The inaugural ‘Crisis Management Conference’ took place in London on Wednesday. First and foremost, I should like to congratulate Steelhenge on taking the initiative to organise such an event – the demand for this sort of forum was clear from the attendance on the day. Whilst the various presenters touched on many different issues in crisis management, there appeared to be two major themes/discussions running through the day; neither of which was completely resolved.
The first theme was the relationship between crisis management and business continuity. I know from talking to clients that this is a source of confusion; and has the potential to become more of an issue with the publication of a British Standard for crisis management, BS 11200, later this year. The way that I have found most useful is to look at business continuity, including incident management, as a process to be followed based on documented procedures; whereas crisis management is an organisational capability, dependent largely on having the right people with the right training. Clearly, in practice, the distinction is not absolute: effective business continuity requires good people and crisis management does need some process; but I find that keeping this distinction in mind prevents endless circular arguments.
The other issue was the composition of crisis management teams. Most of the speakers advocated flexibility in the make-up of crisis management teams and indeed one said that, in their organisation, a bespoke team is convened for each incident. However, at the same time, every speaker highlighted the importance of training and exercising members of the crisis management team. At the risk of appearing obtuse, there is a contradiction here: if we don’t know who is going to be in the team, who do we train? I would suggest that a more pragmatic approach is to define a core crisis management team, upon whom training resources can be focused; whilst allowing the flexibility to bring others into the team as required by the specific nature of the incident, accepting that some of these people may not have received specific training.