Keep Calm in a Crisis

Don’t Lose Your Head! Dealing with an IT crisis

The alarms bells are ringing and key services are going down and it seems like the perfect time to panic but in the world of management this is the real test and people will be watching for what happens next!

Panic is infectious but there is a way to stop it and that is to stay calm! The problem with panic is that all rational thought seems to go out the window when too many people are running around like headless chickens, so as a leader you need to show that by being calm we can work through the problem as a team.

I have seen my fair share of events that have caused a fair amount of panic in staff and internally I am thinking, oh boy this is going to test me but in the face of these situation I followed the following key steps:

Don’t go looking for someone to blame

In the current situation when the world seems to be falling apart the first thought is normally to go looking for someone to blame but don’t. You have a crisis on your hands now that needs your attention so your focus should be on the matter at hand.

There will be plenty of time after the current situation has died down to investigate who was responsible plus once the situation has abated you will be thinking clearer and you can work with those responsible rather than pointing the finger.

Deal with the problem as a team

Secondly your thoughts will turn to I have a crisis the last thing I want to do is call a meeting, that will just waste time, but that is exactly what you should be doing. This is the quickest way to get all the information, plan the next steps ahead and ensure that everyone is updated.

Quickly grab those who can help with the situation together for your impromptu meeting. First make it clear that it is not a blame session but a meeting to work on a solution to the problem at hand. Areas that should be addressed are:

  • Do you have all the right decision makers
  • Get as much information on the problem as you can
  • Round table possible solutions ensuring that the conversation stays on track
  • Clearly define the next steps
  • Have a rough idea on Plan B
  • Summarise the action plan
  • Agree on when the next meeting should happen
  • Follow up with an email to the group on the agreed actions
  • Send out communication to other interested parties and stakeholders of the situation

The Action Plan

Now you have a clearly action plan and people are busy working away on the problem but your job doesn’t stop there. Most of the time you are not personally involved in the action plan your staff are and you can start to feel impatient this is pretty normal.

Your next job is to ensure that those working on the plan are left alone so they can work on it efficiently. There will be people buzzing around trying to find out what is going on asking the question “What’s happening?” etc you job is to run interference and to keep communication flowing.

It’s Fixed

Crisis over! good job everyone and I will see you tomorrow! This is not how you handle the end of a crisis, next you need to organise one last meeting to follow up on any outstanding items and to do the final communication to tie off any loose ends. The main goal here is to identify how it happened and to organise steps to ensure that you are either given more warning or to avoid future occurrences.

The outcomes of the meeting should include:

  • Identify possible causes
  • What worked and what didn’t
  • Acknowledge any good work and positive team efforts
  • Identify what needs to happen next to ensure it doesn’t happen again
  • Organise final communication

What happens next doesn’t need to be addressed in this final meeting, it could mean investigating creating a larger project for future proofing which will be addressed at a later date.

The dust has settled

Now that things have calmed down you can deal with cause with more of a level head. Throughout the crisis your stress levels probably go through the roof but if you look back you will probably see that by staying calm you have a calming effect on others which allowed them to also work more effectively which in turn cut down the amount of time it took to resolve.