© 2003 Jonathan Bernstein
JUST A THOUGHT
Ten persons who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.
CRISIS MANAGER EDITORIAL
The Champions of Crisis Management
by Jonathan Bernstein
I met a champion of crisis management recently. He's director of security for a 5-star hotel. He convinced his superiors -- who, to their credit, were willing to listen to his recommendations -- that 80 senior and mid-level managers should get a solid basic education on how to prevent and respond to the categories of crises which can impact hoteliers.
Champions of crisis management are not we few who work full time in this field. We're not the ones who usually convince organizational leadership that it's necessary to engage in crisis prevention, planning and training activities.
That takes a champion, someone within the organization, or someone external but influential in that organization's decision-making.
Regular readers of mine know that at least 90 percent of American organizations (and, according to recent research, a somewhat lower level of European organizations) remain unprepared or badly under-prepared for crises. They will, therefore, suffer completely avoidable crises as well as incurring far more damage from unavoidable crises. Organizations that ARE prepared almost invariably were prompted, cajoled, persuaded and even harassed into a state of readiness by a champion of crisis management.
Champions of crisis management can be at any level of an organization. The lower the level, the more courage and/or patience the champion must have. As was the case for the aforementioned director of security, he or she must ultimately convince top management to actively support crisis preparedness, not merely dedicate some resources, or risk undermining cooperation by all parties who need to be involved.
I've met champions in recent months who were heads of corporate communications, in-house and external legal counsel, junior members of corporate PR staff, investor relations professionals -- and, occasionally, CEOs. Sometimes, even when a CEO is the champion, he must first joust with subordinates, employing strategies and tactics designed to counter their objections. While the most commonly STATED objection relates to budget, I believe there's an even stronger hidden objection -- the If I Don't Understand It, It Must Not Be Very Important Syndrome. The Syndrome is characterized primarily by the use of passive-aggressive tactics against the champion, creating delays and raising issues that eat up time and energy. Syndrome sufferers hope that the champion will eventually surrender to their ennui.
Ultimately, in my experience, the champions of crisis management are perceived as being particularly valuable members of any organization -- especially the first time the organization survives a crisis that might have caused severe damage without the preparedness recommended by their champion.
As a crisis management professional, one of my jobs is to arm the champion with the information that will help him or her engage in the quest to promote crisis preparedness. And, when that quest has succeeded, to provide the assistance required by the champion's organization.
I'm not, however, a champion of crisis management. I'm not in a position to play that role. So the only remaining question is, "Are YOU a champion of crisis management?"
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Phil Cogan: Good News & Sad News
The good news is that Phil Cogan will soon be director of public affairs for the Export-Import Bank of the United States, with a staff of his own and some internationally important responsibilities. The sad news is that he no longer will be part of Bernstein Crisis Management. Phil has been of immense assistance to the development and expansion of Bernstein Crisis Management's capabilities, a superb practitioner of our trade and a damn good friend. However, look for him to continue contributing here periodically and, also, to jointly publish, with me, more educational and training materials. Phil will be heading east in early July, but I'll make sure that his firstname.lastname@example.org email address continues to forward email for a couple of months, at least, if you'd care to write to him.
"Keeping the Wolves at Bay" & Other Training Materials
"Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual" continues to be very popular (at least no one's taken me up on my 100% money-back guarantee yet), with customers all over the U.S. and from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Turkey, Japan and Singapore. Available in print or PDF format, along with other crisis management-related training materials, at The Crisis Manager bookstore, http://www.thecrisismanager.com.
For information on quantity pricing, write to email@example.com.
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
Attorney-Client Privilege Protects Litigation PR Consultants
As reported in the June 9 issue of PR Week and in other publications around the country, "a federal judge has ruled that attorney-client privilege extends to the legal conversations between PR firms and lawyers whose clients are under investigation." This is a very important decision for any U.S. PR firm engaged in litigation-related PR, one facet of crisis communications. Bernstein Crisis Management has long had an attorney-drafted contract that allows us to be retained by an attorney for the purpose of preserving legal privilege, but how well that would stand up in court was somewhat "iffy" before this new ruling. There's still no certainty of course, this IS law! It just takes one cranky judge to rule differently.
