• Share
  • Share
crisis business improvements opportunity priorities organizational improvement

Working better
thanks to crisis

Crisis, though challenging, presents an opportunity to consciously craft a new way of doing business.

Johanna DeYoung | October 14, 2015

“Never let a crisis go to waste.”

- Saul Alinsky

Consider this future.

Your organization operates with transparency, employees feel connected and deeply engaged, morale is high, leadership is trusted, and your customers feel valued and satisfied.

How do you get there? Crisis.

Consider this past.

A demand spike outpacing already constrained supply. An unexpected breach of customer data. A PR nightmare resulting from supplier misconduct. Or an enterprise-wide technical failure negatively impacts customers for hours.

Crisis as opportunity

Crisis can be scary.

Yet it also presents a real opportunity for organizations to cut through competing priorities and consciously craft a new way of working.

Without the right approach and tactics, however, it’s likely to result in a mushroom cloud of confusion, negativity, and fear.

When facing the tidal wave of chaos that follows a business crisis, heed these lessons:

  • Timing is of the essence. In crisis, the rumor mill is aggressive, and it is hard to play catch-up. Organizations waiting to see if the situation will dissipate or intensify are already behind.
  • Focus on your own people. Putting your employees at the center of your focus galvanizes those closest to the crisis to act as your best press and your most powerful recovery engine. A balance must be struck between answering the demands of external stakeholders (including the media) and serving the needs of your internal stakeholders.
  • Accountability is key. You need to understand the extent of the impact by answering why it happened, how people are affected, and how it can be prevented from happening again. Findings must be acknowledged with empathy and shared via a plan for action.
  • Transparency is a must. Progress towards recovery should be shared internally and externally to show congruence between the stated course-correction objectives and execution efforts.

Taking the first steps

So, how do you get started? How do you approach the seemingly endless, urgent, and unprecedented work to be done? The tools and tactics used to manage planned change events are even more necessary in a crisis event.

  • Innovative communication channels foster an environment of engagement and transparency, allowing leaders to readily share and receive information with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Employee engagement programs can be designed to help employees heal, regain trust in the organization, and gain appreciation for the extra work they are asked to take on in the name of recovery.
  • Governance structure provides regular, repeatable opportunities for cross-functional collaboration, recovery updates, and alignment of objectives.
  • Business measurement gathers and monitors progress towards organizational health as well as stakeholder impacts and perceptions that can be used to assess the recapture of confidence and trust—internally and externally.

Crisis, and unplanned change, happens. With the right approach, mindset, and tools, the opportunity presented at almost any crisis point can be leveraged to craft a new, better way of working.

Johanna DeYoung

Johanna DeYoung is a Client Service Lead in Slalom Chicago. She specializes in business transformation and commercial operations in the healthcare and life science industry. Johanna is adept at balancing the people and the project, and in developing analytically sound and pragmatic solutions for clients. She is skilled in leading all stages of strategy-based initiatives—from the upfront assessment to the downstream design and implementation, and optimizing organizational performance through strategic-selling, improved alignment, structure, processes, skills, and/or measurement.


Start a conversation

What’s on your mind? Let’s explore the possibilities.