10 Characteristics of a Successful Crisis Management Team

The MHA Consulting Team

This post on your Crisis Management team has been updated. It was originally published in November 2011.

Cultivate these 10 characteristics to ensure that your Crisis Management team will perform well during a real disaster event.

During a crisis or emergency event, the team(s) leading the various aspects of the event (e.g., overall response, risk, recovery, IT, business areas) are critical to a successful outcome. Your Crisis Management team can exude confidence and support for those under the stress of performing recovery activities or interacting with the public in a difficult situation. They provide needed direction and decision making to allow continued progress.

Based on activations of Crisis Management teams that we have witnessed, we find that those that provide the most value, perform well during a real event, and demonstrate the highest functional capability have the following characteristics:

  1. Supported by Senior Management and Empowered to Act: The senior team does not have to always be a part of the Crisis Management team, but they do need to support those best able to perform the necessary functions, provide visible support of the team, and allow them to act.
  2. Proactive in Activation – Not Afraid to Activate: An effective Crisis Management team will come together when the possibility of an event exists, not just when a crisis occurs. It is easy to disband the team or set a trigger event to reconvene; it is impossible to turn back the clock.
  3. Do Not Manage by Title, but by Ability to Lead: This may be the rarest characteristic, but it is the most impactful. Egos and titles are of little use during a crisis event. Calm, clear, decisive and reasoned actions are necessary. Those with the proper level of knowledge are needed. This may mean including individuals who normally perform different roles. Use a competency-based leadership model to develop team members.
  4. Roles are Well Understood: Crisis Management team members regularly review their roles and responsibilities, consider how to best perform their tasks/role, and educate themselves on things they do not know.
  5. Team is Scalable Depending on Need: Often both core and expanded teams are defined. When the core team needs assistance, they do not have to figure out who to bring in. They already have most additional needs identified and documented, both internal and external resources (vendors, consultants, etc).
  6. Exercises and Training are Held Regularly: Minimally, exercise should be held annually, but shorter, more frequent exercises can have a great impact.
  7. Depth Across Primary and Secondary Resources: The secondary (or backup) team members understand their roles and responsibilities at a similar level as the primary, and are an equal part of the exercises and training.
  8. Follow Established Incident Principles and Priorities: The team should follow the organization’s documented principles and priorities for the incident management process.
  9. Follow a Comprehensive Crisis Management Plan: While not every event or action can be listed in a plan, basic actions and decisions should be included to allow for more effective problem solving and decision making. Speed is often critical; many items can be pre-defined and adjusted as needed.
  10. Use a Standardized Decision-Making Process: Identify a decision-making process, such as APIE, and include the use of it in all training and exercises.

The continued development of these Crisis Management team traits will provide the leadership base and support for the organization, teams, and individuals performing recovery actions, supporting customers, and keeping the business functioning during a crisis event, making the overall response more effective and functional.

Crisis Managementdisaster recovery strategy