Thursday, April 22, 2010

Crisis Preventers

Doing Simple, Sensible, Small Right Things (SSSRT)

Among the most frequent questions I’m asked by both professionals in our field and those they advise (CEOs and other operating officials) is, “Can you tell me what, in your experience, are the greatest crisis preventers?”

This is a quite profound question. Here’s my answer.

The most powerful crisis prevention behaviors involve doing the simple, sensible, small right things (SSSRT):
  1. Immediately.
  2. As soon as possible.
  3. That prevent the creation of critics, victims, and more serious antagonists.
  4. That prevent bad outcomes.
  5. That reduce contention, friction, confrontation, and conflict.
How powerful are these five simple thoughts? Every one of these concepts, if practiced relentlessly and constructively, will eliminate 25 to 50 expensive, time consuming, embarrassing crisis-generated response, mediation, retrenching, and recovery steps. When we analyze any crisis, on any scale, for after action reports or lessons learned, the most fundamental question is “How could this have been prevented?”

The answer is to do the simple, sensible right things first, and you can detect, deter, and prevent much larger problems.

Take any scenario (at any scale of magnitude), apply these five SSSRT principles, and you will knock most potential crisis situations down to a whimper, or down and out.

Some SSSRT examples:
  • Toyota: Take corrective action in the first month rather than the 24th month.
  • The Catholic Church: Call the police every time. Apologize now.
  • Sub-prime mortgages: Always deal in real money.
  • Goldman Sachs: Check with your mother. Would she approve?
  • Richard Nixon: Put your hands down at your sides and admit what you did.
  • Bill Clinton: You did have sex with that woman, admit it, and stop.
  • Dan Rather: You did make it up.
  • Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, and so many, many more: Keep your zippers up.
  • Exxon Valdez: Have the right trained and qualified persons steering the ship.
  • Wall Street: Keep Main Street fixed and working or your life will be miserable.
How many similar situations can you identify SSSRTs for? Let’s start building a list. Just send your comments in when you can.

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