When your organization is faced with a crisis, it can be tempting to search for the perfect response. The pressure is increased by the eyes of everyone from your employees to the media watching your company's every move. According to renowned crisis communication expert Jim Lukaszewski, your
responsibility is to make quick moves, correct errors as they occur and, above all else, put victims first. In a recent interview with Soundview, the author of Lukaszewski on Crisis
Communication provides observations from his decades of experience shepherding hundreds of organizations through their darkest moments.
Soundview: Are there reasons why managers struggle with the victims of a crisis?
Jim Lukaszewski: In the modern day, management is viewed as a science. This has been something with which management schools have been afflicted for the last 35 years. Management is really an art form, but because we've spent more than a generation training managers to be
scientists, certain things happen in [the scientific process] that are different from real life. In management school, they're taught that if you can count it, measure it and metricize it, it matters. If it doesn't fit into those categories, it doesn't matter.
Here's the problem [with that], how do you handle the emotional deaths of three employees through what you know was the negligence of your own company, and how do you handle the anger, fear and other emotions that occur as a result of this tragedy? Managers are taught to ignore emotion,
because you can't count it or control it. We have a crop of managers, not just in the United States, who say that if it's emotional, it can't be important. If it's irrational, it's even worse than not important, you should stay away from it.
Well, if you define victimization, people who are victims and who represent people, animals and living systems and speak for them as victims of something we've done, it is all emotion. It is all irrational. Therefore, managers pathologically want to ignore these things and get to the root of
Soundview: One of your 12 axioms of crisis survival is "Act promptly." Why do so many businesses spend time trying to find the perfect solution?
Lukaszewski: A phrase that I like to use is "Speed beats smart, every time." The reason speed wins is because we try to be smart and we learn as businesspeople that if you figure out the equation, you can make it work the first time and you won't have to do it a second time.
The thing about crises is that they're messy, sloppy and expensive, and you're going to make mistakes. What I've learned in this process is that I want to make next week's mistakes this week because I'll have a better week next week if I do it that way.
There is a tremendous amount of argument about this within an organization because we are taught to search for perfection in response. When you search for perfection in response, one thing and one thing only is going to happen. You'll destroy your reputation in the process because when you have a
perfect response, if there is such a thing, you're going to have to explain why your company waited so long to execute it. There's no good explanation for that problem.