How to Predict a Crisis

Kendra Estey | 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.

But 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 firms build a preemptive crisis plan for virtually every imaginable scenario; 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 without any real results. Let’s look at an example:

Executive issues a target: Find a way to disseminate to our 10,000 customers every week and keep them updated on our activities, charitable efforts, investments, and future strategies.

Internal response to executive: How do we do this? Where are the customers? 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 and a competitor takes 80% of the clients. The media paints the company as greedy, non-transparent, and uncharitable. A crisis.

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 focus, a disarray of employee activities, and sustained failures to hit company 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:

1. With laser-like focus, put everyone’s attention back on the company’s targets, goals, and road map.
2. Pause, take a moment to regroup, then investigate to find the source of confusion and chaos and remove it aggressively.
3. 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, 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.

Kendra Estey
Writer, Editor, & ELB Manager, Massive Alliance
With over a decade of professional and academic experience, Kendra is a seasoned writer and editor with experience across industries and around the world; she is also the Executive Leadership Branding Manager at Massive Alliance and a contributor at Strixus.