Planning and instinct. These two things go a long way toward managing a crisis. And as anyone who knows me has heard me say countless times, the faster an organization gets on top of a crisis, the more likely it is to recover. Two national news stories this past spring really brought the point home.
When it comes to planning, Southwest Airlines had it covered. After an engine ruptured in mid-air in April, killing a passenger on board, the airline immediately deployed its emergency response plan. Staff were scrambled to different locations to manage the varied aspects of the situation, the CEO immediately called key transportation agencies and got in the air to visit with the passengers and crew, and compassion ruled the day.
The Wall Street Journal ran a great story
about the airline's response.
A strong plan must be complemented by good instinct. That is where Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer comes in. He made it his business to be
on the ground immediately after a horrific mass shooting
at one of its restaurants in Tennessee. In addition to meeting with the news media, he publicly thanked -- hugged, actually -- the man who saved lives by wrestling the weapon from the shooter, and attended the funerals of victims.
The public wants leadership from corporate America, particularly at a time of tragedy, and in each instance, a CEO stepped up -- one guided by a plan and the other by instinct -- and in so doing each restored public confidence in their brand.
These ever-so-slightly slower days of summer are a great time to think through your organization's readiness for a crisis. I had the pleasure of speaking recently at the annual meeting of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists in Washington, D.C. and told those assembled that every business and nonprofit should have a crisis plan in place. Whether it is done in-house or with outside help, and regardless of length or complexity, it is fundamental.
For most organizations, crisis will strike sooner or later. That is a reality of our world. It is how an organization responds that can set it apart from others.