Issues management – how to avert a crisis

How the lack of issues management can impact your business.

You’ve worked hard building a successful business, and you’re reaping the benefits of all that hard work. Whether it’s on a local, national or international stage, your brand is recognised; your reputation precedes you. But following on from the lessons we can learn from the demise of big brand names, how can issues management help you avert any impending doom that may knock at your door? 

risky business

Quite simply, know the risks and issues that are or could impact your business. Every business has issues smouldering behind the scenes – these could relate to any aspect of an organisation: employees, customer service, senior management, financial, technical and so on – the list is long and by no means exhaustive. The Institute for Crisis Management’s (ICM) annual crisis report states smouldering crises account for 67% of stories that they tracked in 2018 across the world. These crises were known problems which escalated as a result of a business failing to give an issue the attention it required. To ‘nip it in the bud’ as it were. 

Take the necessary steps to protect your business and its reputation and have a good clean out of the skeletons in your closet. This will minimise your chances of being hit by a crisis that in reality you could and should see coming. But, how do you do this? 


issues management

Identifying any issues that are or could affect your business, is the first place to start. Problems within your organisation could be known by many, or by the few: Senior management, or entry-level employees; Long-standing employees, or new starters. Anyone can be privy to a potential problem. And smouldering issues can hide anywhere, even in plain sight. 

Communication is key for identifying these issues. Having a way for everyone to share their knowledge of what is and isn’t working for the business can help flag up any issues that could turn into crises if you’re not careful. Once armed with this knowledge of potential problems, evaluating each instance and giving it a level of salience helps to determine what stage of a crisis it’s at: potential, imminent, current, critical or dormant. 

managing the fallout

Now you have a good idea of what could cause a bump in the road for your business, it’s important for you to decide how, or sometimes if, you should tackle it. Experts in crisis planning and management are the best people to involve in this process (as well as identifying the issues too). It often makes sense to have an external, independent consultant cast their eyes over your business and its practices to highlight any causes for concern.

An expert perspective will help not only alleviate any concerns you might have of smouldering issues within your business (we all have something that keeps us up at night!) – but will also give you the right tools and responses to deal with anything that arises. 

are you ready for a crisis?

A thorough and robust issues management appraisal is the starting point for any organisation that wants to protect its reputation. The next stage is to make sure you are crisis ready. In addition to creating a Crisis Management plan, this process includes setting up and training a crisis management team (CMT). A team that can assess and follow pre-determined protocols to manage any crisis that occurs. In today’s world, the impact of a crisis be as quick as it is devastating. Time has never been a more precious commodity. 

This article was first published in the Suffolk Free Press, Thursday 12 December 2019.