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Deliberate Planning for a Future Crisis

Seamus Leary

Mar 19, 2023

Many organizations around the world have devoted considerable time and resources into developing and maintaining crisis response plans - but when put to the test in an actual crisis, their effectiveness can be questionable at best.

Many organizations around the world have devoted considerable time and resources into developing and maintaining crisis response plans. Some of these plans are quite thorough and voluminous in nature, but when put to the test in an actual crisis, their effectiveness can be questionable at best.

There are two famous quotes that can provide some insight on organizational crisis management planning.

The first quote is by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his remarks at the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in November 1957. President Eisenhower stated, “plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

The second famous quote is from former Heavyweight Boxing Champion Mike Tyson. He is often quoted as saying “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

So, what do these two quotes tell us about crisis planning? Is there sufficient return on organizational investment to make crisis planning actually worth the time and resources dedicated to it?

The answer is of course, yes. A plan is critical to successfully overcoming the challenges of a crisis. We all know that intuitively, but many organizations still do not get it right.

A crisis response plan goes by many names depending on the organization and the industry. But they all essentially perform the same function as they are typically a point of reference for ongoing and future operations.

So, what did President Eisenhower mean about the planning process being more important than the plan itself? In a crisis, a plan is not merely a document, but a pre-determined methodology designed, from its inception, to be the means of managing complex operations in a dynamic environment.

By utilizing a deliberate planning process, an organization should undergo a multistep effort intended to develop an agreed upon methodology for preparing for a future crisis.

This deliberate process should ensure that the team charged with responding to a future crisis understands their role and has the resources and Techniques, Tactics and Procedures (TTPs) in place to overcome some of the challenges they may face.

Mike Tyson was one of the most dominant heavyweight boxers of his day due to his furious and devastating boxing style. Time and again he completely overwhelmed many of his opponents and immediately disrupted the plans the opposing team had in place to defeat him.

This situation can happen during a crisis as well. As we can see with the cascading impacts of a large-scale natural disaster, organizations can become overwhelmed quickly by the pace and scope of the situation.

These overwhelming situations have the potential to introduce unforeseen variables and challenges that may not have been foreseen during the planning process. For example, during the response to the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, who would have foreseen the need to simultaneously respond to one of the worst nuclear accidents in history?

By conducting a deliberate planning process, an organization develops common TTPs that can be applied to any crisis. Team members hone the skills necessary to enable them to improvise and collaborate in the development of solutions to problems at the lowest organizational level possible. Through training and familiarization of the organizational plan, this improvisation should still support the overall strategic intent of the organization’s senior leadership as well as meet the tactical requirements on the ground.

During the planning process leaders can develop a better understanding of their organization’s capabilities and weaknesses. Through this process they have the opportunity to foster relationships with internal and external stakeholders that may be vital in meeting the needs of a future crisis.

It is crucial for an organization to have a crisis response plan, but it is much more important for an organization to develop and maintain an ongoing deliberative planning process that will put them in position to pivot operationally when the circumstances require deviation from the plan.

A prepared team should be the goal and the planning process is how to achieve that goal.

The Meridian Team of experts can assist organizations in developing a deliberative planning effort designed to prepare for a future crisis utilizing methods and practices that have been successfully tested by some of the most significant disasters in recent history.

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