4 Things You Need To Do Before The Next Crisis “Nobody Saw Coming”

As we navigate one of the biggest global crises many of us will ever experience in our lifetime, people around the world are in a state of what’s known as crisis management. While managing crises seems like an effective solution, it just means we’re in a constant state of doing the bare minimum to keep our head above water.

Of course, some crises are out of our control. But what we DO have control over is taking steps to be prepared (physically, mentally, financially, emotionally, and so on) for whatever life throws our way. We can also be proactive in dealing with problems as we encounter them.

What is crisis management?

Crisis management happens when you’re too busy dealing with the problem at hand so small emergencies grow into large problems or crises. We become overwhelmed rather than investing time and resources into long-term solutions…Solutions that could prevent the crisis from occurring in the first place.

If you’re constantly in a state of crisis management, chances are your productivity is almost nil. And your nerves are likely shot.

I heard from a reader who was struggling with crises or emergencies that continually get in the way of their priorities. Now, I’m not 100% sure what’s going on in this person’s life. But if crises and emergencies are routine, then they aren’t crises and emergencies…They’re normal life for that person.

It reminds me of an old story about a suitcase manufacturer based in Montreal.

They made beautiful, high-quality suitcases that people might have used during the glory days of plying the seas via ocean liner. Sadly, they were slowly going out of business. People were no longer sailing. Instead, they were flying and required smaller suitcases.

When asked why this company didn’t start making small suitcases, they responded resolutely that they “couldn’t switch over because they were too busy making large ones!”

The suitcase company was in a state of crisis management. So, what can be done to put an end to crisis management and deal with problems as they come our way?

By the way, don’t miss this post where I share the three things you need to lead through a crisis.

Got a problem? Fix it NOW!

If you’re going to put an end to crisis management, you’ve got to get out in front of the problems. You need to stop them before they occur.

It’s not that small business owners and non-profit leaders DON’T want to nip problems in the bud. But doing so requires the two precious commodities we’re usually short on, time and money.

And since there are always more tasks than people to do them, it’s easy to see why crisis management is a problem.

Or why during a crisis we just keep making large suitcases instead of biting the bullet and switching over to what our customers want.

When you’re fighting for your life, the urge to stay with what you know and where you are comfortable is natural and completely understandable.

You begin to feel like you’re sinking. Your perspective is diminished. Short-term survival instincts kick in.

You can’t manage if you’re always in a crisis.

If you’re dealing with competing priorities, it can turn into a form of crisis management. Click here for some actionable steps for dealing with competing priorities.

How to eliminate crisis management

You didn’t get to where you are all at once. You did it one small step at a time.

So you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that it’s the same as eliminating crisis management.

Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Where did it start? The next time you’re faced with a problem, ask yourself and the people around you where it began. Find the true cause of the problem. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to fix the fundamental cause of the problem, just by identifying it, you’ve made progress in eliminating crisis management in your organization.
  2. What are the quick wins? There probably are many problems that can be fixed by making small changes.
  3. Are there sacred cows? These issues sound like, “We’ve always done it that way.”
  4. What is your collective intellectual horsepower? Ask your staff, Board, or a mentor for their thoughts and suggestions for improving the organization.

Like the suitcase company, if you’re too busy dealing with the crisis to fix the causes, you’ll be stuck with a failing enterprise.

Only by fearlessly shining a light on what’s going on in your company will allow you to identify – then fix – your problems.

If you’re interested in going even deeper or moving your career to the next level, you’ll also want to have a look at my 1-on-1 coaching services.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check these out, too:

A Curated List of Crisis Leadership Articles
9 Stupid Management Practices (and what to do instead)
The 6T’s To Know What To Delegate

This article was originally published on September 25, 2015, and has been updated.