Crisis Management Training and Exercises

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Crisis Management Training and Exercises

Enhancing Organizational Resilience

Crisis management training and exercises are a vital part of an organization’s process of becoming ‘crisis ready’. It is essential that an organization’s ‘in house’ firefighters not only have the right tools and equipment but also have the required knowledge, skills and mind-set to effectively respond when a crisis occurs.

By Theodorus Niemeijer, Reinder Ubbens & Claire Bakker

Enhancing Resilience – Crisis Management Training and Exercises

Crises often happen unexpectedly and can have a major impact on people and organizations. Dealing with any crisis is a challenge in itself, even if you’re a trained professional. At Deloitte we believe that crisis management training and exercises are an essential part of becoming ‘crisis ready’ for any organization.
Whether you’re a small or large, public or private organization, this article aims to provide you with our view on crisis management training and exercises.

Crisis Management Training – The Basics

Ask yourself this: if your house was on fire would you trust a firefighter who has only read the manual on fighting fires to save everything that you hold dear? Writing up a crisis plan and providing people with a formal mandate and toolset is not enough. What is more important is that an organization’s crisis management team (its ‘in house’ firefighters) has the right knowledge, skills and mind-set to be able to effectively respond to a crisis when it hits.
Any organization, regardless of its size, can become ‘crisis ready’. One of the first steps is to conduct a crisis management training. Whether you organize this in house, or enlist the help of external advisors, we recommend to keep the following three aspects in mind:


1. Select a multi-disciplinary team

Crises frequently have multiple dimensions and impact multiple areas of an organization. To successfully manage all relevant aspects and stakeholders of a crisis an organization needs a multi-disciplinary crisis management team made up of representatives of each key business area (i.e. top management, operations, HR, IT). This ensures that the team has the essential organizational mandate, knowledge, insight and network when a crisis strikes.


2. Use a simple and structured decision-making process

A crisis often occurs unexpectedly and disrupts an organization’s normal operations. Regaining the initiative and bringing order to chaos is essential to manage the crisis and can be done by using a simple and structured decision-making process. Regardless of its exact form, the decision-making process should enable your organization to quickly gather information, understand the situation, help set priorities and take decisions. Damage control and recovery actions should be set in motion as soon as possible. Complex decision-making processes risk delaying an effective response.


3. Train people to adopt a flexible mind-set

Crises usually appear in unexpected form. The crisis management team needs to understand that standard operational procedures, crisis plans and crisis management processes will never perfectly correspond to the actual situation. One of the team’s highest priorities should be to determine the intended outcome of the situation and adapt any plans and procedures accordingly. Training a team to have a flexible mind-set ensures that is able to adapt, improvise and overcome a rapidly changing situation, thus enabling it to face a range of different types of crises.

Crisis Management Exercises – Maintaining and Improving

The purpose of crisis management exercises is to maintain, and where necessary gradually improve, the team’s crisis management knowledge, skills and mind-set. Crisis management exercises should feel like a natural next step once training has been completed. Each exercise should become more advanced and intense as the team’s capabilities mature, and make use of realistic and varying scenarios which the organization is most likely to face.

One crucial aspect of more advanced exercises is that they should let participants experience what it feels like to be out of their comfort zone, as will be the case during a real crisis. Stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, and each team member should be able to recognize their own stress symptoms and those of others. Knowing how to deal with stress goes a long way to de-escalate tense situations, support each other and keep a level head when the pressure increases.

Only through repeated exercises will the required knowledge, skills and the proper mind-set become ingrained in an organization’s crisis management team, thus elevating their maturity and performance. In addition, exercises provide the opportunity to develop a tested crisis plan and crisis management tool kit. They are a tried and tested way to keep knowledge, skills, mind-set, tools, and plans up-to-date as your company grows and expands.

Yes, crisis management exercises take time away from other activities. It is our experience that the investment costs are far less than the damage of not being prepared when a crisis hits. Besides, both crisis management training and exercises also power an organization’s performance on a day to day basis. Learning how to prioritize actions and take decisions under pressure has beneficial carry-over effects into people’s corporate and private day-to-day lives.


Proper Preparation Powers Organizational Resilience 

Crisis management training and exercises are a vital part of an organization’s process of becoming ‘crisis ready’. It is essential that an organization’s ‘in house’ firefighters not only have the right tools and equipment but also have the required knowledge, skills and mind-set to effectively respond when a crisis occurs.

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