When a crisis strikes, it has the propensity to disrupts the ‘business as usual’ operating mode in an organisation, affecting decision making, and not the least, organisation’s ‘judgment’. The inevitability of crisis situations in the modern day global economy and the unforgiving business environment, necessitates organisations to fully embrace crisis management in strategic planning and decision making.
Apart from the potential damage to an organisation’s reputation, crises can drastically affect and physically, emotionally, and financially harm organisation’s employees and other stakeholders. Often than not, crises manifest unexpectedly. Most crises, especially where there is absence of issue monitoring, leaves organisation’s leadership grappling with ‘sense-making’ of what has just occurred. This may happen as a result of a number of reasons, including: the rarity of crises in that particular organisation or business environment; the organisation’s poor monitoring of issues that may escalate into crises; and the absence of crisis mitigating plans in the organization.
As soon as a crisis unfolds, organisation’s leaders often experience a huge sense of loss-of-control. This is normal with every crisis situations - either at personal or professional level. For example, the pressure for calculated decisions making within the shortest space of time, as the crisis unfolds, can emotionally affect leader’s perception of their control of the unfolding situation. This sense of loss-of-control can negatively impact on the emotion and subsequently the behavior of the leadership during the crisis.
As pressure for urgent decision making - as well as stakeholder’s demand for information build up - making sense of the crisis can be the catalyst for management in finding solutions and making headways in resolving an unfolding crisis. It is, therefore, very important for organisation’s leadership to expediently task itself with making sense of what is going in the organisation environment, as soon as a crisis rears its head.
Organisation’s leadership can make sense of an unfolding crisis by, among others engaging and asking themselves clear questions that generate clear answers to understand crisis cause, crisis impact, public opinion, as well as employee safety and emotional wellbeing. When organisation’s leadership swiftly make sense of a crisis, they are well placed to explain the crisis to the organisation’s various stakeholders - thereby creating deeper stakeholder understanding of the organisation’s unpleasant situation. Sense-making allows for organisation’s leadership to get the pulse of a crisis situation, and allows for making effective decisions, leading the organization through the storm.
Sense-making sets the pace to premise organisation’s response in assuaging crisis situations. As such, it is important for leadership to be on top of what is unfolding, appreciate what is happening, and figure out what needs to be done to allow for all stakeholders, including employees, to equally make sense of the crisis and participate in the recovery process at any level and in any way they can.
Employees and stakeholders that are taken on-board the organisation’s crisis recovery process can be the pressure-escape valve that sometimes an organisation needs to emotionally sway public opinion in its favour. They can become an organisation’s organic brand and crisis ambassadors.