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Before the crisis: three things you can do

In March I'm presenting a Tea & Toast webinar called Crisis: Get reading for something that may never happen.

Over the past week, something has happened: the North Island has been slammed by Cyclone Gabrielle. There's been loss of life, homes, livelihoods. The full and ghastly extent of the damage will take some time to become clear. And this is layered on the impact of Cycle Hale and the flooding in Auckland earlier in the year.

As people get the basics restored, we'll start to hear the stories of individual businesses and organisations in crisis. The natural disaster will threaten their survival. For those who haven't been directly affected, it's a good time to develop a plan.

Three things came through repeatedly in my research on crisis management. They are all things that you - as an individual and an organisation - can take action on now. And you'll benefit from that action even if the crisis never comes.

Paper in typewriter with crisis typed on it
You can prepare for crisis. Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Know your context

A big picture view is powerful. Seeing yourself in the context of your sector opens your eyes to connections, dependencies, and opportunities. Make time - reading, listening, networking - to know what is on the horizon for your organisation. What actions can you take now that might minimise the impact of an adverse change?

Take Cyclone Gabrielle as an example. If you were not immediately affected, how will the response affect you? Transport and communications corridors have been damaged - where the vulnerabilities in your systems and supply chains? Funding and resources will be diverted to rebuild - are your funding streams at risk? And what can you do to mitigate losses?

Foster creativity and innovation

The nature of a crisis is that you are no longer able to do what you are used to doing. Organisations that survive a crisis are ones that are able to adapt or pivot. But why wait until you are in the middle of a crisis to consider other ways of operating?

Building a culture of creativity and innovation is a bulwark against crisis. We think of creativity as being born from crisis. Why not give your organisation a head start by fostering a culture that allows challenge and is open to new ways of doing things?

Put a crisis scenario on the agenda at your next meeting: what are your options when the status quo is off the table?

Develop personal resilience

In the worst of a crisis, we may see our dire circumstances as Martin Seligman's 3 ps: personal, permanent, and pervasive. Looking at the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle right now, that seems a completely reasonable view. But if this view persists, it holds us forever in that crisis.

Organisational resilience is built on the personal resilience of its people. What are you doing to develop your resilience and to make it a priority for everyone in your organisation?

Hilary's blog getting to grips with resilience suggests focus and purpose as pathways. For me, enjoyment is key.

The latest idea I'm looking at is from Joshua D. Margolis and Paul G. Stolz, who suggest a resilience regime built around deliberate questions to ask when things go wrong. You can investigate that for yourself, or join me on 17 March for more detail!


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