MT Masterclass - crisis management

What is it? In ancient Greek, the word crisis means 'judgment' or 'decision'. It implies that you have reached a fork in the road.

Smooth-talking conference performers sometimes claim that, in Mandarin, the symbol for crisis includes the characters for 'danger' and 'opportunity' (it does), but then suggest that a crisis is therefore equally good and bad (it isn't - Chinese experts translate the symbol as 'an opportunity for danger'). Crisis management has become an acknowledged discipline only in recent years. But, today, crises can take many forms, and the conventional wisdom has it that specific skills and actions are required to manage them.

Where did it come from? To some extent, crisis management is a fancy label for due diligence and proper planning. A good crisis manager has the answer to the 'what if?' questions. But, as Donald Rumsfeld says, there are 'unknown unknowns'. Sometimes the best you can do is learn from experience and prepare for the worst.

Where's it going? Don't panic. And don't say (as former prime minister Jim Callaghan is - wrongly - alleged to have said): 'Crisis, what crisis?' We live in dangerous times. Cyber-crime, like its old-fashioned analogue cousin, can hit at any moment. Any problem that threatens to get out of control is a potential crisis: a key resignation, a takeover bid, legal action, product recall, sabotage, PR disasters. But there may be business opportunities lurking in the wreckage too. Barely a year after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, New York's mayor at the time, announced he was setting up a crisis management consultancy with Aon Corporation. Remember the scouts' motto: 'Be prepared'. And don't forget: if you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, you have probably failed to grasp the gravity of the situation.

Fad quotient (out of 10) Seven (and rising).

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