Crisis Management 101. #12: 2011
As a Library Director, I realized early on that, despite all of my efforts, things will go wrong: a hurricane hits the library, the IT Director quits on the spot, the budget is drastically cut, or a new program receives negative press. It is a difficult balance between having the courage to take risks to move the organization ahead and protecting the reputation of the library and managing a crisis. As an effective library leader, in a crisis one needs a well thought out plan of action; folks will be looking to you for direction and answers. Recovery starts with you! How you handle the first hours of a crisis dictates how the whole organization will handle the crisis. If you are panicked and unorganized, staff will follow.
A crisis management plan doesn’t have to be fancy or convoluted. It does need to be strategic and must outline a path to sort out a mess quickly. You need a list of priorities, actions, and resources to start the recovery process, as well as a simple plan to communicate with your stakeholders.
To manage a crisis, plan to:
• Respond quickly to the media, public, board, and staff. Confusion and blame set in quickly as anxious people wait to find out what happened and what to do next.
• Investigate the matter thoroughly; assess which systems failed and determine how to correct the situation.
• Be honest with people. Keeping up an incorrect or vague story is way too much work and ultimately you will be exposed.
• Apologize, explain what happened, describe the steps the library is taking to correct the situation, and move on!
Once past the initial crisis, leaders should focus staff on the learning experience and the opportunity it created to find new, innovative solutions to the problem. Folks quickly will realize that the library knows how to deal with a crisis and that their tax dollars are being wisely spent for an excellent service, even in a crisis!
It is inevitable that, as a dynamic library leader, you will face a crisis. What is important is to be prepared and to deal with the situation in a fast, efficient, and honest way.