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Risk in Context

Making Informed Decisions in a Crisis: Getting Ahead of the Curve

Posted by Rachel Helman 11 June 2018

No matter the crisis, an organisation’s ability to react quickly and appropriately depends on having access to the right information at the right time. When faced with a crisis, there is a critical point at which organisations have enough information to make informed responses. Responding before this point could result in inappropriate actions which could worsen an incident or cause reputational damage. Armed with necessary knowledge, a Crisis Management Team (CMT) can protect the safety of its employees, maintain brand reputation, and ensure the continuity of business operations. The question is, what information is critical?

Whether in real life incidents or exercise scenarios, our clients often request access to internal information, such as employee data, production schedules, and meetings diaries; and external information, such as updates from emergency services and access to live media coverage.

During the initial response to a crisis, an organisation might specifically rely on internal information like timesheets to identify personnel on site during an incident or human resources’ records to ascertain contact details and next of kin information.

When deciding how to prioritise the recovery of operations, a business might use financial information, such as revenue breakdown by product line or by customer, to identify key products or accounts to prioritise.

As well as understanding their recovery priorities, well-informed businesses are more equipped to select appropriate strategies to realise them. How an organisation chooses to recover may depend on information such as the capacity of other group businesses or operating companies to support workload, the availability of office or storage accommodation nearby, and the potential flexibility of customers and suppliers.

While waiting for essential information is vital for making insightful decisions at a time of crisis, waiting for a full picture of information before formulating a strategy will unnecessarily delay the response and recovery. Examples of organisations commenting too soon with incorrect information or failing to respond quickly enough are abundant in the media and tend to fuel subsequent public relations disasters.

Organisations who successfully manage crises are aware of this information battle and take actions to increase their preparedness. Simple measures like ensuring critical information (such as employee records and production schedules) is available in multiple formats and accessible by mobile devices can be effective in eliminating dependency on access to IT systems and enabling informed recovery decision making. By thinking ahead about what information might be required, organisations can streamline their ability to make decisions following a disruption. The ability to make appropriate informed decisions within a reasonable timeframe following an incident is what sets some organisations apart and can be what it takes to salvage critical relationships, protect income, and maintain reputation.

Related to:  Marsh Risk Consulting

Rachel Helman

Senior Consultant, Marsh Risk Consulting