Training the Team: Eliminating Single Points of Failure in a Crisis
There is no convenient time for a crisis. Incidents causing business interruption or reputational damage can arise at any time of the day, on any day of the year. Every organisation has people with critical skills, knowledge, or decision making abilities for crisis management. During business-as-usual, these highly skilled or experienced individuals are huge assets, but a strong reliance on these individuals can be a single point of failure in crisis situations.
Even if an incident takes place during normal working hours, any number of factors – including annual leave, business travel, and flexible working arrangements – could affect the availability of the full Crisis Management Team (CMT).
When facilitating crisis management exercises, Marsh often sees CMTs struggle to follow appropriate response processes or make effective decisions because they are dependent on key people who are not in the room. Common learnings for these teams include the need to broaden access to information, and train staff to share knowledge more widely.
The full CMT should undertake regular training to increase preparedness, rehearse respective crisis responsibilities, and increase the confidence of all team members to execute the organisation’s overall crisis response. Deputies should be nominated for each role and should receive training to perform crisis responsibilities to the same standard. This in particular is the case for roles that are typical single points of failure, such as Crisis Management Lead, IT, and Communications.
For each role within the CMT, the necessary skills and competence should be identified, and the individual and deputy should be assessed against these requirements in order to identify further training needs. Certain training should be offered to particular roles as required, such as media training for senior executives or customer evacuation and crisis communications to front of house staff. Other training will be suitable for all staff, such as an awareness of the organisation’s social media policies to ensure staff are aligned with communication expectations ensuring opportunities for reputational damage are minimised.
Organisations can fully embed the lessons learned during crisis management training through a formal programme of crisis management exercises to test the CMT’s response to different scenarios. Using increasingly challenging and realistic exercises (from desktop to simulation to live exercises) will improve the team’s preparedness for any incident that could arise in the future. Crisis Management Teams who undertake regular exercises grow confident in their roles and responsibilities and learn to manage crises successfully. The more rehearsed a whole team is, the less they are susceptible to single points of failure.