those will you prepare for? Which will you ignore? Why?
  3. Where within the organization will you find resources to help you through the crisis, and where could there be gaps?
  4. When will you act, knowing time is rarely on your side?

“In crisis management you’re weighing time against certainty,” Pearson explains. “You must act in a timely manner, but also know enough to go forward in a way that you feel reasonably assured will be appropriate.”

Strategizing for Crisis Leadership
January 29 - February 1, 2018 | Glendale, AZ

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Crisis management in global organizations

Crisis planning and management is more complicated for global organizations, largely because of cultural differences, Pearson says. For instance, cultural expectations of how to present bad news can affect whether front-line workers are willing to step up if they see a problem looming.

Cultural differences also make it difficult to predict how people will respond to a crisis. But as Pearson notes, diversity can also create more openness to solutions – and more routes to success. “The Chinese symbol for crisis combines danger and opportunity for a reason.”

Christine Pearson teaches these concepts, and many others, in depth in the Dynamic Crisis Management Journey, which is designed to position you to maintain your company’s resilience during crisis and emergent situations. The first session, Strategizing for Crisis Leadership, will be presented this fall in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more about the Dynamic Crisis Management Journey.

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