Business and Technology Consulting

Workplace Sanctuary: When Crisis Strikes

"When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity."- John F. Kennedy, speech April 12, 1959.

How many times have you been the customer with a problem and the vendor has either dismissed it or denied responsibility? Would you do this to your customers?

Even the best-run organizations encounter crises. While these times can be trying for employees and customers, they can also provide the opportunity for learning and the vehicle for change.

Anatomy of a Crisis

  • An error occurs - This could be a simple mistake or a compounded problem; either human or systemic in origin.
  • Fix the problem - The immediate reaction is to right the wrong. This may involve a billing credit, replacement of damaged goods, or repair of defective equipment. Many companies stop at the step.
  • Identify the root cause - Challenge yourself to determine why this problem occurred.
  • Fix the process - Perhaps a process change or control is appropriate to prevent further problems.
  • Communicate - Tell the employees and customers what you learned and how you hope to have eliminated or minimized this problem in the future.

Here is an example of a recent problem interaction I had observed:

A bank had erroneously submitted duplicate data to the ACH network for creating automatic debits to consumer accounts. When the problem was brought to their attention, they issued the appropriate credits, promised to cover any non-sufficient fund fees resulting from their action, AND developed a procedure/control point to assure that this would not recur.

The matter was handled professionally with courtesy towards all parties. From the discovery of their weakness, the company developed strength. Mistakes will occur. Use them as an opportunity for improvement.

(C)Copyright 2005, James T. Moran & Associates. All rights reserved.