Smart Ways to Prepare for Crisis

We gain when we are alert and prepared, and fear can be a way to remain vigilant. But we need not be overcome by fear of the future as long as we acknowledge the real. What’s the difference between a challenge and a crisis? A crisis is a threat to the immediate survival of the organization, or to the immediate health and well-being of people associated with it.

During a crisis, we may need some fear. That fear is informative. As long as it isn’t the kind of fear that locks us down into fight, flight, or freeze without the ability to make conscious choices, it’s good information. The key is to stay alert, be prepared, and be informed by our fear rather than controlled by it.

Here’s a short list of some crisis situations that might at some point affect you and your organization:

  • Workplace violence
  • Product recall
  • Criminal investigation
  • Hostile takeover
  • Terrorist attack
  • A class-action lawsuit
  • Internet hacking
  • Insider trading
  • Death of key executives
  • Economic collapse

Smart organizations don’t let crises put them into fight, flight, or freeze. They have a plan, and they are prepared to act on that plan.


Identify Issues for Scenario Planning

This particular exercise is designed to make your dialog valuable as you address different arenas that impact your business. It is adapted from Peter Schwartz, who wrote in artful detail about scenario planning in the highly recommended book The Art of the Long View. This is one that requires a facilitator who is not on your team, and who has experience with strategic planning.

STEP ONE: Identify What’s Keeping You Awake at Night

Take a few minutes to jot down some of the critical decisions facing your company or organization. Review and discuss; choose one or two ideas to serve as the focal issue for your scenarios.

STEP TWO: Environmental Scan

Take a look at the macro: What world changes are impacting your business? Hang up separate flip charts for each topic area and take a full hour to write up a scan of the following areas:


STEP THREE: Do a Gallery Walk

Have each person in your group review what is on the flip charts. Discuss trends you see.

STEP FOUR: Rank Issues by Importance and Uncertainty

Rank the top issues you see, using the categories of importance and uncertainty. You are looking for the issues that are the most important, and the most uncertain.

STEP FIVE: Create Scenarios/Create Your Plan

Once you have your top issues by importance and uncertainty, you can create one, two, or even three scenarios to work through as a group.  The plan would address the top issues posed by that scenario.

STEP SIX: Scenario Plan Must-Haves

Make sure your plan addresses the what, who, how, when, and what that will happen based on your issue.  Each area of the business must be prepared to either avoid or handle these scenarios.

Remember, these exercises take time, and you may need multiple days to address these issues.

This exercise is taken from . . .

UNFEAR, by Karlin Sloan.


About karlinsloan

Karlin Sloan has committed herself to finding out what makes great leaders tick, and to supporting leaders to be the change they wish to see in the world. As a corporate citizen she is an advocate for triple-bottom-line reporting, for creating sustainable ways of working and living, and for creating positive organizational communities that work together for the greater good. She is the author of the acclaimed business book Smarter, Faster, Better; Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership which has been translated into Thai and Russian, UNFEAR: Facing Change in an Era of Uncertainty, and co-author of the 2012 book Lemonade: The Leaders Guide to Resilience at Work. For more information see or
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