Handling The Crisis: An Interim Approach



(Image by Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines, 6 December 2013. Photo: OCHA/Gemma Cortes)

In Handling any crisis or large, transformational change in a short period of time, a leader needs to be able to insert a new level of resilience into the organisation.

Interim executives who operate in this niche have the reserves of expertise to call on that can be engaged effectively to achieve a successful outcome.

Cool, calm, collected. A trite phrase but like many of its kind – borne out in practice.

A summarised approach is offered below, based on practical experience and academic research, not least at Harvard Business School

Almost by definition, the interim will be new to the organisation. Stress will exist. People will be weary, uncertain, working hard and potentially driving the organisation faster and faster into the ‘buffers’ of destruction at the end of the line.

Stepping back with a fresh pair of eyes; asking those open questions that test assumptions and gauging the skill sets of those around come into play from the moment you start. In fact, things start before the engagement as the preliminary meetings with the client really start the process.

Bringing credibility, providing a fresh perspective and recognising that the goal – if not completely changed – has certainly ‘morphed’ from the formal business plan sets the ball rolling.

The diagram below gives an outline of process with the key team and the outputs should be communicated as widely as possible. And progress communicated from that point on. An open honest environment is required to avoid nasty surprises. Honesty means that set-backs also need to be told, coupled with what is being done to overcome them. Hiding things sets entirely the wrong example.


Crisis Handling Summary

Remember that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. To succeed, all the bad news needs to be heard and dealt with. Skeletons need to be firmly out of the cupboard.

Energy needs to go up in the organisation. Quick wins acknowledged. Praise spread about publicly.

Missing skills need to be found. People need to be set free to contribute. Old taboos questioned. What has been done for years without question, now needs to be.

Re-prioritise what is done (and why). Stop doing things that add no, or limited, value.

Create time to get things done that add the most value.

Spring clean minds, work places, balance sheet, supplier and client lists!

In a crisis, it is all about survival.

The changing culture allows the organisation to have a firm foundation.

Survival earns the right to build a strategy.

Energised and well directed people deliver the strategy implementation plan.

People become more flexible; question what they do – become more outward looking.


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