Predicting the Unpredictable: The Signals of Impending Doom

Brook Zimmatore | October 27, 2020

Hindsight is always 20/20 with crisis management. We see things we could have done better to resolve the unimaginable scenarios which are thrown at us during the moment of madness.

In Nigeria, we are currently experiencing a social crisis on a national scale. And while there are many opinions regarding its cause and remedies, I write this now only to reflect on the obvious signals which could have helped us avoid it.

The true challenge is predicting a potential crisis as it’s developing and, through early identification, catching the signals and resolving them before things go off the rails.

Current Crisis Strategies

Typical crisis management strategies (government or corporate) include building a preemptive crisis plan for virtually every imaginable scenario, whether it occurs locally in Nigeria or on a global scale; natural disaster, cyber attack, PR crisiscyber-libel, failure in technology, protests, and so on. But even the experts can’t plan for everything, as evidenced by the abundance of crises still happening daily — which are mitigated so poorly.

How Crises Can Be Predicted

Over the past 10 years, I have observed one thing all crises seem to have in common. While an entire manual could probably be written on the subject, here is a snippet:

Long before the crisis hit, there was a seemingly high level of activity — but without any real results. 

Let’s look at an example:

Executive issues a target: Find a way to disseminate to our audience and keep them updated on our activities, charitable efforts, investments, and future strategies.

Internal response to executive: How do we do this? Where is the audience? Who will write the newsletter? I don’t know how… Maybe Joe can do this, I don’t have time.

The correct response should be: Okay, let’s figure it out and get it done. Fast.

Six to eight months later, with nothing done, there is an outcry. Investors run, opportunities fail, and relationships fade. The media paints the organisation as greedy, non-transparent, and uncharitable, and social media explodes. A true crisis.

One could then apply this to Nigeria today. Promises of change and key programs were pushed to get done, but many different things other than those programs were done instead.

This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, but an almost surefire sign of impending doom is an increase in confusion, incomplete targets, heavy activity but no results, chaos, a loss of executive or leader focus, a disarray of employee activities, and sustained failures to accomplish goals.

So before the madness of a crisis hits, you can feel the madness internally.

How to Resolve a Predicted Crisis

The new model for crisis management isn’t to manage it; it’s to avoid it in the first place. So once you catch even a whiff of “seemingly high level of activity without any real results” within your company, association, or activity, do the following:

  • With laser-like focus, put everyone’s attention back on the company’s targets, goals, and road map.
  • Pause, take a moment to regroup, then investigate to find the source of confusion and chaos and remove it aggressively.
  • Consolidate all efforts on meeting original timelines, and then get things done. Start with your original programs. Force them done. Then take the next and repeat.

Crisis Avoidance

Identifying a crisis requires a sort of “sixth sense” on the part of an executive or leader, since it’s often just a feeling that something’s off and that things aren’t progressing in the way they should. Knowing the activity and how it feels when it’s successful can help develop this sense. Massive Alliance can also help with developing it — or if it’s already too late, in managing the resultant crisis.

Brook Zimmatore
CEO / Co-Founder
Brook Zimmatore is the Co-Founder & CEO at Massive. You can reach him directly at bz[at]massivealliance.com.