When you’re faced with a natural disaster, such as flood or earthquake, or man-made events such as terrorist attacks, or high-profile scandals, would your staff know what to do?
You may have a great business continuity plan. You may even have a plan for each separate scenario with which you could be faced. You may have fantastic staff in place who you are sure can cope with whatever is thrown at them, helping to safeguard the long-term future of your company. But have you carried out any crisis simulations?
The fact is that until you have tested your carefully-made crisis plans in normal conditions, you won’t really know how they will work under abnormal conditions. If your business relies on humans doing their job well, then you need to know how your humans react faced with atypical but perfectly feasible events. Are they going to rise to the challenge and grab glory from the jaws of defeat, or fall to pieces?
Having a crisis management plan in place but not carrying out simulations is like having a fire alarm and fire-fighting equipment, but never doing a fire drill. In this scenario, the drill allows you to see if your assumptions about evacuation times are appropriate, if your planned escape routes are suitable, and most of all, if the staff you need to evacuate know what they need to do. A controlled simulation, in short, allows you to assess your plans, and make tweaks based on the findings. It can give you confidence that your crisis plans are feasible and appropriate for your business.
Crises such as an earthquake or fire are on the whole, rare. As such, it’s probably not necessary to hire a full-time dedicated crisis manager. However this also means that it is unlikely that your regular staff will have the prior workplace experience of a particular event. It is important to make sure that your regular staff know what to do should a crisis take place.
Crisis management is a very human process. The successful recovery of your business could depend on the single actions of a select group of human beings. How do you know if your carefully chosen humans can perform under times of stress? The same people you rely on to do a great job of managing a team under normal conditions are not necessarily the same people who can lead in a crisis. Different personalities within the workplace means that different people react to different scenarios in different ways.
In crisis, you may find your ‘go-to’ manager who happily manages multiple projects on a regular basis crumbles under pressure. Workplace crisis simulations allow you to check your key staff’s crisis management skills, and find those people who can step up to the mark at the right time. They might not be who you think!
The value in crisis simulation training lies in being able to work out who your key staff will be in the case of a particular event, and to tease out any ambiguities in the plan which may cause your staff confusion. If you can do this in advance of the crisis, you will have a much better chance of your crisis management plans working, and keeping your business sustainable in the long-term.
Simulations are important because until you’ve carried out controlled testing, your crisis management plans are little more than a hypothesis. A valuable hypothesis, but a hypothesis none the less. Make crisis simulations part of your crisis management plans and be confident that when disaster strikes, your staff will not only be in the correct roles but also well-rehearsed.