Six Sigma as an Approach to Crisis Prevention
by David Silverstein
Editor's Note: I recently heard a presentation by Six Sigma "black belt" Dave Silverstein, and was immediately struck by the potential of this sophisticated analysis system as a crisis prevention application. David verified that Six Sigma can indeed be used in that manner, and wrote this informational piece for "Crisis Manager." It's worth also noting that two "Builder 100" CEOs presenting with David testified about the large and growing economic benefits to their organizations from employing Six Sigma's philosophy and methods. Essentially, as I understand it, Six Sigma provides hard data that helps identify precisely where process improvement -- including crisis prevention process improvement -- needs to be conducted, and what approaches to process improvement are most likely to succeed.
What is Six Sigma? Six Sigma means something different to every company. For some, it is a continuous process improvement effort designed to cut costs by reducing process variation; for others, it is a management philosophy used to transform a business. Regardless of the way it is used within an organization, Six Sigma means data-driven decision making.
Why do companies adopt Six Sigma? Beyond the simple short term goals of cost savings through quality or productivity improvement, most companies would tell you that it's to move them from a "fire fighting" culture to one of "fire prevention."
The appeal of Six Sigma as an approach to Crisis Prevention could not have been more clear than this past November when a full page article in USA Today was titled, "Feds to Use Six Sigma to Fight Terrorism."
The concept of crisis prevention is certainly not a new one. So why is it so difficult for companies to focus on it? The answer: it's intellectually difficult to expend resources on something that "might" happen. That's because as human beings, we're much more comfortable living in the world of certainties than in the world of probabilities. Unfortunately, the world we live in IS the world of probabilities. Get used to it.
So how is Six Sigma applied to Crisis Prevention? One very powerful tool set is used in the identification of risk. Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a tool that was developed by NASA in the early 1960s to predict potential points of failure in the Apollo Space Program. It's also FMEA that predicted a 1 in 600 probability of a catastrophic failure of the Space Shuttle. It wasn't the predictability that was a problem -- it was the lack of response to that prediction that has brought down two shuttles to-date.
FMEA enables us to predict risk and prioritize projects according to their Risk Priority Number, which is comprised of three components: the Severity of a failure (i.e., just how serious is it IF the failure occurs), the likelihood of Occurrence (i.e., how often do we expect the failure to occur), and the Detection capability of our systems (i.e., how good are we at detecting the failure if it occurs, so it never impacts our customer). If the Severity factor in FMEA is expressed in financial terms -- how severe the financial impact of a failure would be -- we can start selecting projects with the goal of prevention.
Already FMEA is used as a project selection tool in hospitals looking not only to save money, but also to improve patient safety. However, there is also broad applicability in every business that desires to truly engage in crisis prevention.
Once risk is identified, Six Sigma is a powerful methodology to drive process improvements that will minimize risk.
David Silverstein is CEO of Breakthrough Management Group (BMG), the international leader in Six Sigma training and consulting services. For more information on the Six Sigma crisis prevention and problem solving methodology, please write to SixSigm97@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.
PLAIN ENGLISH DISCLOSURE
Bernstein Crisis Management has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with PIER Systems, Inc., PR Newswire's ProfNet service, MarketingSherpa.com, The Publicity Hound and CustomScoop. No, we can't go into details because that's confidential, proprietary, etc. But our relationship is NOT "arm's distance" and you should know that, since we regularly write about these services as we use them for crisis and issues management or other purposes. That said, you should also know that Bernstein Crisis Management sought the relationships because its staff is convinced that these services are the best of their kind for Bernstein Crisis Management's needs and those of their clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.
ABOUT THE STAFF
Jonathan Bernstein is president & CEO of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. BCM engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning, training and simulations. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a number of organizations whose services we admire enough to have pursued closer ties with them -- and to let you know about them, too, on the Allied Services page of our website. If you have a moment, we think it will be worth your while to browse the sites listed there.
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