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St Paul’s Cathedral – A Case Study in Crisis Management

In today’s Telegraph the Rev George Pitcher provides a very critical analysis on how the Chapter of St Paul’s has (mis)handled the current problems caused by the anti-capitalist protest outside the Cathedral.  Whilst his perspective is very interesting I strongly disagree with his central assertion that the mistakes that have occurred are “Rooted in a deep-seated psychological disorder of the Church”: what he describes is, in fact, a fairly normal organisational response to a crisis.

The first issue that the Rev Pitcher focuses on is the absence of appropriate command and control arrangements for dealing with a crisis; stating that canon Giles Fraser was completely on his own during the early stages of the incident.  Sadly though, and contrary to the assertion that “This would never happen in any other commercial or institutional organisation”; it is still commonplace to find organisations that have no defined Incident Management structure.  Furthermore, even where teams have been established, they often lack the training to carry out their roles effectively.

The second issue that he highlights is the problems that St Paul’s has encountered in working with key operational partners, principally the Corporation of London.  Once again, this is a significant weakness in many organisation’s planning for and response to crises.  Modern business is based on a network of relationships with partners, suppliers and customers and crisis management planning must take these into account.  As a minimum, it is vital to identify who these stakeholders are and how one would communicate with them in a crisis.  Ideally these key organisations should be integrated into your crisis management structure but this is rarely achieved.

So, whilst agreeing with much of what the Rev Pitcher says, I think that we can draw lessons that apply much more widely than the Church of England from this incident.