I just had the privilege of reprinting an article by renowned crisis management consultant and philosopher Ian Mitroff in my Crisis Manager ezine, as distributed by email to my subscribers. It will soon be archived on my website, but I wanted to go ahead and re-post the article here as well and invite comment.
As Ian says, many of us have been on some sort of search for spiritual awareness. I have found my own path to awareness of a Higher Power, and quite frankly that awareness has been of immense assistance to me and — whether they knew it at the time or not — to my clients. Further, I have had clients who have clearly integrated their own spiritual beliefs with their business practices. I have heard phrases such as, “We can only do the footwork, the results are up to God” at Board meetings. I have prayed with actively Christian clients when I am not Christian (or actively ANY religion) myself. I have heard much talk of acceptance as the answer — again, a very spiritual concept common to many belief systems.
So, here’s Ian’s article, and I would love to hear what you think about this subject!
TWO CHALLENGES: CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND SPIRITUALITY
By Ian I. Mitroff
I want to talk about two challenges facing all organizations today, public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit, government and business. They are: Crisis Management and Spirituality. While seemingly unrelated, they are in fact merely opposite sides of the same complex coin.
Briefly, the major challenge of Crisis Management is how to overcome apathy, smugness, and denial. The major challenge of Spirituality is to overcome the false perception that spirituality is a subject that is totally off-limits and doesn’t apply to most organizations.
For about 25 years, my colleagues and I have been studying the Crisis Management behavior of major organizations of all kinds. I wish I could say that during this time we have made significant progress, but I can’t. True, many organizations have made substantial improvements in their Business Continuity plans, procedures, and preparations. But, the trouble is that Business Continuity is not the same as a full-fledged program of Crisis Management. Business Continuity is great for backing up workplaces, plants, computers, machinery, operations, etc., but it is not the same as preparing for workplace violence, disgruntled employees, and ethical breaches by middle and top management. Business Continuity also does not take into account that no single crisis that we have ever studied is a single isolated crisis. Every crisis is simultaneously an ethical, a PR, a legal, a communications, operations, etc. crisis. To put it slightly differently, every crisis has significant ethical, PR, legal, etc. elements. Unless one plans and thinks systemically and “connects the dots,” then one is not prepared for any major crisis.
Give the severity and the frequency of major crises, what keeps us from preparing better? The short answer is denial! Far too many organizations have the attitude that it can’t and won’t happen to them. It will!
Research shows that those organizations that are better prepared not only experience significantly fewer crises, but they are actually significantly more profitable. The moral: Crisis Management is not only the right thing to do, but it is actually good for business.
How about Spirituality? How does it fare? Sadly, not much better.
First of all, Spirituality in the Workplace is not about religion. It is not about forcing everyone to have or to adopt the same belief system. It is about recognizing that when people come to work, they do not leave their “spiritual sides” at home. While the “whole person walks in the door everyday,” more often than not people are forced to fragment themselves into a thousand disconnected pieces.
Above all, people are constantly searching for meaning and purpose in their lives. And, they want to find it where they spend the majority of their waking hours, at work. They want to work for a good organization, one that is ethical and treats them and everyone else with respect. Research also shows that those organizations that have learned how to address the spiritual needs of their employees and all stakeholders are more profitable and productive. But just as important, they are happier places in which to work.
How are these two challenges related?
Every crisis is a spiritual crisis. Every crisis raises deep questions about the goodness of the organization and the people in it. It challenges our deeply held assumptions about the purpose of the organization and our places within it. For instance, it is the crisis our fault in any way? Did we bring it upon ourselves? Would it have happened if we had tried harder and had better programs?
There is little doubt that these are challenging times. Some would say they are the most challenging in our nation’s history. There is no doubt that we face crises that are unparalleled. Nonetheless, I believe firmly that if we can use these times to develop organizations that serve the “greater needs” of all those connected with them, then we will not only survive but become even better. If we do not, we will continue to stagger from crisis to crisis.
[Ian Mitroff is a University Professor at Alliant International University in SF; a Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, and an Adjunct Professor at the School of Public Health at St Louis. He is also the President of Comprehensive Crisis Management in Oakland, CA, http://compcrisis.com/.]
For information on how to handle your current crisis issues or to be proactive in crisis prevention, contact Jonathan Bernstein.
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