Sunday, April 27, 2008

Crisis Management

We can learn a ton about crisis management from pilots. Watch this video from the History Channel about one Israeli Air Force pilot's actions in a definite time of crisis:

Some thoughts on Captain Zivi Nedivi and his ability to land the F-15 with only one wing:

-- Communicate. Let your teammates know what has happened and what you might be doing. Give warning orders and discuss contingencies. Don't solve problems by yourself. Captain Nedivi communicated with his navigator and with his wingman throughout the crisis. We must understand what is happening before we can solve problems. Thus the need to communicate, gather facts, and prepare the team for subsequent actions.

-- Put out the fire. Whatever is causing the crisis -- solve it. Captain Nedivi quickly recognized that he would need to stop the plane from spinning before he could do anything. His quick, counter-intuitive thinking caused him to use his afterburners to stop the spin and bring the plane back under control.

-- Assess the situation. Just as Captain Nevidi called his wingman to assess the damages, crisis management suggests that once the situation is under relative control, we need to increase our level of understanding. Gather facts, brainstorm on solutions, bring in experts.

-- Fly the plane. Once the crisis is dealt with, get back to relative order. For a pilot this means to keep the plane level and under control. In business, this means keep making money, reassure your customers, stockholders, suppliers, etc. and keep the organization level.

-- Keep calm. Crisis situations are not the time to panic, to start screaming at others, or to curl up into the fetal position underneath our desks. This is what leaders are paid to do! Remain under control and direct the team. Act like you know what you doing. Bring a sense of normalcy to the team -- and they will follow you anywhere. Panic -- and they will abandon ship and not be a part of solving the problem.

-- Have emergency response plans. Even if Captain Nedivi did not have contingency plans for flying with only one wing (!), he no doubt had rehearsed any number of crisis scenarios that prepared him for this one. Leaders must develop and rehearse plans that will enable success when problems arise. None of them are likely to be the exact problem we will face, but the preparations will allow for calm decision making in times of crisis.

Great stuff. While most of us will not have to fly a plane with only one wing, we all must be prepared to deal with crisis. And crisis management is Leader Business.


Nina said...

Hey Tom,
While certainly no pilot, I did a piece on crisis management lessons from a well-known celebrity. I bet she never will be a pilot, at least not in my lifetime!!

Tom Magness said...

Thanks Nina! I'm no "Britney" -- but I think I used much of what you describe as the STOP approach in dealing with a recent crisis at work. I think we did a pretty good job of getting our Story together; of doing so in a Timely manner; of being serious and Objective about the crisis; and of leveraging the Professionals within my staff (especially in public affairs) to work our way through the issues. STOP. I like it. Let's hope Britney reads your post! Hooah!