Real Leaders

When a Crisis Ends a Real Leader Asks: “How’d We Do?”

“The Most important Thing About Crisis Management is to Prepare for the Next Crisis.”

At this point, some businesses are reopening. Limitations on in-person meetings will be lifted. Some, but not all, employees will be happy and anxious to get back to the workplace and leave the stress of 24/7 home life behind. However, the positive influence leader will want to take a moment to ask, “how did we do, and what did we learn, and how will we specifically apply what we learned to both our departments and our firm?”  

This is a critical moment because:

  • There will be another crisis in the future. 
  • It may not be health-related, and it may not be of the same scale, but we will need to be ready, and it will need to be addressed.
  • The organization may have been permanently changed by the crisis, and a simple return to “business as usual” is not possible. There will be a new normal for many industries and businesses.
  • The organization may have adopted some new practices during the crisis that were beneficial. For example, new techniques for customer acquisitions, interactions, team meetings, and time management may have been effective and easily integrated into the post-crisis workplace.

As your organization and departments return to work, you must review and assess what happened during the crisis. As someone said, “the most important thing about crisis management is to prepare for the next crisis.”

Take the case of the island country of Taiwan because it provides a dramatic example of post-crisis analysis. This country of some 23 million is just 81 miles from mainland China with frequent flights back and forth between the two countries. And yet, as of late May, there about 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and just nine deaths. How did they do it?

Planning for this crisis effectively began after the SARS epidemic in 2004. The resulting plan included a 24/7 national command center that integrated the work of a variety of agencies under one roof. The result was a plan that included specific sections that were implemented during the current crisis. 

Crisis Review
Some people call it an evaluation or an after-crisis action review, but we can go with crisis review. The objective is to find out what worked, what didn’t work, what we learned, and how we will correctly apply what we learned when and if there is a next time. We’ll need a methodology and some key questions to guide the process.

Here are some process elements to consider:

Should we break these sessions down by department, e.g., Executive, Technology, HR, Marketing, Sales, Service, Operations, Risk, Compliance, Legal, Finance, Accounting? If so, how should we customize this process for each?

  • Who should be invited?
  • How many meetings should we have?
  • How much time should we allocate to the meeting?
  • What topics should we cover?
  • What questions should be asked?
  • Should we use a professional meeting facilitator?
  • How will we take notes and capture the ideas generated?
  • What will we do with the notes taken and the recommended action items?
  • Do we send the questions to the participants in advance of the meeting?
  • What criteria should we use to assess the success of the meeting?

Review Questions
Some possible questions to guide the discussion include:

  • What did we stop doing during the crisis?
  • What did we start doing?
  • What did we continue doing?
  • What changed over time?
  • What worked well that we stopped doing? Started doing? What didn’t work well that we stopped and started doing? What could have been better?
  • What should we do differently during our next crisis?
  • What are some lessons learned that we can immediately implement in our current workplace?

What are the key lessons learned that could be applied in future crises?
As this crisis comes to an end, the decisive influence leader can help their organization learn from the experience and develop a plan for managing similar challenges in the future as well as identifying learnings from the current crisis that can be implemented in the near-term workplace.