Any experienced EHS manager knows that crises, no matter the scale, need to be thought of in terms of “when” and not “if”.
All organizations face some manner of serious dilemma at some point, with consequences that can range from production interruptions to injuries or even loss of life. EHS staffers spend their careers anticipating such a crisis, working to prevent it, and preparing to react to it.
Of course, the mindset of an EHS professional can only take a company so far in urgent conditions. The CEO, president, or senior manager of a facility has to be prepared to act wisely in a crisis as well, avoiding the superficial and the non-productive in circumstances where every moment counts, and when every decision is crucial.
It’s the psychology of such reactions that is discussed in a recent piece by Elin Williams found at online resource Insead. Williams searched for the attributes of senior management that would be most beneficial at a time of corporate crisis, expanding her research to CEOs and senior managers across the globe. One of her interview subjects, former GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, used the term ‘tera-risk’ to describe the kinds of world events that affect companies of all sizes, with the bigger the company, the greater the effect on business, even on the lives of the team. Tera-risks might include large acts of terrorism, financial disasters, or major weather calamities. There’s really nothing any company can do to ward off something like Hurricane Sandy. But there’s a lot that can be done to keep the organization in good shape during the disaster and in its wake. And all of it starts with proper attitude.
The Williams article makes it clear that leadership cannot make a tough situation more intense by reacting in a dramatic fashion. Rather than being a dramatist, senior managers should be more like athletes. Athletes are by definition agile, and Williams see that quality as someone willing to experiment, make adjustments, and learn from mistakes. A short feedback loop is important: Actions taken in crisis generate positive, negative, or neutral results, and to learn from those in such a way that is effective in an urgent time means the manager must get those results quickly.
Preparing conduits, exploring “what ifs”, and assembling teams that bring together skilled people from different jobs and locations are the kinds of steps that CEOs should be taking to make ready for inevitable challenges.
EHS managers can help make that happen. If your senior manager has not created a crisis management plan for your organization, today is always a good day to start discussing it. Articles like the Williams piece include quotations and ideas from big-brand leaders, and those kinds of statements are often intriguing to thoughtful top-level managers and CEOs. The remarks of successful executives can help instill a productive attitude in those that listen.
And you can rely on Findlay All Hazards to help you plot a thorough crisis management course, regardless of your organization’s mission. Speak with a Findlay project manager today to learn more.