Setting objectives during a crisis

On February 9, 2015

Failure to set and agree on clear objectives seems to cause problems for many, especially when they need to be SMART (Specific Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely).  The same applies in a crisis.

Recently, in the midst of an organisational crisis, I experienced the same.  It resulted in some confusion when it came to the communication methodology with two potentially conflicting agendas.  One was focused on legal imperatives and the need to avoid litigation and the other focused on protecting the organisation’s reputation.

I attempted to clarify this with the team but there were conflicting views and because the team were spread across the globe, the issue kept getting avoided during teleconferences.

The communication material and action plan were drafted to minimise any reputational damage, based on the tone of the discussion.  At the 11th hour, before an announcement was made, the material was changed.  The strategist behind the gameplay was extremely clever but was unable to communicate his plan.

As it turned out, there were no negative impacts and the final outcome achieved the key goals (once they became clear).  However, a great deal of effort and time could have been saved if these goals were known at the outset.  When I read about poorly handled crises, I wonder if the team set objectives at the outset or tried to manage the response in an ad hoc fashion.

To me, setting clear objectives is critical, especially in a crisis response.  As quoted by an American General “If you get the objectives right, most Lieutenants can write the strategy”.

I would be interested in others’ experience.